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by Janet Lee Stinson

How to have a real conversation about bullying with your Intermediate/Senior students

 “It gets better.” This is the mantra spoken in the media these days. It’s mostly adults speaking out to teens about how even though bullying seems bad right now it does get better. Well, maybe for us it did get better. We moved away from those nasty children who taunted us on the bus, called out our names on the playground, and threatened to meet us at three for a fight. For students today, there is a hopeless feeling that the situation may never get better. You see, these days once you’re out there on the Internet you are out there for-ever. It seems that students learn this lesson too late. We never had this responsibility resting on our shoulders when we were young.

The latest suicide tragedy involves a teenager from British Columbia named Amanda Todd. Amanda was haunted by a bully determined to ruin her life. In desperation, Amanda created a video explaining her situation. This video has gone viral since her suicide of October 10, 2012. Now Amanda’s mother, Carol remarked that her daughter has left behind “a larger than life message that has sparked the world and has made it open its eyes, its ears and its hearts.” Carol hopes that her daughter’s video will help others. If used properly, Amanda’s video can be used in our classrooms to discover what is really happening in the lives of students. If used properly, the video can be a catalyst for action.

If you want to have a frank conversation about cyber-bullying with your Intermediate students, I suggest you get prepared to hear the stark reality about the situation of bullying. Open the conversation as a learner because believe me, you will be learning. Students will be engaged more than ever to discuss what it means to be bullied these days. They will astonish you with their understanding. Taking the position of learner will open the door for you to have a crucial conversation and empower your students to make a plan and take action.

Taking the time to have this crucial conversation will help you to help them. All of them. The bullies, bystanders and especially the bullied.


Have you ever had a conversation with your students that dramatically changed your thinking about a topic?

Click here to start the conversation with Janet Lee’s Intermediate/Senior detailed lesson plan.


Janet Lee has been an English teacher/Department Chair, Nipissing University Reading Part 3 Instructor, Student Success Literacy Consultant, and Nelson Literacy 7-10 instructional writer and media specialist. Janet Lee recently presented literacy resources at The Great Moon Gathering in Fort Albany, Ontario. She enjoys maintaining her blog This Side of the Mirror-A Journey Through Reflection to communicate with teachers and address current issues in education.


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  • Janet Lee

    Wow, Aviva! That is so powerful. Saying yes to others and starting off in an inclusive way helps us to find connections we may have missed out on in the first place. I am interested to know how their research makes a difference for your community. Keep me posted! :)

  • http://adunsiger.com Aviva (@avivaloca)

    What a great post, Janet Lee! This year, I actually had a conversation on bullying with my Grade 6 students that really made me see things differently. I thought that this issue was a straightforward one: don’t be mean to others. It’s not though. Students feel pressure from peers to act in a certain way. Sometimes standing up to others is an easier thing to say than to do. The incredible thing about this conversation though is that now students are more cognizant about how they treat their peers. I see them inviting others (that they wouldn’t before) to join their groups. They’re working on building a supportive community. I love this!


    • Janet Lee

      Thanks for the comment, Aviva! Having this conversation can make a difference. I am amazed at how opening the door to discussion can give students permission to make changes in their interactions with others. Explicit instruction takes on new meaning here!

      What do you think the next step will be for your students? How can your students spread the word?

      • Aviva

        Many of my students spoke about a “Just Say Yes” campaign. They thought that if a student asks them to work in their group in class or play with them at recess, they should be saying, “yes” instead of “no.” A group of students are creating a video about this to add to our class blog, and another group of students are planning a radio show (on 105 the Hive) to discuss these ideas. There’s even talk of making posters to put up in the school to let other students know about this plan. Students are determined to make a difference, and I love this, Janet Lee!