As a String Pulled Tight

Ok, before I start, I have to warn  you that what I am about to tell you about is really so incredible that any words I choose to use won’t really do it justice, but since that’s what happens here, I’m going to give it the old college try. 🙂

There is a big long back story I could tell you about life in our room lately–the not-so-pretty part that I don’t usually post about–but I’ll just state it simply:  we have a problem with bullies in Rm. 201.

So today at lunch I made the decision, with the help of my good friend and teammate Melissa, to have a meeting about it.  We decided it was time to lay it all out.  To sit down and hash out our problems together.

I have to admit I was a little nervous about it.  I wasn’t sure we’d come to a solution today.  I wasn’t sure how long it would take.  I wasn’t sure if I’d have all the answers I needed, if kids would be willing to share, and I really wasn’t sure how the bullies would react to the conversation.

But–like I have done on many other occasions in my teaching career–I had to put that aside and take the risk.  Jump in the deep end.  Go for it and trust that we would figure it out together.  And what happened next was nothing less than remarkable.  I’m going to borrow some words from my friends’ blogs today to help tell some of the rest of the story:

  • I think this resent class meeting was amazing never been better. I’ve never seen my class mates be so cooperative and helpful. Every one was amazing. I hope that the next class meeting is no different than the one today. I think many shout out’s have been given and I hope that everybody knows how absolutely outstanding it was.
  • YYYYYYAAAAAAYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We had an awesome conversation today about bullies!!! I don’t know bout you, but I don’t like  bullies! But our class is so much more… fun,happy,nice, and friendly! I have never seen anything like it! it’s amazing!!! I am not scared to leave my things  out. We discovered who the bullying was.  So nice to know what was going on but now we do good bye bully’s!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:)
  • Today after lunch Mrs. Bearden pulled the entire class to the carpet in a circle to talk about bullies. The tension in the room was so bad, it was like I was a string being pulled really hard. We handeled it soooooooo well it was amazing! Mrs. Bearden said to tell names which no teacher has ever asked me before. It was scary I was afraid that if I said anything to someone, that they would get mad. But when the brave people in our room stepped up, It was amazing everyone was great. And it got even better when a friend of mine stepped up and said that she would like to say sorry to every one she had hurt.

             That broke the string.

                After that we talked about apoligies and eventually came to saying that we will start fresh.    Right   now as I am blogging well you probably not reading this as I am typing it, but as I am I hear people who would not usually laugh together, are. Every thing feels great in here. Especialy after we all had 2 billion pounds on our shoulders when we were talking about bullies.

  • Today, are schedule changed after lunch/recess–a lot. Wait! Let me say that again–a lot.Here is how it went…We stopped in the familiar 3rd grade hallway on our way to room 201. Mrs. Bearden announced that when we walked into the classroom, we would not be sitting on the carpet facing her rocking chair, but in a circle. We were all very confused, but did it anyway. We all sat on the carpet in a circle. Mrs. Bearden sat with us and said “We have some bullies in our class” Everyone’s eyes paced around the room, searching for the bullies. Then, Mrs. Bearden said that this was just like a class-meeting, except we would be mentioning names. Silence. That was when the action happened.Everyone said something about how they have been bullied and who bullied them. When I was done with mine, I cried. I was so scared because I didn’t know what the bully would say to me about me sharing the scene when I was bullied. But everything was fine. The bullies said sorry in a serious, emotional way–they even got an applause. The one who bullied me came to me privately and said sorry. Everyone was so happy after the hour-and-twenty-five minute meeting.
  • People in my class are so nice. They tought me not to take that anger out on them just because my brother did that to me.  And they didn’t do that to me. They are just trying to help me and be kind and try to be my friend. I really thank Evan for been a really good or really really great host. I am so sorry. Tomorrow a new girl is going to be walking in this class and is going to hang out with people a lot. I said that stuff from my heart. I had almost cried when I heard all the people say my name. It was like a radio going. I was like “I really did this stuff to these people.” I was so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so sorry. I really think Evan can be a great host.  The show can be called “The Evan C. Football Player Show”. So thank you everybody and I am sorry for what I did. I am so sorry for calling you a big elephant head and sorry for being mean all the time. And I mean all the time. Sorry. Bye!

This meeting, which was not structured like our usual class meetings, was a truly amazing scene.  I wished that I had taped it, so you could really see and hear what happened.  I was beyond impressed and proud with how bold and brave and honest everyone was.  They were so respectful and real while they calmly aired their grievances and talked about how they felt.  There was a natural leader that arose, and he did such a super job of synthesizing, restating and clarifying what the group was saying.

