CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 9 . . . . December 22, 2006
The author, Les Parsons, has more than 30 years experience as an English Language Arts teacher, English consultant, workshop leader, and university lecturer. He has previously authored Classroom Troubleshooter, Response Journals Revisited and Revising and Editing: Using Models and Checklists to Promote Successful Writing Experiences.
In Bullied Teacher: Bullied Student, Parsons addresses one of the most insidious and dangerous trends in schools today. Bullying. According to him, while schools are addressing the issue of bullying more than in the past, incidents of bullying are on the rise, as are the tragic consequences of bullying such as young adult suicide. What many of the anti-bullying initiatives fail to do is address bullying comprehensively, looking at all the facets of bullying in our society and especially in our school communities. The author does not offer any easy answers or quick fixes to this complex problem, but rather emphasizes creating a school culture that is based on collaboration versus competition with anti-bullying values to be embedded in curricula versus being taught as an add on. Teachers, administrators and parents are all subject, at times to being the bully, target or bystander in a bullying drama. As a teacher, I have been involved in trying to help students in bullying situations and have implemented anti-bullying units in my classes. What is new for me in Parson's book is the topic of adult bullying.
This important professional reference book is divided into five main sections. The introduction reviews bullying in schools today, then looks beyond student bullying and defines what bullying is. Section one, "The Student: Bullied and Bullying," includes a useful section on the differences in how boys and girls bully. There is also a handy student survey to allow staff to get a more accurate picture of how prevalent bullying is in their school. Section two,"Principals and Teachers: Bullied and Bullying," looks at the role of the teacher, and the teacher as bully as well as the principal as bully. This section provides advice for how to fight back if you are a teacher who is being bullied by a colleague, principal, or parent. Section three, "The Bullying School," provides a school assessment tool and a discussion of how to cure a bullying culture. The final section is entitled, "The Bullying Society." A glossary provides the reader with an up-to-date vocabulary to apply to the problem of bullies and bullying. Parsons also includes a selected bibliography for further reading on the subject. Of course, at less than one hundred pages, this book can appear to make the complex problem of bullying seem deceptively simple to solve. This book would be a good foundation for an individual or team of teachers to start the discussion of bullying and begin to create a plan to reduce or eradicate bullying in their schools.
While the majority of adults and children involved in the school system are there to teach and learn in a positive way, Parsons focuses on the people who repeatedly exploit their positions of power and "intentionally mean to harm someone physically, emotionally, or socially." One of the least talked about forms of bullying is adult on adult. Parsons suggests that adult bullies "often attempt to undermine and subvert the work of the most talented, creative, independent, and self-assured teachers on staff without regard to how it is affecting the school." This sort of behavior can poison a school's environment, and Les Parsons' ideas can help us to recognize when we are being bullied, when we witness bullying and when we ourselves may bully. Once we acknowledge and identify the problem, wherever it exists in our schools, we can use some of the ideas presented in this book to begin to solve the problem and promote a more equitable, cooperative, productive and healthy place in which to work.
To recognize that to some degree all schools bully and that this bullying is not limited to the playground is an uncomfortable realization for school staff and administration, but, according to Parsons, it is necessary if we expect our anti-bullying efforts with children to be authentic and effective. This book is a timely resource for anyone in education who is interested in improving or maintaining the quality of school environments.
Erin Daniels is a grade seven language arts and social studies teacher at Charleswood School in Winnipeg, MB.
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