I’ve been a long-time fan of Facing History and Ourselves, a site and organization dedicated to “helping classrooms and communities worldwide link the past to moral choices today,” so I was thrilled to find a seat in their Tuesday session: Ostracism and Bullying: An Online Case Study for Educators. If you’re not familiar with Facing History, here’s a quick window into their work:
John Englander opened session with the statement that ostracism and bullying are affecting kids’ opportunities to learn in a safe environment. His opening activity was to turn to someone and think/pair/share and “reflect on a time in your adolescence/youth when you saw, heard or experienced bullying.” It’s one of those 100% inclusive topics, so we quickly and easily delved into small group and then a whole group discussion.
An interesting point raised by John is that “elementary students think standing up to a bully is cool; by middle school, students no longer think it’s cool. He also shared research by Catherine Bradshaw (Johns Hopkins University) showing that kids believe that teachers who try to stop bullying only make it worse.
We then moved on to Facing History’s amazing new resource: Bullying: A Case Study in Ostracism. The study evolved as part of research conducted by Harvard and Facing History and Ourselves and with funding from the Carnegie Corporation. At the heart of the project is a collection interviews with five girls around a simple problem that began in 7th grade and quickly escalated into a complicated and serious ostracism issue. (Click here for an overview of the project.)
After a brief introduction and tour of the site, John invited us to do a jigsaw activity with groups picking one case study to listen to and to then share out some of the experts who’ve reflected on study – many provocative thoughts! My partner and I picked Sue’s case, starting with the audio file, which comes complete with a verbatim transcription. We moved on to listen to the case study review – the classic, snowballing effect, so typical of middle school bullying scenarios.
Facing History’s Ostracism & Bullying case study and accompanying resources is one of my best ISTE 2011 take-aways – a resource I’ll be sharing with district colleagues as we come together this summer in search of online resources and assistance with the horrific issues of cyberbullying that currently occupy well over 50% of our middle school counselors’ case loads – and so quickly spiral out of control, negatively and too often disastrously impacting the lives of our students.
Thank you, Facing History visionaries, for providing this beautifully constructed/scaffolded resource!