Bullying: What Victims Can Do

Last week, the Atlantic published an article that takes a new perspective on the problem of bullying.  The upshot: prevention is all very well, but not enough is being done to treat victims of bullying after the fact, and such treatment might be a way to stop the bullying cycle.

The article suggests that victims’ reactions to bullying can perpetuate the problem.  If victims receive counselling and social tools, however, they may be empowered to improve their situations.

The key to anticipating victims’ responses, it turns out, is to figure out their motivations for interacting with their peers in the first place. That is, kids who wanted to be popular and feel superior tended to retaliate impulsively. Those who wanted to appear cool by avoiding criticisms were more likely to pretend like nothing happened. And those who were genuinely interested in fostering friendships tended to react in healthful, positive ways. They asked their teacher for advice, sought emotional support, and found means to solve the tension with those who harassed them.

What’s more, victims’ views of friendship and social roles had an influence on how they dealt with bullying.

Children who believed friendships are fixed, succeeding or failing without their involvement, tended to be more enamored with popularity and may [sic] be more vengeful as a result. On the contrary, those who viewed their friendships as works in progress tended to appreciate their peers more and interact more responsibly.

I was sometimes bullied as a child and adolescent, and I recognize myself in these descriptions.  I was the cool, avoidant type; I was likely to pretend nothing bad was happening, and to gratefully accept crumbs of decency from my tormentors when they decided to be nice to me today.  And I did see friendships as “fixed”: I had no idea how to make friends, clung to friendships once they were even tentatively established, and was bewildered when they failed.

What’s more, for years into my professional life, I replayed my role as a victim in my classrooms.  My desire to be liked by my students and avoid conflict led me to tolerate unacceptable behaviour toward me and others.  It still does, occasionally, but learning to moderate my own responses, to deal with such problems directly, and to accept that I can only control my own behaviour and can’t keep wishing that others will change, have all helped me be a more effective teacher and, frankly, an adult.

The comments section of the Atlantic article contains a rash of responses crying “You’re blaming the victim!”  I think this is misguided.  You don’t have to be the one at fault to take action.  And in the end, who is more likely to approach this problem in a constructive way – the miserable twerp who is taking pleasure in his/her power, or the child who stands to benefit from a change in the dynamic?

What do you think?  Have you ever been bullied? Have your children, or siblings, or other young people you know?  Do the measures proposed in this article seem viable to you?  Is training for those who suffer from bullying likely to help solve the problem?


Thanks once again to Erin M. for sending me to a thought-provoking article!

Check out English Teaching Daily, a site out of India that describes itself as “your one-stop-destination to access the happenings in the field of English Language Teaching.”  Today, they reprinted my post “Why Do I Have to Learn This?”

Image by Rotorhead


University Isn’t Everything

This is the final post in our series “What Students Think Should Change About School.”  In today’s post, Ruth explains that our fixation on getting everyone to university means a poorer education for everyone.


Society has this idea that certain levels of education are necessary for a person to have any worth. I think this is a ridiculous idea that is harming students today. In many circles, a person is told they must at least have a college bachelor’s degree in order to get a job or be respected in society. Just going to a technical school or learning a trade is not enough anymore. And yet, if everyone is getting a college degree, then soon even that will not be enough. How far will we push those outrageous expectations?

Because of those expectations and the increased attendance rate at universities and colleges, it seems that our value of education is lowering dramatically. With increased class sizes and more and more fees everywhere a student turns it is so difficult for the average student to get a good education. I know so many students (including myself) who have to take a packed class load while working one or two jobs on the side just to get by without starving. How is a student to get a quality education while stressed to the max?

The thing that has frustrated me the most in my college career has been the useless classes I have had to take. I realize that part of this is because I am going to a liberal arts Bible college. However, I do not think a student should be forced to take (and PAY for!) classes that they do not need. That part of the system is definitely messed up. College is not the place for high school students to play catch-up at the expense of their fellow students.

