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Tips for School & District Administrators

Getting Involved in No Name-Calling Week

By Brian Gatens

Upset Student Crossing ArmsThis week is No Name-Calling Week, which represents a nationwide effort to prevent bullying and foster caring, compassionate schools. Discussions of bullying have risen to a national level, with even President Barack Obama speaking of the childhood experience of being teased for having big ears. This increased focus on school culture and climate has created an even stronger sense of urgency for classroom teachers to take part in formal activities like No Name-Calling Week.

Bullying might seem like an inevitable outcome of children acting childishly, but there is a lot we can do to discourage and even stop it. Here are three tips for enhancing and extending No Name-Calling Week’s goal of creating positive and supportive classroom environments.

Create a dialogue

I always feel the best way to address a problem is to speak of it out loud. This may sound overly simplistic, but it’s important for you, as the leader of your class, to be vocal in support of events like No Name-Calling Week and to clearly define the behaviors that simply cannot be tolerated. This dialogue should happen in a whole class meeting, which will help foster democratic principles in your students. ASCD provides a  great resource for running a whole class meeting.

Foster an atmosphere of caring

Far too many school policies for negative behavior are reactive — designed to be implemented only in response to a negative situation. I strongly suggest being proactive by fostering a sense of caring among your students. Students who feel genuinely cared for by their teachers and fellow students are far less likely to inflict verbal or physical harm on other people. I’ve often noted that students’ anger towards others is very often misdirected anger about their own situations. A great strategy to foster a positive environment is to do a “secret compliment” activity, requiring students to anonymously write compliments to their classmates. For some students, it may be the first time somebody explicitly notices their positive qualities.

Bring in examples

Nothing speaks louder than a good example. I suggest bringing in older children to speak to your class about their positive behavior choices. The language of an adult can ring false in a child’s ears, but the language of a peer speaks loudly and will most likely be heard by your students. On the other end of the spectrum, you may want to create an activity that will push your students into a younger class. This will enable your students to model the expectations you set for them in the abstract.

See www.nonamecallingweek.org for more tips on creating a caring classroom environment. Reaching out to all of your students through these and other activities will only help support their social and academic development. Good luck!

An educator for two decades, Brian P. Gatens is superintendent/principal at Norwood Public School in Norwood, New Jersey. Gatens has worked at the K-12 level in public and private school settings in urban and suburban districts. He has been a classroom teacher, vice principal, principal and now superintendent/principal.

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