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Digital Learning

Bullyproof Your Kids For Life

My eyes aren't what they used to be. As we entered the high school parking lot for our favorite eight year old's flag football practice, I noticed the large red and white banners that covered the fence to the playing field as well as an entire outside wall of the school. "Handmaid's Tale?" I thought. The colors were right, but I couldn't make out any more details until we got a little closer. As we reached the fence to begin our search for a parking space, the details came into focus. Larger than life weatherproof banners of every cheerleader and football or soccer athlete. Ok. So the playing field belongs to the athletes. "How about the hallways inside?" I wondered. Maybe they're lined with banners of kids who score high on SATs? Further inspection revealed no banners for the intellectual stars. And how about the kids who rock kindness and empathy with every fiber of their being every day? Nope. No banners for you.
I can't get this picture out of my head a full two weeks later. What a great celebration for the athletes and their families. And what a subtle form of bullying for kids who are not part of that elite group. I have no doubt that the photographer who sells these banners and that the school officials who believe that they have found a great reward for the efforts of their super stars had the best of intentions. As an unbiased observer encountering this display for the first time, it left me breathless and gave me shivers. Shivers.
It's October. Anti bullying month. As teachers, we focus on developing anti bullying behaviors and building resilience in our kids. Some of us attend to it just for this month because really the curriculum is just so packed....I get it. And some of us try to infuse that "no bullies here" mindset throughout the year. I've always found that the best way to build stronger and somewhat bullyproof kids is by working from the inside out. It is always best to start in the first week as you build your learning community, and to keep building throughout the year. Concepts attended to only in October will most likely blow away like the leaves of November.
I have an idea or two that you might want to try now in this October and keep going through the rest of your year. Every child should be a banner star in their own mind and in the minds of their classmates.

In my experience, music makes the learning super attractive, and makes it stick. If the tune catches your kids' imaginations, the lyrics will linger for a long time. I used the songs of "I Am Bullyproof" for several years with great success both in my fourth grade classroom and in an after school anti-bullying club with fifth and sixth graders. The kids loved the songs and made their own videos and led assemblies to promote the anti-bullying concepts that they heard in the songs. Whether for their own performance or not, your kids will love watching the "Scary Guy" video and discussing how the scariest "guys" don't really wear costumes. The scariest guys are the bullies who live on our street or who sit in classrooms with us every day. October is the perfect month to talk about that.

"Old Town Road" is pretty popular right now. Your kids are probably singing and performing it constantly! Why not channel that and suggest that they write their own new version of that song with an anti-bully theme?

Baby Kaely Bully Rap is a great example of a kid-written rap to confront bullying.

Using music and taking it as far as you are comfortable with will begin the process of building stronger, more resilient kids who can stand up to bullying far into the future.

Stand in My Shoes by Bob Sornson addresses the concept of empathy. It helps kids to begin noticing the feelings of others. Kids who care about others are less likely to bully others or to be affected by bullies themselves.

Enemy Pie by Derek Munson is a great accompaniment to the Scary Guy song. The narrator is looking forward to a perfect summer, when a bully named Jeremy Ross moves into the neighborhood.   Jeremy Ross can give you shivers! He laughs when narrator makes a mistake, doesn't invite him to his trampoline birthday party, and takes over all of his best friend's time. The narrator (his name isn't mentioned) asks his dad for advice. Dad's solution is to bake an "enemy pie" (ingredients unknown and misinterpreted) and to invite the enemy for dinner to eat it. One important requirement for "enemy pie": You must spend the WHOLE DAY with the bully! I promise that your kids will love this book!

The Thing About Georgie by Lisa Grafs is a great choice in a chapter book. The thing about Georgie is that he is a “little person” or dwarf. He is a pretty well-adjusted kid until a new kid shows up who seems to be “stealing” Georgie’s best friend. Georgie makes some poor choices on his way to achieving positivity. This book is a perfect followup read for Enemy Pie because of the best friend stealing angle. 

Shivers Bucket activity
This is excerpted from our Bullyproof Rainbow unit "Positivity Rocks". This unit also includes the studio-recorded version of the "Scary Guy" song.

A Bucketful of Shivers
  • Prepare and label two buckets “SHIVERS” and “POSITIVE THOUGHTS”
  Although plentiful around Halloween time (I love using the purple and green ones instead of the  
  more traditional orange and black), you can usually find small buckets any time of year at craft and    dollar stores. This can also be a bulletin board display. Print the green and purple buckets in this 
  resource on cardstock. (If you don't have the resource, you can draw two bucket fronts yourself.)  
  Cut out and staple to a bulletin board, slightly bringing in the right and left sides, and stapling         across the bottom for a 3-D effect. 
  • Discuss the ways in which others can sometimes give each of us the shivers (those uncomfortable thoughts and feelings we get when someone says or does something creepy, mean, or depressing).
  • Ask each student to write something he/she has heard or observed that gives him/her the shivers on a sticky note or small scrap of paper and deposit it in the bucket. 
  • Once all have responded, take the paper slips out of the Shiver bucket, and give each student a blank two column page labelled “Shivers-Positive Thoughts”  to attach the “shiver slip” to and to rewrite in a positive way. 
  • Ask for volunteers to share their reframed positive thoughts. 
Complete your community reflection with these important prompts:
  • Words matter
  • Actions matter
  • Thoughts matter

Make it Personal and Reward what Matters!

Give your students an opportunity to celebrate their own unique qualities with these two resources:
Personal Flags
SuperStar Banners (Coming soon for free to subscribers of the Rainbow City Learning Newsletter! Make sure that you are signed up! Look for the pop up box on this blog!)

Try adding one of these reward card systems to your own PBIS:
HERO Toolkit
MENSCH Toolkit
Rock Star Students

Click on the graphic above to find these great resources for Bullyproofing your kids at Rainbow City Learning on TpT!

To hear our discussion of Enemy Pie and other great books to include in your plans this month, listen to our podcast on We Teach So Hard! Just click below!

Hope your October is only the beginning of a bully free year year in your classroom!

For more October thoughts and teaching inspiration, don't miss the great posts by our Teacher Talk bloggers! Linkuups only by Teacher Talk bloggers please! If you'd like to join our group, email me at

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