Identify. Intervene. Advocate.
Anyone who's worked in a school -- from elementary to high school -- has seen the same thing. Popular kids sit together at "their table;" sports stars sit together at "their table." Occasionally, but not nearly enough, we see a student being especially kind to a new kid.
My first job in a school was as a lunch lady, and more times than I would have liked, I saw a child who sat alone. I saw a child mock another child. I saw a child being tripped or pushed. I always intervened, but I never had any formal training on what to do when I saw bullying. I did my best, but today educators don't have to guess. We know what works in preventing bullying.
First, we now know that ignoring bullying doesn't help. We know that kids need to know that a caring adult will take action. And we know that that caring adult might be a teacher or a principal or any one of the army of education support professionals (ESPs) that surround that child.
I've seen the importance of our ESPs who interact with students on a daily basis--often in less structured environments on the school bus or playground or just walking down the hall. Bus drivers, lunch workers, custodians and para-professionals should all receive the same professional development as teachers, librarians and administrators to know the best way to stop bullying.
There's no better time to start than now as this month marks National Bullying Prevention Month. NEA has updated its Bully Free: It Starts with Me campaign, which includes free resources for our members and other concerned adults on this important topic. As part of the campaign, we are asking all educators to sign the pledge to show your commitment to being a caring adult that can make a difference in a student's life.
In addition to asking members to sign the pledge, NEA has created resources that help our members identify bullying, intervene in a bullying incident, and advocate for a bullied student.
I encourage you to sign the pledge today, and I hope you will ask colleagues to join you in signing the pledge. And perhaps together with colleagues, you can start a dialogue about sharing best practices and finding effective ways to make sure every child feels safe. Use the hashtag, #bullyfree, on social media so we can continue the dialogue.
It is time to create a bully free nation. NEA can provide the research and resources to help you take action. Everyone who signs the pledge will receive a free poster and pin, and will be part of a movement to make a real difference.
As I think back to my days in the school cafeteria, I wish there had been more resources and training to help me deal with bullying. I am grateful, however, that today we recognize bullying as an issue that affects students and school environments. Now, we must take advantage of the resources and training available to identify, intervene, and advocate to bring an end to bullying. Let's demonstrate that we really believe "bully free begins with us"!