AMSD Guest Blog Post: Sara Paul
The following AMSD Guest Blog Post was submitted by Sara Paul, Assistant Superintendent, White Bear Lake Area Schools.
In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn: Students and staff reflect on the complexity of bullying.
Bullying is a complex issue. With passing of the Safe and Supportive Schools legislation, one of my first tasks as the new Assistant Superintendent for White Bear Lake Area Schools has been to implement the required bullying prevention training to all staff in the district.
Fortunately, White Bear Lake Area Schools already has a policy in place and schools throughout the district consistently host a variety of meaningful activities for students and parents to increase awareness and decrease the instances of bullying. For example, our high school students and community members recently had the opportunity to participate in a presentation of Rachel’s Challenge – an initiative started in honor of Rachel Joy Scott, the first victim of the 1999 Columbine shootings. With support from the White Bear Lake Area Educational Foundation, our community was reminded of the little things students and family members can do every day in order to make our world a better place.
Learning about the work underway across the district led to the creation of a powerful video in which our students and staff provide professional development for all district staff. See the complete video here. I met with students who had put in significant volunteer time to bring Rachel’s Challenge to the high school. A critical insight from our students was that the little things we do make a big difference. Students shared examples of why they got involved with this initiative, and how they continue to make decisions based on learning experiences they had years ago. One student spoke of an experience she had in elementary school that encourages her to this day to step up to support others. Students have an important perspective to share. By following up with how some of the educators made an impact on these students, it became clear that in learning we teach and in teaching we learn.
One student empathized with the challenge for teachers to see bullying that is happening in the classroom. “Sometimes the teacher is just teaching and kids are literally bullying as class is going on, under their desks on their phone. It can be really hard to tell when somebody is bullying because it could happen at any time.”
Another student shared the lasting negative impact of bullying. “I had some stuff about me on the internet last year. I have trouble speaking to a lot of people now because I’m worried that I’m going to get attacked half of the time. So I guess that kind of stuff stays with you.”
The video ends with students encouraging staff to step up. “Model for us how to step in and stop bullying so we can do it the next time when you might not be around.”
Creating a safe and supportive school environment is ongoing work. Students have an important perspective to share, and In White Bear Lake Area Schools, we will continue to learn together.