Including Everyone in Valentine’s Day (Try this class activity!)

Valentine’s Day can be an anxiety-inducing day for students. Kids spend the day wondering if they’ll receive cards from their classmates and what those cards will say. Though this holiday is intended to share appreciation and love, unless schools are intentional, Valentine’s Day can promote exclusion of certain students that aren’t as “popular” or social as their peers.

I just heard the story of a young girl named Betsy, who is in third grade and about 30 lbs overweight. She received a valentine from a classmate with a pig on it. Though this might have been cute if we were talking about a pig that portrayed fictional characters like Wilbur or Babe, this was not the case; it was an attempt to tell a young girl who she was.

Recently, I spoke with some of my colleagues, teacher consultants Mary Ashby and Barbara Newman, about ways schools can combat the negative attitudes, bullying, and exclusion that can occur around this sentimental holiday. Elementary teachers at any school can use this activity to demonstrate that every student is important and an essential part of the community.

All you need for this activity is:Broken Heart

– Red or pink construction paper

– Scissors

– Markers

– Heart shaped stickers

Beforehand, cut out a large heart from each piece of paper. You should have half as many hearts as you have students (plus a few…it never hurts to have extra!). Now that you have your stack of hearts, cut zigzags down the middle of each heart (as if to resemble a broken heart).

Class Activity: 

Part One:

Mix up the “broken hearts” and hand one to each student.

Have students find their match (perhaps cue some fun music at this point). Once students find their partner, have them write something they like about them on their partner’s paper heart (i.e. “You draw well”, “I like your laugh”, “You are good at puzzles”, “You have a great smile” etc.). If a student is unable to physically write, be sure to help them with this portion.

Part Two:Heart of Encouragement

Give everyone a sheet of the heart shaped stickers. Use two stickers to tape the broken hearts together and then make a display with them on the wall of your classroom.

Students should still have plenty of stickers left. Throughout the month, whenever a student wants to encourage a classmate, they can place a sticker on their friend’s heart and write something nice about them. The goal is to get rid of all their stickers by the end of the month. An added bonus: no double dipping! Challenge students to place a sticker on a different classmates’ heart each time (that way, everyone receives encouragement, and not a few select students).

Friends

Talking Point: Isn’t life better when we have friends around us? Without the gifts of our friends, we would only have half a heart. Ask students to think of additional ways they can do something nice for a friend.

It’s your turn!

How do you include all students in your Valentine’s Day activities? Did you try this activity? How did it go? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Katie Barkley ImageKatie Barkley is the marketing communications manager at CLC Network.  She loves hearing stories that share the beauty of inclusive community. 

Only You Can Prevent Bullying

Bullying

Credit: http://flic.kr/p/dRjXgk, Inf-Lite Teacher

In grades K-12, 1 in 7 students is either a bully or a target of bullying.  Whether it’s a post on social media, constant refusal to include a peer at lunch or messing up a locker, bullying hurts others and definitely does not show love towards fellow image bearers of God.  We don’t like it and know that it’s wrong but what can we do about it by ourselves, really?  I mean, sometimes we may have a hunch that a student is bullying or being bullied but we really can’t prove it.  Or, other times, it seems like we are the only one who wants to address it.

While comprehensive bullying prevention is best done in the context of the whole school community, where the atmosphere and expectations are the same across all situations and people involved, there are a few ways that you can proactively address bullying on your own at home or church.  The following suggestions were adapted from information provided on stopbullying.gov.

Talk about bullying with kids.

We, as adults, need to help kids understand which behaviors constitute bullying and what to do about it.  You could point out what they can do or say to stand up to bullying, like “Stop” or “That’s enough”.  Also, encourage them to get help for themselves or others by talking to adults about the situation.

BullyingPSA

For conversation starters with your children or class, use this 30-second PSA, “I Will Not be Bullied!” from the American Association for People with Disabilities and the downloadable tool-kit to get them thinking deeper about bullying.

Communicate often. 

When we talk with kids on a regular basis about what is happening in their lives they will feel comfortable to come to us with sensitive topics like bullying.  It’s important that we build trust with them by listening to their views and opinions on school, friends, and activities.  Then, we are able to talk openly by asking questions like “What do you usually do when you see bullying happening?” or “Why do you think someone might bully another?”   And kids will be more likely to see us as a trusted resource when they are being bullied.

Encourage kids to pursue their interests.

Teamwork

Credit: http://flic.kr/p/asmDJZ, USAG-Humphreys

When kids are involved in activities that they enjoy it provides an opportunity to build relationships and grow in confidence.  This builds resilience and can protect from bullying.

Be a positive role model

The old adage that behaviors and values are “caught not taught” still rings true.  When we treat people with kindness and respect, kids see it and are more likely to engage in similar behavior.

Using these ideas can help to reduce bullying towards and by those children with which you have the most contact, and can further your mission of helping them grow in Christ-likeness.  CLC Network also provides professional development to help your school put a comprehensive framework into place in order to become a safer community for all children. Please visit clcnetwork.org for more information.

Beth HarmonBeth Harmon is a School Psychologist at CLC Network, where she enjoys the “ah ha” moment when a parent or teacher gains an understanding of why a child learns or behaves in a certain way. She loves being the advocate to help the adults in a child’s life appreciate the uniqueness of and love the child even more.  

How to Recognize Bullying

Alone on the Bus

Credit: Woodleywonderworks http://flic.kr/p/5wx7Ta

Everyone wants to fit in and be accepted by those around them.  But for kids like Joey and Anita this remains a dream.  Anita, who has cerebral palsy, is taunted by classmates whenever she has to run in P.E.  And Joey, a second grader, is told every morning as he gets on the school bus, that there is no room for him to sit near his classmates.  The outcome of this bullying is that they are at risk socially, academically and emotionally; and through no fault of their own.

But how do we know it’s bullying and not just “kids being kids”?
Well, the four guiding principles are:

  1. Is the behavior occurring over and over?
  2. Is it aggressive?
  3. Is there intent to harm?
  4. And, is there an imbalance of power?

It’s also helpful to keep in mind that bullying can take many forms, such as excluding someone from a social group, physical harm, spreading rumors, or making verbal threats.  It can happen in the classroom, on the playground, in hallways, at home, or online.

But how can a parent or teacher recognize that the bullying is happening? 

Experts estimate that there is no intervention in approximately 85% of bullying incidences, often because adults are unaware that they are occurring.  However, there are signs to watch for; here are just a few:

  • Kids change their eating, or relational patterns.  Are kids suddenly ravenous when they get home from school?  Maybe someone is taking their lunch or interfering in their ability to eat during lunch time.
  • School performance plummets.  Assignments aren’t turned in, grades go down.  It‘s possible that someone is taking homework or repeatedly asking for “help” on their own assignments.
  • Personal property keeps getting “lost”.  Repeated destruction of personal property is also considered bullying.

The good news is that with parents and school personnel working together, kids can be safer and be ready to succeed academically and relationally.  We offer an in-service on how schools can create a proactive structure and atmosphere to reduce and address bullying incidences.  With everyone working towards the same goal, ALL students can be fully included. Later this week, I’ll share some tips on preventing bullying – stay tuned!

Beth HarmonBeth Harmon is a School Psychologist at CLC Network, where she enjoys the “ah ha” moment when a parent or teacher gains an understanding of why a child learns or behaves in a certain way. She loves being the advocate to help the adults in a child’s life appreciate the uniqueness of and love the child even more.