I am currently creating a Freshman English Non-Fiction UBD on Cyberbullying, and I have some politically incorrect beliefs on it.
Now I first started this article topic last year. It was a unit plan with 3 projects built in:
Project 1: Students (in groups) taught the class how to do something fun. Students created a lesson to teach their peers how to do something they already know how to do. They worked in groups, created a lesson plan, a visual, learning intention and success criteria, and an assessment to find out if the students learned what they wanted them to learn. Groups did things like: how to prepare for an emergency, how to do a kick flip, and how to make a paper airplane.
Project 2: Students (in groups) taught the class how to write an article. Students read an article to find out the structure and style of each part of the article: intro, body paragraphs, conclusion, etc. Each group taught the class how to write their section. They replicated the style of the lesson plan by creating a lesson plan, a visual, learning intention and success criteria, and an assessment to find out if the students learned what the group wanted them to learn.
Project 3: Students (in groups) wrote an article about cyberbullying. The students used what their classmates taught them to research and write an article each from a person effected by cyberbullying: perpetrators, victim, parent(s) of victim, parent of perpetrators, teacher, politicians, etc. In each project 3 group, there was one student in each group who taught Intro, Body, and Conclusion during project 2.
When I did this, I taught in a continuation school and although they were pretty motivated through the first 2 projects, they lost a lot of momentum during the last one. So I’m going to change it up.
This time, we are going to read 1 article together about cyberbullying. We will discuss text structure, content, and how to write good research questions. Then, each student will have a role to research (same as above).
The plan is for them to use the questions they create to research the topic in depth and each group create a skit to show what they have learned about it. That’s where I’ve left off…
I always require a sense of truth in my plans. I don’t want my students to mindlessly follow my directions without question. I also don’t want to create a bunch of robots who think that everyone needs to do and follow whatever the culture believes. That said, my students will tell you, many of their peer group can’t handle any emotional stress. They break at any sign of failure and get depressed with the least amount of criticism. For example: I had an 18 year old girl student who skipped two days of school last week because her friends said she was “dramatic.” Ummm, you think maybe they might be on to something?
That said, the easy way to do this would be to pretend like cyberbullying is a problem that can only be resolved by creating more empathy for the victims. Yes, this is a good thing: making people aware of the problem is a good thing and should be done. But where my skepticism lies is not to just stop at the victims being made aware but to encourage victims of the crime to not stop at their victim-hood but become overcomers. I want to empower victims to be strong enough to defend themselves, get confidence that what other people say about them does not define them, and to move from victims to a person with resilience and can help to defend others.
Like many of us in the generations before social media, I have been ridiculed, teased, and tormented as a child. But we grew strong, have overcome it, and have become defenders of the weak. But by becoming defenders of the weak, have we taken the responsibility away from the kids who need to overcome their own battles? By being their defenders, have we taken their future victory and therefore a possibility to create inner strength and confidence?
I am on the front lines seeing the victim-hood of the next generation. Many of them are very aware of the perceived weaknesses but still use it to their advantage. I want to help build a generation of students who know they are supported but also are expected to be responsible for their actions and their emotions.
I want students to know that what cyberbullies say about them does not define them. Students should feel empowered enough to get away from negative things in their lives and if that means social media, then so be it. This is the world we live in today but we need to allow kids to experience struggles (we all have them) but give them strategies to overcome and persevere.
QUESTIONS AND NEXT STEPS
- Is it possible for kids to understand that this world where bully victims are sensationalized that one of the best ways to handle bullies is through inner-strength and perseverance? How can I express this without seeming heartless?
- How do I make sure that victims of bullying are justified for their anger and sadness but at the same time know that they are growing their character and inner-strength by learning how to deal with it efficiently?
I’d love to hear your input.