|Posted by agracemartin on January 7, 2015 at 2:20 AM|
A PERSONAL REFLECTION OF TEACHING ANTI-BULLYING AND SELF-WORTH
By: A. Grace Martin
Course: Education 2500
Date: April 2014
The late Nelson Mandela said that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
As a student of personal development, I believe that every person has an astounding capability to recognize and fulfil his or her potential. I wish to share this idea of self-empowerment, so I have learned to employ the strategies of positive self-talk and goal-setting in order to become a good role model for others. Since I feel confident in myself, I know that I can teach others how to attain this feeling as well, which is important in schools because the relationship between confidence and learning cannot be undervalued (Piek et al., 2005). With the increase in college and university graduates in today’s society, my colleagues and I have become the most educated age group of our time. Now imagine if we and all of our children confidently aspire to achieving higher and higher goals. I believe that educating people to realize their worth and potential will be the next great catalyst for change in our world.
I think that my success as a teacher will come from my experiences, research, hard work, professional development, and inherent talents. My time in the Education 2500 course: Orientation to Teaching, has been useful in confirming that I am an excellent candidate teacher and would enjoy teaching as a career. My strengths of confidence, dedication, organization, adaptability, creativity, and leadership will serve me well as a teacher with good classroom management and communication skills. Unfortunately, I am weak in the area of previous experience working with children, save babysitting and tutoring. I acknowledge that I will have to volunteer and take summer jobs that will pertain to instructing children if I wish to acquire this practical experience outside of the education program.
I am a dynamic person with many fields of interest and expertise. I feel that I will be an interesting teacher because of my wide array of personal interests, which include: a published fantasy novel (Spirit Rider and others yet to come), creative hobbies (painting, writing, and music), physical health (proper nutrition and exercise), and mental health (stress management and emotional wellness). Already, the grade fives in my practicum have found me to be interesting, friendly, and knowledgeable, which are all attributes that I wish to develop even further as I progress through my career.
As a tutor I have engaged with junior high and high school students to find that explaining concepts comes easily to me. I have had research experience in the sciences—mainly biophysics—which has given me a deeper understanding of the scientific method and allows me to use interesting examples while teaching science. My academic background in biology and physics qualifies me to instruct secondary math, biology, chemistry, and physics classes. Tutoring these subjects has been especially rewarding to me. The best educational context for my knowledge-set would be a high school physics classroom. However, my talents and dispositions as a teacher make me flexible and I would be comfortable teaching all elementary and junior high school subjects.
I did not seriously consider teaching youth until just this past year. I originally pursued university with the intention of getting a Ph.D. so that I could teach as well as do academic research. At this time I cannot pursue the biophysics graduate studies of complementary health that I desired. Instead, I made a decision to teach at a high school level. I have now realized that I could easily continue to an Education Master’s degree if I wished to pursue school further. My thesis could focus on complementary health education as a means of developing positive self-image. I can integrate my passion of scientific research and health and wellness into teaching. In the future, I can see myself as an empowerment leader. I believe that an individual can excel at many things when they unlock their potential, and that I could be a successful teacher, author, and motivational speaker.
Through this course I have developed several beliefs on learning and teaching. Every individual has a need to feel loved and accepted, therefore learners respond well to a caring, trustworthy, and respectful attitude. Students need specific, clear, and repeated instructions to follow and learn by making personal connections to the material. I believe that teachers need to adapt and be flexible for each situation that they find themselves in. A great teacher goes beyond the curriculum to inspire, motivate, and facilitate a student’s personal and career goals. Teachers help students to realize their own potential through encouragement and challenging activities. Finally, teachers should dwell in the learner’s place with them by remembering what it was like to be in their shoes. These beliefs are the foundation for my nascent style as a teacher.
The reality of teachers’ work lives seems to have both benefits and drawbacks. Teachers work many extra hours every week to complete planning and marking. I like that I would be working the same business hours as my husband, and that I could take my work home with me every night so that I could be with him. Of course the drawback to this is being distracted by my work or distracted by my family and perhaps not giving optimal attention to either in the evenings. I feel that I could work around this obstacle by arriving to work earlier in the morning. I also know that two months off during the summer essentially balances out to the same total vacation hours per year when you consider the extra daily hours worked. I like the versatility of my specialization as a female in physics because I am more likely to get a good job, however my first job may require me to travel a certain distance outside of Lethbridge, which again contributes to long working hours. If I feel burnt out by teaching, my writing and marketing of my published fantasy novels could be hindered. On the other hand, being in a classroom may stimulate my creativity and motivate me to write more. I feel that compromise is unavoidable and that we must do our best to balance every aspect of our lives to feel fulfilled.
