It is the end of the semester and I am visiting one of our virtual labs to check on our students’ progress, discuss their grades, talk about finals, and hear about their experiences on taking online classes. On the morning of my visit, the lab monitor was out of the lab and the students were working diligently on their courses.  Although the lab was small, the majority of the students were quiet, hard working, and on task (a lab monitor’s dream). However, there was the one student…yes, there is always one.  He arrived late that morning and his presence shattered the silence of the lab like a rock going through a window.  Automatically, the students came alive by telling jokes, singing, and then throwing verbal jabs at one another.  While there were a few students who were still quiet, this one student started to make fun of the others by making up songs about them.  As his songs got more offensive, the reactions increased from the other students (quiet and not so quiet ones).  He was relentless and I just could not stand it any longer!

Finally, I looked at the kid and said, “That is enough. I want you to stop right now.”  Immediately, it was on and he turned his wrath toward me. He became so abusive that I asked him to leave, BUT he refused!!   Quickly turning to my crisis skills, I looked at the all the kids in the small room and I said, “I need everyone out now!”  They asked if I was serious and I said that I was very serious.  After the students walked into the next room, which was the media center, the kid and I had a lengthy discussion (it really didn’t go the way I wanted it to go).  The result of our discussion was that the student saw no harm in his comments to the other students and felt that I was overreacting.  At this point, the student and I had to agree to disagree, but it really made me think of how our virtual students could benefit from some respect education.

Creating Safer and Respectful Classrooms

Name Calling is not attractive!

If I had a penny for every name I heard students call each other, I would never have to worry about reloading my Starbucks card for my daily Hot Green Tea Chai.  Unfortunately, name calling is everywhere…schools, the community, the teachers’ lounge, the presidential debates, our homes…well, you get the point.  How can we expect students to act any differently when our conversations, songs, movies, and debates are full of name-calling (whether intentional or not). Although we can’t control what goes on outside of school, we can set up a safe learning environment.  As a school counselor, it is my responsibility to help our staff create respectful learning environments. The Anti-Defamation League has created a working agreement that I am going to take to our lab monitors to help them create a safer and respectful classroom. This agreement includes creating an environment that promotes the following characteristics:

  • Students should be able to listen to each other with respect and remember that not everyone will agree with their views and opinions.
  • Each student should speak from his or her own experiences and refrain from judging others.  Using I-messages can help students speak from their own values and experiences.
  • Educators can help create an environment where students can ask questions without fear of judgment or criticism.
  • School staff can create respect for confidentiality by making sure it is safe for students to share personal experiences.
  • While every student has the right to share his or her ideas, it is important that everyone is given the same amount of time to speak and share ideas.

Before taking these ground rules into the lab, I am going to do a little data collection to see how students feel about the climate in the virtual labs.  After implementing these rules, I will take a post assessment to see if students feel the ground rules made a difference in their learning environment.  I will update you on how this works!!

You can check out this resource from ADL for establishing classroom ground rules. Also, here are some additional resources on how to handle offensive language and how to create upstanding behavior.

What to Say to “That’s So Gay”
Upstander Engagement Sheet
Take a Stand, Lend a Hand

Countdown to No Name Calling Week and How to Prepare!

Since January is the beginning of a new semester and the new year, it is a great time to help teachers establish respectful ground rules in those classroom that seem to lack a civil culture (you know what classrooms I am talking about).  During the week of January 18-22, schools can participate in No Name Calling Week by involving students and staff in respectful communication and creating a culture of acceptance.

Ways to Celebrate No Name Calling Week

No Name Calling Week Challenges shared by Sara Schmidt from The Teaching Tolerance Website

1.  Challenge your students and staff to call each other by their given name instead of using potentially derogatory names like “sweetie” (ok, now you are talking to me), “honey”, “sexy”, etc.

2.  Have students to keep a tally of how many names they hear in a week at school, home, on the bus, at work, while playing sports, shopping, etc.  Ask them to report the most common names they have heard used by others by writing them on a piece of paper and then posting them on a bulletin board.  You may need to get administrative approval to do this and censor the names.

3.  Participate in a act of kindness by doing something unexpected for someone you may know or don’t know.  Check out the 30 Easy Random Acts of Kindness from Eat, Sleep, Be blog.  Another website is Do Something which has a lot of great ideas for teens.

4.  Have students participate in the No Name Calling Survey to gather information regarding how they feel about experiencing name calling.

5.  Conduct a “What’s In a Name” poster contest about what one can do when he or she is called a  name.

Poster Advertising the NNCW Student/Staff Challenge

Also, download additional posters to advertise NNCW to your school.

Bullybust has a great resource for school counselors to use film clips to show how name calling and bullying can impact students. Although there are many other clips, here are ones that can be used during No Name Calling Week.

The Christmas Story and the Triple Dog Dare

Beware of the Triple Dog Dare!

Discussion Questions:

1.  Do your friends impact what you say and do?  How?  Why?
2.  Do you think this is true for other people as well?  Can you give an example?
3.  What makes a dare so powerful?
4.  What would happen if we say no to a dare?
5.  What is peer pressure?
6.  Give example of peer pressure at school?

Action Steps:

Try to help someone who is doing something potentially harmful only because they want to seem cool and accepted to the group.  Share the experience.

Dead Poet’s Society: The Courtyard is Yours!

Walk the courtyard…or not!

Discussion Questions:

1.  What happens when you follow your own rules and not the rules of the crowd?
2.  Is there a time when you felt that you could really think independently and form your own thoughts?
3.  Why do people confirm to the opinion of others?  When has this happened to you.

Action Steps:

Find an issue or situation you feel strongly about and form your own thoughts.

Sky High and Friendship

You are my friend, but I am going to believe a lie about you.

Questions to Ask:

1.  How do you know if someone is telling you the truth about another friend?
2.  What should you do when you hear something bad about a friend?
3.  Give some examples of loyalty in a friendship?

Action Steps:

Give examples of how you can show support for someone that others put down?
Find one way to include someone who is different into your group.

The War and Dealing With Bullying Behavior

What did I do to deserve your hate?

Questions to Ask:

1.  Does kindness work with people who bully?
2.  Why is it hard to be nice to someone who is mean to you?
3.  What generally happens when we are mean to those who are mean to us?
4.  What the meaning of the statement: “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind?”

Action Steps:

Speak to someone who has tried to treat others with kindness and find out about their perspective.

Need more ideas?  I got them for you!!  Check out these other activities to celebrate No Name Calling Week.


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