What is cyberbullying and how do we fight it

What is cyberbullying and how do we fight it

Cyberbullying: the great threat

 

School bullying has always existed between students but there is now a new form of bullying which is even more pernicious: Cyberbullying. Traditional bullying usually involves just a handful of participants. Cyberbullying can involve dozens, thousands and even more. Digital media have changed the society in such a way that bullying can be spread anywhere and anytime. There is absolutely no escape for the one victim of such harassment.

 

So what do we do? Do we withdraw from social media? Do we stop using the Internet? Do we prevent our children from using their cell phones?

That’s no solution. We live in a digital world and instead of banning all technology from our lives the answer is in the right use of technology.

Children should be taught how to use technology correctly and they should be taught values as well to understand that any action they take in their virtual lives may have an impact in their real lives.

How about the sad story of Amanda Todd? For one single mistake in her life (flashing her breasts on the Internet) she paid the high price: Her LIFE. After this terrible mistake she got cyberbullied. The harassment never stopped. Day after day. At night. Online. In real life. ALL the TIME. Her life became a nightmare. The only solution she could think of was to take her own life. And they are many cases like her. Megan Taylor Meier, Felicia Garcia, Patrick Ryan Halligan. These may be just names for you. But they were students, they were teenagers, they were children and they took their lives for similar reasons. Because they were cyberbullied.

So yes, teaching the young ones some moral values and showing them the right use of technology and showing them that they have to protect their privacy and intimacy online is absolutely vital.

What is cyberbullying

But educating children the right use of technology is not enough. Adults should be taught as well how to use the Internet safely.

Why? Because as adults when we take silly pictures of our friends on a Friday night and share them around, the message we convey our kids is that it is just ok to share silly pictures around. Sharing any material whether we are talking about videos, articles or pictures does have an impact! NOTHING can be erased for good on the Internet. Think about that teacher (Ashley Payne) who shared a photo of herself drinking a glass of wine. Innocent picture. That’s what you would think. She got fired. How about Obama’s young speechwriter John Favreau whose picture of him making fun of Hillary Clinton got viral. Fired. Posting personal pictures, sharing videos online is a big deal because it can lead to bullying. Every single personal information is saved on some server and anyone can have access to it. If you behave in a silly way as a teen and your pictures are posted on the Internet, you can be sure that those pictures will still be available to your future employees.

Prevention courses have to be delivered in schools about cyberbullying  as early as in primary school and parents must be invited to these talks. There are so many cases of cyberbullying that could have been prevented if only students, parents and teachers had known how to handle the situation. There are laws to protect victims of cyberbullying. That’s a good thing. But the best way to stop cyberbullying comes from homes and prevention.

Understanding bullying and its components

Understanding bullying and its components

Understanding Bullying

 

Bullying is not something new but it is a problem that we don’t always know how to handle as teachers, educators or parents.

We all know that bullying has spread over the past decades. What we tended to simply call as a “growing up process” is now treated as it should be: a harsh constant intolerable harassment. It does not matter who you are. It can hit you any time whether you’re Black, White, heterosexual, gay, with ginger hair, a girl, a boy, clever, tall, short, fat, slim, Muslim, Catholic…The list is endless. We know that.

Last year for the Bullying Month I was invited by the Embassy of the United States in Spain to deliver speeches in different schools in Madrid, Valencia and Cartagena. The idea was to raise an awareness about bullying and the point was to work on prevention rather than working on the cure. I focused on explaining what bullying was and highlighted the factors leading to it. We also discussed about the common and less usual warning signs that a child or teenager can be bullied. I insisted on the fact that communication was the key to prevention. Communication between parents, teachers and students.

Bullying must not to be dealt with as part of a difficult growing process. Bullying is a behaviour. As such it can be changed. How? By involving the three members part of the process AND their families. We CANNOT as educators fight bullying alone. Nor can parents of the victims and witness. This is a common process.

For example, how can a teenage girl explain that she had some videotaped intercourse and that it is now all over the Internet? How come this girl had never spoke about her personal struggle? The answer is simple. Talking about bullying is difficult.

That may sound unreal for some of us as adults but teenagers put themselves in dangerous situations and once it is done they don’t have a clue how to get out of them. Other children or teens are also simply victims of constant harassment because of their social, religious or family background. How can some little boy explain that he suffers because some students are constantly harassing him because of simply who he is? Bullying is cruel and everywhere.

