Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Caring about social justice issues as a lesson of the Holocaust

Did you know that October is Bullying Prevention Month? The fact that it has an official month might give you the impetus to address this important topic through critical thinking, discussion, reading, writing, speaking, and listening lessons in your classes. If you are not sure where to begin, allow me to point you toward a few resources that I have found helpful.

Last May, when my 8th graders were in danger of leaving the building before their bodies, I showed them the documentary film Bullied produced by Teaching Tolerance, a Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Bullied is a compelling film that re-engaged my students’ minds with their bodies. The film tells the story of Jamie Nabozny who was mercilessly bullied throughout his middle and high school years. It features Jamie telling his own story, interviews with people who were involved in his case, and actors who dramatize scenes from Jamie’s youth. The film comes with a Teacher’s Guide that was helpful although a bit short on follow-up activities. In the limited amount of time we had left last May, I asked my students to create anti-bullying posters which are now displayed around our school. One activity included in the Teacher’s Guide that I particularly liked was a “Quick Quiz” that addressed facts and myths about bullying. An interesting issue addressed in the Teacher’s Guide is that kids who bully are negatively affected by their behavior – not just kids who are the victims of bullies. For example, 60% of bullies will go on to have at least one adult criminal conviction. Clearly, we need to intervene in bullying behavior for the sake of both the victims and the perpetrators. Bullied is availablefree (one per school) from Teaching Tolerance. 

I have not yet had the opportunity to implement this idea, but would like to give it a try. Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center has a variety of resources on its website including short videos for teens. I would like to show some of these videos in my Communications classes as models and then ask my students to create their own anti-bullying videos. You may view the videos at

I third excellent resource I have discovered is www.stopbullying.govAgain, there are a wide variety of resources on this website. However, I would specifically like to draw your attention to the October 5, 2012 Stop Bullying Blog post titled Giving Teachers Tools to Stop Bullying: Free Training Toolkit Now Available written by  Dr. Deborah Temkin of the U.S.Department of Education. 

Those of us who teach about the Holocaust seem to care about justice issues in general. We want our students to be fair-minded, understanding of other cultures and religions, willing to listen to other points-of-view, patient with people who have different abilities. Preventing our students from either becoming bullies or becoming the victims of bullies is an essential element of accomplishing our goal.

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