One of the most pressing issues for me to address as a teacher happens to be what I am most passionate about: teaching self-worth. I know that we can combat bullying by promoting its opposite. My interest in this topic comes from my childhood experiences with bullying. You would think that anyone who has felt the pain of being bullied would feel empathetic towards others in the same situation, but I beg to differ. In my understanding, bullies only lash out because there is an inexplicable hurt or anger within them that is difficult to face. I was bullied in the fifth grade, yet somehow in the seventh grade I became the bully. As an adult I feel immense guilt and remorse for my teenage bullying and wish to prevent others from making the same mistakes that I did. I think that every person experiences a feeling that they are not good enough in some way (such as athletics, academics, social skills, or physical appearance). I would like to teach individuals to see themselves in a more positive light, so that they can become the best that they can be. Feeling worthless will get you nowhere; feeling empowered will motivate you to pursue your deepest dreams.
Research studies have been done to evaluate the effects of anti-bulling education in classrooms (Andreou et al., 2008). Since bullies enjoy attention, other children may unintentionally reinforce aggression by becoming silent bystanders, thereby making the situation a school-wide problem that should be addressed by entire classrooms (Andreou et al., 2008). It is interesting that short-term programs have been successful in changing students’ attitudes towards bullies, victims, and intervention, but unfortunately these outcomes are not sustained in the long term (Andreou et al., 2008).
The Andreou et al. (2008) study outlined three distinct topics to be addressed over three hours of instruction time each: awareness raising, self-reflection, and a commitment to new behaviours. Raising awareness and describing the different types of victimization may be beneficial for young students who do not identify certain situations as bullying. Self-reflection in the Andreou et al. (2008) study focuses on participant roles adopted by the children, and causes, benefits, feelings and consequences involved with bullying. This is where I think that the emotion of empathy must be instilled through intensive role-playing activities, such as watching vivid film clips or being read an emotionally stirring book. For teaching empathy to be effective the children must identify with the content being presented and feel for the victim. Finally, a commitment to new behaviours could involve presentations of peer conflict situations, ways of solving them, and a formulation of new class rules (Andreou et al., 2008). I believe that these rules should focus on a establishing a sense of community, a desire to protect one another, and a feeling of pride in providing an inclusive and safe environment for all students.
Although most students express anti-bullying attitudes, surprisingly few will intervene when witnessing a classmate being victimized, as their thoughts on what should be done conflict, causing their by-standing behaviour to show inconsistency (Andreou et al., 2008). Anti-bullying programs targeted to altering peer attitudes seem successful, but there are confounding variables within the programs such as age, maturity, attention span, and age-related social skills (Andreou et al., 2008). Personally, I believe that long-term classroom programs that focus positively upon the intervention of bullying by peers is a huge step in the right direction, but that these programs must have a heavy focus on self-esteem.
The past research into bullying has clearly shown a negative correlation between bullying and self-image (Piek et al., 2005). However, the correlation may be deeper than this. Children from disparate backgrounds, upbringings, age groups, and genders may be affected differently by bullying. For example, children with motor coordination disabilities were studied to understand the association between instances of bullying and the child’s sense of self-worth (Piek et al., 2005). Piek et al. (2005) reported that students with motor problems experienced the same amount of victimization, yet they had different responses to these experiences. Girls with coordination disabilities were most affected by bullying, as their self-worth significantly showed a negative impact after bullying events (Piek et al., 2005). Therefore, it is not so much the amount or frequency of bullying that matters most, but the extent to which the victim perceives the bullying that must be given attention.
Taken together, the studies of Piek et al. (2005) and Andreou et al. (2008) show the importance of proper focus when teaching an anti-bullying program. It is one goal to stop bullying from getting any worse in a school, but quite another to reverse its lasting negative effects on students’ sense of confidence. This is a difficult issue to solve, because every individual sees themselves differently, and will respond to lessons in self-worth in varying ways. It is further difficult to make generalizations on programs that should be implemented at different schools, because certain schoolchildren come from varying backgrounds and because age groups can vastly change in maturity and attitudes even between successive grade levels.
I believe that one of the best approaches to anti-bullying is teaching positive self-image and encouraging supportive peer behaviour. This should be done over long-term school-wide programs as a part of the Health class curriculum. Cultivating a sense pride in a safe school community gives students something to “hang their hats on,” which signifies an important benchmark to them that they continually strive for. I hope to be a teacher on the leading edge of this movement for healthy self-esteem, as I encourage students of all ages and backgrounds that they can become more than they are in every way.
Andreou, E., Didaskalou, E., & Vlachou, A. (2008). Outcomes of a curriculum‐based anti‐bullying intervention program on students' attitudes and behavior. Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, 13(4), 235-248.
Piek, J. P., Barrett, N. C., Allen, L. S. R., Jones, A., & Louise, M. (2005). The relationship between bullying and self‐worth in children with movement coordination problems. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 75(3), 453-463.