 

Let’s not turn a blind eye. By understanding bullying must be addressed with parents and explained to parents before students even start school. They need to be told that it is a serious concern and as such it will be addressed not only with their children but with them as well. Let’s not forget either that in most cases of bullying the child who bullies has been deprived from a home with solid moral values. Some bullies are also themselves victims of verbal or physical abuse. The idea here is not to blame the bully or his parents the idea here is to provide help to get the necessary change in behaviour.

 

 

 

 

Understanding bullyingBullying can be prevented as long as we know that bullying does exist from Kindergarten.

As for schools the message must be clear with all the teachers and members of staff. Creating a solid code of conduct is part of the message but even better when the parents and children take an integrant part in its elaboration. Teachers should do activities in class, groups of discussions should be held with the school community, workshops should be done about the responsibilities, rights and duties of living in a community and in a society.

Understanding bullying, First step is to take it seriously. Children and teens must feel free to talk to adults without being judged or prejudiced.

Changing a behaviour takes time. It can take months and even years but it is everyone’s responsibility to address the issue. Everyone should stand against Bullying. Campaigns are a good way for awareness but the Month of Bullying is clearly not enough. The virus doesn’t spread just during one month. It’s all year long.

To sum it up, understanding bullying it’s about knowing prevention is much better than the cure in terms of bullying as the consequences of bullying have huge traumatic impact on the three main characters of the program. Postponing any action to fight the issue can have huge consequences on the short and long run. I would just add here that children and teens face the problem every day at school and through online devices but it is now up to us as adults to consider the real impact it can have on our children and students.

Teaching English as a Second Language learners

Teaching English as a Second Language learners

As teachers we know that our classes have become a tremendous mosaic of different cultures and languages. Just as an example, I know a secondary school where 47 languages and dialects are used by students. Does that sound huge to you? Well, it’s not uncommon now. When I was Head of languages and in charge of the ESL department I did quite a few researches about ESL learners and I was quite fortunate to be able to develop some projects to help these students reach their full potential. Working with students whose first language is not English is extremely rewarding, though daunting at first.

Second-Language-learners-1

What are the main strategies to be used to teach ESL students on a daily basis in the classroom? First of all ESL students need to feel that they are part of the group. They shouldn’t be left alone or isolated from the group. Depending on their history some of them may also suffer from huge trauma. Many students are now coming from the Middle-East and from Africa and many of them are refugees and they may have seen terrible things for their young age. That is a factor to take into account. While some will be ready to engage and take part in classes other may be defiant or withdrawn.

That sounds quite obvious but you need to get in touch with their closest parents. You will find out that most of the time parents don’t speak English and this can lead to awkward situations. I remember that little Chinese girl who didn’t speak a word of English at her arrival. She was my student for French and I also helped her with her English twice a week. Within a couple of weeks she became the best student in French and her English had improved dramatically. When I met her parents at the parents’ evening, they really looked worried and I reassured them by showing them data and using all my range of facial expressions to tell them how well their daughter was doing. They simply hugged me and thank me for my help. That may sound a bit cheesy but I will never forget that moment. Keeping in touch with the parents and creating a link with the family is vital when you teach ESL learners.

Second-Language-learners

Then I would say that a complete immersion in English is beneficial to students and there are many ways to keep you instructions clear and simple so that everyone can understand. Don’t forget to model what you are expecting of the students and use your facial expressions and body language to make things easier. The use of English Language Development is therefore very important. ELD is the systematic use of instructional strategies to promote the acquisition of English by students whose mothertongueis not English. ELD consists of five levels: Beginning, pre-intermediate, intermediate, early advanced and advanced. We generally consider that six to seven years are necessary to master a language. Four skills are assessed in ELD: listening, speaking, reading, and writing and these skills are linked to four main areas (function, fluency, form and vocabulary.Students need to be taught at their proficiency level for each skill. Saying that students will acquire English the same way as they learned their first language would be irrational but the best to learn for them is for sure to interact with their peers who are native speakers and to be immerged into the language as much as possible. This approach is what we call the Natural Approach. Students will develop basic communication and social skills through a collaborative work with their peers and they don’t have to bear the pressure. They should be allowed at that stage to learn at their own pace.

Here are some other tips you may find useful. In your classroom, on top of gestures, use visuals to support your teaching. Do not rush when delivering instructions. Take your time, speak slowly and articulate. Uses pauses and adapt your speech, you may also need to create greater emphasis on intonation. Keep your enthusiasm high; it will help release the pressure from your students. Last but not least I would suggest the building of a profile for your ESL learners where you will keep all their data regarding their progress. This will help you define their needs and help them to further their knowledge.

What are learning disabilities ?

What are learning disabilities ?

What are learning disabilities?

