Beyond Bully Prevention

by Jody Sokolower

RSEditors_Jan2012_146One of the pleasures of working on Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality has been the discussions among the editorial committee as we have outlined the book, reviewed submissions, and brainstormed chapter introductions. We’re a small group but we span generations, cultures, and experiences; our meetings are lively, thoughtful, and mind-expanding.

One of the most important issues we’ve discussed is the proliferation of anti-bullying campaigns now being marketed and implemented in school districts across the country. Talking openly with children about how we treat each other is almost always a good thing, but we have serious concerns about anti-bullying as an approach.

For one thing, anti-bullying is reactive rather than proactive. Building community—helping children look for what connects them with others and encouraging them to feel empathy—creates classrooms and schools where bullying is much less likely to happen.

For another, bullying freezes children (and adults, too) into static roles: the bully, the victim, the potential ally. But all of us are more complicated than that, and most conflict situations are more complicated, too. Teaching young people to understand the social contexts that can lead to problems—racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, among others—gives them the tools to solve problems without labeling others.

9780942961591.MAINI remember an example from when my own daughter had just started 6th grade in a new school district. She has always been gender nonconforming, and middle school is especially hard for nonconformists of all types. Another girl on the basketball team teased her nonstop for dressing like a boy, looking like a boy. I knew that this child was being raised by a grandmother who was now too ill to take care of her; her home life must have been incredibly stressful. As a lesbian, I had a strong hunch that issues of sexuality and gender were barely beneath the surface for her, too. Tensions over race and academic confidence were part of the mix. But the school did no community building; there was no effort to help students talk with each other about the issues they were grappling with as brand new adolescents. What a difference it would have made if teachers were talking to each other about how to create something positive. Instead, my daughter stopped playing basketball.

Giving teachers the tools to support students—all students—is at the core of why Melissa, Kim, Jeff, Rachel, and I are so happy to be working on Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality. The beautiful work being done by educators all over the country inspires us every day.

And the enthusiastic response to our Indiegogo campaign has made us realize how many of us are eagerly awaiting this book.

If you’d like to delve more into the problems with anti-bullying campaigns, check out “10 Ways to Move Beyond Bully Prevention (and why we should),” by Lyn Mikel Brown. You can read it online now or as part of our book as soon as it’s published.

Watch the video that tells the story of how the book came to be, and join the community of supporters who are making it possible for us to publish it.

‘Queer Matters’ and other LGBTQ resources

June is Gay and Lesbian Pride month.

At Rethinking Schools, we’ve been writing about gender and sexuality for a long time, including issues affecting the LGBTQ community.

We’re pleased to highlight these articles that have graced the pages of our magazine over the years. We hope you find wisdom, insight, and of course great teaching ideas from these pieces.

We are also hard at work on a new book about gender and sexuality. Look for more information and discounts later this year!

These articles are available free to all friends of Rethinking Schools:

SokolowerStreeterCreative Conflict: Collaborative Playwriting, by Kathleen Melville
A high school drama teacher searches for ways to encourage students to write about their lives without replicating stereotypes.

‘My Teacher Is a Lesbian:’ Coming Out at School, by Jody Sokolower
Adventures of an “out” teacher and some suggestions for deciding if and how to come out to your students.

Heather’s Moms Got Married, by Mary Cowhey
Second graders talk about gay marriage.

And look for “Rethinking the Day of Silence,” by Adriana Murphy in our summer issue, due out in mid-June!

These articles are available to our friends who are also subscribers

Queer Matters, by William DeJean and Anne René Elsebree
Educating educators about Homophobia

It’s OK to Be Neither: Teaching That Supports Gender-Variant Children, by Melissa Bollow Tempel
The everyday experiences of a 1st grader push a teacher to confront gender issues in the classroom.

A Journey to Openness, by Daniel P. Ryan
An elementary principal tells of his journey to being an openly gay administrator.

Fed Up with Gay-Bashing
An 11-year-old student takes a stand against homophobic slurs