A Success Story
“There was no one to talk to.” These words were uttered by a convicted killer. He was being interviewed by the Secret Service during a research effort to refine the profile of assassins. This particular killer had killed his Mother at home with a knife then went to school with a hunting rifle where he killed two fellow students. He lamented that he was picked on and called names, even had rocks thrown at him, by other students. The school apparently took no action to intervene. In his own words from prison, he said, “There was no one who cared.”
At another school in yet another killing, the killer said, “I could not find a reason not to do it“. A school official admitted on national television at yet another school shooting that the shooter was picked-on and teased by the other students but he was good natured about it and let it roll off his back. It turned that he was not letting it roll off; he was stuffing it and holding on to it. In fact, in almost every school shooting incident uncontrolled bullying was a major contributing factor. A common thread was that the perpetrators were being bullied, no one intervened to stop it and there was no one with whom that felt connected well enough to talk about the problem.
Of course every school is staffed with caring adults who can listen and take action when the situation is getting out of hand. So, why did these killers unanimously feel there were none? The answer is obvious: the teachers did not know they needed to talk. But this brings up another question: Why did they not know?
A report was published recently that stated that school teachers operate under more laws directly effecting their daily jobs than any other profession in the United States. Add to that the increased demands of teaching a mobile society and heavy student loads, there is wonder only that teachers know any of their students more than in passing. It is very easy for teachers, counselors and administrators not to know when a student needs their help but will not ask for it. One school has decided to change this trend.
While in a Train-the-Trainer session on Bullying Stops When Respect Begins, a participant shared what her school is doing in regards to making positive connections. They target a specific grade and have a roster of the entire class printed. This print-out is posted on the wall of the teachers lounge for a week. Each teacher reads the list of names and initials by every student with whom they more than an in-passing relationship. At the end of the week, there is a shocking number of students who have no connection with anyone at the school. This list is then posted until every one of them has a teacher initial that they will target that one student to insure that he or she has a weekly contact with a caring adult. It may only be a hand on the shoulder and a greeting like, “How are you doing today?”
The feed back from the staff has been tremendous as they report new bonds of connection growing between staff and student. The students do not know about the program so there is no direct feed back, but the observed feed back is likewise very positive.
Here is a challenge for every school in the United States: find those students who have no adult connection in the school and remedy that. If your school will not do it, then do it individually. Go over your grade book or think of students that you see from other classes that seem isolated or have poor adult/child interaction skills and reach out to them on your own. It takes very little. A gentle touch and look directly in the eye combined with a genuine statement about that person’s life or well-being is all that is required. Then be prepared for the revelations that may come your way when this communication gulf has been spanned. When a student tells you something, listen. It is far more important to simply listen than it is to provide wise advice. Affirm the student’s comment, even if you do not believe it. Your affirmation is validation of his or her right to that perception or feeling, not to the accuracy of the statement. Correct only when the correction will benefit the student. Take action when indicated. Above all, protect the confidentiality of the communication.
If you accept this challenge, please contact Keys To Safer Schools.com and keep of informed of the process and the results. Improve a child’s world and you will improve your own.
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