As adults we are quick to categorize people according to their skills or intelligence. As teachers we must be cautious about categorizing our students. What some may perceive as laziness or lack of intelligence may be instead explained by professionals as a learning disability. A learning disability has nothing to do with intelligence or motivation and people with learning disabilities may be as smart as anybody else. What makes the difference is that people with a learning disability will learn things differently simply because their brains work differently.

The range of learning disabilities that can affect students is wide. It can affect their reading, writing, communication, understanding skills etc. The earlier we spot our students’ difficulties the easier it will be for us to help them and find appropriate strategies to support them in their learning. However it’s not always easy to identify children with learning disabilities as it can vary a lot from one student to the other. Nevertheless there are some signs that should raise some concerns. For example here’s a list of signals that should help use diagnose some possible learning disabilities: the difficulty in pronouncing words, trouble finding the right word, difficulties with learning simple items, issues with directions, troubles with simple motor skills, inability to make connections between sounds and letters, confusion when reading, difficulty in memory skills, trouble with numbers, poor organizational skills, difficulty in understanding and following a discussion, poor handwriting etc. If some of your students present these signs it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have a learning disability but it should alert you.

Over the past decades, acronyms to talk about learning disabilities have flourished and it’s sometimes difficult to get to know which acronyms refer to which learning disabilities. Here’s a simplified list where you should find the most common acronyms with a brief definition:

ADD – Attention Deficit Disorder. Students find it hard to focus in lessons

ADHD- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

ASD- Autistic Spectrum Disorder

AS- Asperger Syndrome

BESD – Behavioural, Emotional, Social Difficulties

Dyscalculia inability in maths reasoning

Dyslexia inability to read properly

HI – Hearing Impaired

IEP – Individual Education Plan

LSA – Learning Support Assistant

MLD – Moderate Learning Difficulties

PMLD – Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties

PRU – Pupil Referral Unit (short stay school)

SA – School action

SA+ – School Action+

SEN – Special Educational Needs

SENCO – Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator

SLD – Severe Learning Difficulties

SpLD – Specific Learning Difficulties

TA – Teaching Assistant

VI – Visually Impaired

 

When it comes to learning in the classroom you will find that students with learning disabilities are quite unable to manage their time efficiently, therefore they don’t work at the same pace as the group and they tend to finish their assignments late.     They may also have issues copying from the board and writing in general and it may take them more time to understand instructions. They can get confused with numbers, spelling etc. The consequence of this is that their learning is affected but also their motivation and self-esteem. Students with learning disabilities are aware of the fact that they learn differently and realizing their inabilities often results in low self-esteem and this usually affects their social skills and behaviors.

 

Providing efficient support to students with learning disabilities is challenging for all teachers. Despite our trainings we may often feel overwhelmed by some situations with Special Education Needs students. It does take time to understand how to adapt lessons for the benefits of each student but it’s worth trying. You won’t operate miracles in the first weeks but with perseverance and the help of your Learning Assistant you should see some improvements in the learning of students with learning disabilities but also in your lesson planning in general. The strategies that you will use for your students with learning disabilities will have a positive impact on your teaching in general as you will acquire some automatism. Here are just some key strategies that work for teaching students with learning disabilities: First remember to use short and clear instructions. Second, have them to repeat the instruction in their own words. Then, outline the progression of the lesson on the board and tick every time you have completed a task. Adapt the work to their needs and abilities (change the font for VI students), vary the types of activities to suit their styles (for e.g. ADHD students will learn better with kinesthetic activities). Last but not least, pay a visit to your SEN departments, review the IEPs and get in touch with the parents. They will be able to give your some valuable hints for your teaching.

 

What is the Asperger Syndrome ? (Part 2)

What is the Asperger Syndrome ? (Part 2)

What is Asperger Syndrome? Methods to support AS students

Here are some hints that should help you deal with students with Asperger. First and quite obvious tip is to liaise with their parents. They are the ones who know their child best and they will give you important information about their child’s behaviors. Starting from this you can then propose in agreement with the parents some activities and routines that will help their child. Having a meeting at the beginning of the school year is therefore crucial but you will have to keep in touch with them during the whole year to discuss any challenges and progress.

Once you have a better idea of what this child will need then you will have to adapt the learning environment for a better learning. The physical and verbal aspects of the classroom have to be adapted. I would suggest a seating plan where the child with Asperger would be next to a quiet helpful student. Remember that any child has to be included so even if he or she has some difficulties with social behaviors and social commonly agreed rules he or she needs to be taught how to deal with that in a classroom. Don’t isolate the AS students but provide them with a clear defined space to organize themselves and avoid any source of stress. Students with Asperger are the main targets for bullying so keep them away as far as you can from troublemakers to avoid any burst or meltdown.

