Teacher in-service shows educators how to victim-proof school

Thursday, January 22, 2009

On Jan. 19, Wheaton Elementary School staff members learned how to "victim-proof" their school during a special in-service program led by Georgia Roskelley, elementary school counselor.

"We have taught our children and students that if someone hurts you, you should defend yourself," said Roskelley. "This presentation helps teachers learn that if a student is not hurt there are better ways to solve the issue."

Roskelley's presentation used information from Izzy Kalman's program "Bullies to Buddies," which is designed to reduce aggression among children.

"Zero tolerance is not working," said Roskelley. "Izzy Kalman believes we have overreacted to violence in schools. Most children outgrow bad behavior."

Roskelley presented the Wheaton staff with Kalman's "magic responses," which can be used in the classroom to minimize victimization.

"If a child comes up to a teacher and says that another student hit him, the teacher should first ask, 'Are you hurt?'" said Roskelley. "If the child says no, then the teacher should say, 'I'm so glad.'

"Of course, if the child is hurt then discipline should be administered," said Roskelley.

According to Roskelley, this type of response helps keep the problem from escalating and takes the power away from the student who demonstrated bad behavior.

"If a child comes to a teacher and says another student called him a name, the teacher is to ask, 'Well, do you believe it?'" said Roskelley. "When the student says no, the teacher should say, 'Good. I don't either.'"

If a student indicates that he or she does believe what has been said, the teacher should contact the school counselor because the student could be experiencing deeper issues, said Roskelley.

"It is too much for us to expect that kids are not going to touch each other," said Roskelley. "Teachers should refrain from acting as judges, because that creates two victims and escalates the problem. This creates enemies instead of friends. We should help students make friends, not enemies."

Although this is the first time Roskelley has shared Kalman's program with the Wheaton Elementary School staff, she has presented elementary school students with the information on several occasions. She is available to present either program at other area schools if requested.

"During the student assemblies I do role playing where the students have a chance to come down and call me names," said Roskelley. "I show them what happens when I get upset and fight back and when I walk away with a smile. I teach them that walking away takes the power away from the bully."

Kalman created the Bullies2Buddies.com website and the "Victim-Proof Your School" program after a school shooting occurred in Columbine, Colo. The website teaches students how to stop being victimized by their peers and teaches adults how to reduce fighting among children.

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