After about an hour-and-a-half, we got to a place where we clearly understood 1) what the problem was, 2) why some of it was happening, and 3) what we were going to do about it.  The feeling in the room was calm and relaxed and we knew that everything was (and is) going to be all right.  Obviously we didn’t solve all the world’s problems during that session, and we know it’s not going to be easy, but we have hope.  We know what we’re capable of, and trust that we will do what say we will do.

Time will tell, but I believe we’re on the right track. I think we’re at a fork in the road, a turning point.  We grew together today, had a shared experience that we can use as a benchmark for the future.  We’re closer, and we care more for each other.  So many people left with such great energy that I know it will affect us in a really meaningful way.

Remember all the times I’ve said my kids were amazing?  More proof today of how that statement is true.

What stories do you have about bullies in the classroom?  What advice do you have for my students about how to deal with bullies?  When have you had a scary conversation that ended up better than you’d expected?  We’d love to hear from you!

10 thoughts on “As a String Pulled Tight

  1. Impressive. I was looking forward to hearing your perspective on this after reading Rosie’s blog entry, and talking to her about what happened. I wish you had taped it, it would be a great tool in teaching conflict resolution to adults as well.

    Keep up the good work.

    • Kevin–Thanks for your response! Like I mentioned in my post, I had a hard time putting into words what actually happened, and so I was glad to be able to use kids’ words to express some of what was going on. Rosie did such an amazing job of describing the energy with her string analogy–beautiful and perfect words to tell about how it felt in here. But I think it has to be mentioned that you and the other parents in our room need to get a great big thank you in all of this, too. You are obviously doing something right in how you teach and encourage your children to talk respectfully, take risks and stand up for each other. I LOVE working with this community–our classroom one and Kirkwood in general–and am daily impressed by the things that both kids and families do for each other! Thanks a million for your support and trust of what happens at school each day.

  2. I’m with Kevin! Marin told me all about it when she got home (and was in a GREAT mood), and after reading all of the blogs, especially D’s, I was absolutely amazed at the response to the meeting.

    Could you possibly send your blog to some of the bullying foundations, especially and

    Also, if you are interested in being interviewed for ‘St. Louis on the Air’ (St. Louis Public Radio), I could probably get this arranged for you. This show often deals with new ideas in education, and this would be a great platform to help other teachers/students/families in our area!

    Jen, this is BEYOND incredible …

    • Jan,

      I would love to do that! I didn’t know about either of those foundations, and I would love to share our story with them. I guess if I look on those sites it would tell me where to send it, right? And as for St. Louis on the Air–I’m all in! I am a new recruit to NPR (thanks to my husband), and I believe may have become a junkie! It’s always on my car radio, and I find so much of what they talk about to be thought provoking and real. If other teachers could benefit from our story, I’d love to share it. Let me know what you think I should do next.

      I am so excited to hear about Marin’s response to all this. She was so brave and bold in our meeting, as she told D how she felt about what has been happening, as well as empathizing with the way T must be feeling in some of this, too. She was real in her emotions, and not afraid to let us all see it. That’s awesome! And like I told Kevin, you, as parents, have so much to be proud of and deserve such a huge word of thanks for teaching your kids how to do this. I allowed for the meeting, and set up the framework for the conversation, but they did it all. They said the hard things and listened and eventually came to an understanding and made a plan together. Yes, kids learn some of that at school–and I think Robinson does a great job of setting the example for this kind of talking–but ultimately it starts at home! YAY you! I appreciate you.

  3. Room 201:
    I am so proud of all of you for being able to have honest converstaions with one another. The tough work ahead will be to keep the level of mutual respect and dignity that you have established as future indidents occur. I know you can do it! Bravo Ms. Bearden!!

  4. Mrs. Bearden, I’ve sent your blog/interview idea to the producer (someone I’ve worked with many times in my past PR life). It may be awhile before she responds, but I have a good feeling about it!

    Also, thank you for telling me about Marin’s reactions during the meeting. Last night I told her how proud I was that she stood up for herself, as well as contributing to the solution.

  5. Jen,
    I am BEYOND impressed by the blogs I have read by your class. What a phenomenal teacher you are. You are teaching your students some very important life lessons. Taking responsibility as well as forgiveness and the ability to change “course” at any time, any moment. Thanks for showing our kiddos that they don’t need to stay “stuck” where they are.

  6. Dear Room 201 and Mrs. Bearden-

    Thank you so much for sharing your amazing class meeting with us. Room 205 was inspired by your honesty and the risk you took. After reading this blog post, we decided that a class meeting about bullying and name calling would help us out too. At first, we didn’t use names, but as the conversation progressed, we started to include names. We were nervous at first, but we are so glad we took the risk! Our class is much happier after discussing and apologizing for our behavior. Students are getting along much better, and students who used to feel put down, now feel great! Thank you for being brave– we are so proud of you!

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