Educate their peers. Children will notice that students with AS don’t interact the same way as they do. It is extremely difficult for students with AS to build friendship and therefore they may quickly be isolated. It’s our role as teachers to explain what the Asperger Syndrome is about. You don’t have to explain things in details but you need to raise students’ awareness about the syndrome. Some researches tend to show that children who have been explained the behaviors of students with AS are more likely o show a positive attitude towards them and a greater understanding.

Use visual support in your room in clear strategic places- board, door, desk. Use your room as a giant reminder for students with Asperger. Stick the planned activities on the board. Tick once the activities have been completed. Students with AS usually respond well to visual support. Have also ready-made cards for the students where their feelings and emotions are expressed. For example: “I don’t feel good now because I don’t understand what to do.” The student can show you the card so that you know you will have to make the activity clearer.

Be ready to accommodate the time and space for them. Children with AS will need more time to complete activities because for example writing is a fine-motor skill and it’s a complex skill to acquire for students with Asperger Syndrome but it doesn’t mean they don’t have to be challenged. Their organization skills are usually low as well so try to help them by providing them the material they will need in advance, at the beginning of the lesson. You will need to be twice as much organized as you usually are.

Students with AS need very short and clear instructions expressed in a calm voice. Avoid multiple instructions as they may be lost. Your instructions have to be sharp and repeated. Use a low pace and keep your calm whatever the situation. Students with Asperger will struggle explaining that they don’t understand and this may turn into frustration. Once the group is on task take the time to sit next to the student with AS and ensure he is on task. Remember as well that facial expressions and eye contact don’t make sense to them so you will have to interact verbally to give directions and to praise their work. Behaviors of AS students can be quite unpredictable and seen as completely inadapted to the situation. Tantrums and meltdowns can be frequent but they are manageable. Be ready for that. Parents and colleagues are your best allies here as they know what will work for these children. Understanding a source of stress or frustration and then finding collaborative strategies should prevent many of these situations.

What is the Asperger Syndrome? (Part 1)

What is the Asperger Syndrome? (Part 1)

What is the Asperger Syndrome?

When you have a student with Asperger Syndrome in your class it does change the way you teach. I was confronted to this only once but it really had an impact on my teaching on the long term and on my practice awareness. If you have one student with Asperger Syndrome remember that yes he or she is different in certain ways, but as any other students!

However students with Asperger Syndrome will require specific teaching strategies so that they can unlock their potential. We need as teachers to be aware that the Asperger Syndrome will present some important challenges not only for us but also for the student and for the group. If you don’t know what the Asperger Syndrome is you may not even notice it, as students with this syndrome will tend to act and look much like their mates. Don’t blame yourself but ask your colleagues and they will you give tips to handle the situation.

Most students with the Asperger Syndrome tend to perform well academically and they often surpass their peers. Students with Autism on the contrary have a range of intellectual functioning to below to above-normal. Despite their usually good performances we need to keep in mind that students with Asperger have a disorder, which makes it difficult for them to work in a classroom where adapted teaching strategies haven’t been put in place.

Well. What is the Asperger Syndrome? It’s a neurological disorder that affects people. Children and adults suffering from this find it hard to control their behaviors. It is a complex disability that affects communication, ability to socialize, sensation and cognitive skills. What makes it even more complex to diagnose is that it can differ from one person to the other. Some will have an almost obsessive rapport with some topics or objects, others will find it hard to understand social concepts and language styles, some others will have the tendency to repeat movements or words -echolalia- and some will struggle with new things that differ from their routines. The characteristics of the Asperger Syndrome are numerous and the above list is far from being exhaustive.

Students with this syndrome will generally find it hard to organize themselves and decide what is important and what is not. Their social awareness is different from what we know and therefore they may offend people without realizing it, they also find it hard to engage in conversations, they struggle with adapting to social rules. Most of them have difficulties interacting with others and many things can be a source of stress for them. For example some may need a routine to reassure them and any unplanned event can be a source of anxiety. The way these children and adults behave can be seen by some as disobedience or defiance but this is not the case, this is all part of the Asperger Syndrome.

Nowadays more and more children are diagnosed with this syndrome. I personally believe that there is also a huge confusion between students with Asperger, students with Autism, students with ADHD -Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, students with BESD – Behavioural, Emotional, Social Difficulties or students who simply misbehave. If in doubt use your professional judgment but also refer to the Special Education Needs department of your school.

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