The last comment I have to make is about how prepared college students are to actually face the world. My biggest complaint is with the Teacher Licensure programs around the country. I had so many teachers in high school fresh out of college that had no idea how to actually function in a classroom and deal with students. When a carpenter learns his trade, he does not spend the majority of his time sitting on his backside learning theories of carpentry. He also does not spend only a few months doing actual hands-on carpentry. If such a method would not work for a carpenter, then how can we expect it to work for a teacher? Teaching really is a skill that cannot be learned sitting in a room learning theories and making cut-outs. Students of teaching need to BE teachers and spend most of their time practicing in order to become skilled. Most Teacher Licensure students at my college spend three and a half years in the classroom with a practicum thrown here or there and only one semester actually teaching. Even though it is not my personal goal to become a teacher, I have spent almost every summer for the past seven years working in a summer school classroom. Comparing my experience with what some of my friends are learning in a classroom shows a major discrepancy in ability and skill level. My exposure and experience actually being in the classroom have prepared me more than years of sitting in class have prepared them.

It seems that the push for a college education has caused schools to create degrees for things that do not need a conventional college degree. Students are then forced to sit through boring and unnecessary classes in order to achieve their goals.


What do you think of Ruth’s perspective?  Is it true that pushing everyone to go to university makes for useless degrees, boring classes and an inadequate education?  Please leave your thoughts below!


Previous posts in this series:


I’ll be taking a hiatus next week to take care of some other matters, so I’ll see you again on October 24.

Image by Piotr Lewandowski

Students Need To Know Why They’re In School

It seems that there are a lot of things students would change about school if they could.  For example,  MaplesAndMerriment thinks that students need a clearer understanding of why they are in school at all.

This is Post #4 in a 5-part series on what students think should change about school.


If I could change one thing about school, it would be motivation.

What I mean is that so often, we students lose sight of why we’re in school. It’s easy to say “because we have to be; because our parents are forcing us to,” even up to and through an undergraduate education. But I believe this is a terrible perspective on school and it’s a sure way to make the least out of our opportunities.

For some, school is a logical and important step on the road to a career, and nothing more. That’s fine! For others, school is a place to find oneself and to meet new people. Also fine! For some, school is the chance to learn about a wide variety of fascinating topics. Groovy! Others use school to dive into the things that they are passionate about, and to make their life work the work of learning. Rock on.

There’s a wide variety of ways in which we can use and appreciate our education. I may personally disagree with a few, but the only explanation that I really want to challenge students on is “I don’t know.” If you don’t know, why not sit down and think about it? Maybe it will give you a fresh insight or some much-needed motivation.

So, how could we change this issue of identifying student motivations in schools? I think it falls into the work of counselors and advisors. I admire both of these professions and I wish every school, at every level of education, could have a lower advisor-to-student ratio. It would be so helpful if each counseling session began with a discussion that promoted self-reflection in the student and asked the question: “Why are you here? What are your educational goals?” We students need to be reminded of this often. It’s easy to lose track and get bogged down by assignments and the semester schedule. But being asked to step back and look at the larger picture of our education could be extremely beneficial to individual students and to the education system as a whole.


Do you agree with MaplesAndMerriment?  Is it true that students are unclear about their reasons for being in school?  If so, how can we help them?  Leave your thoughts below.


The final post in this series will appear tomorrow: According to Ruth, pushing everyone to go to university is making university less useful.

Previous posts in this series:

Yesterday’s post: Katy believes that we need to change our attitude toward grades.

Tuesday’s post: Aewl thinks college should be reserved for those who can pay for it.

Monday’s post: Emily thinks school is too easy.


Are you a student?  What do you think should change about school?  Go to this post to leave your thoughts, or write me a message.

Image by Eduardo Schafer

School Is Too Easy

This week, I’m featuring posts from five students who have shared their thoughts on what they would, if they could, change about school.

Today’s post is from Emily.  Her take?  School should be more of a challenge.


I’m a high school student at a nationally acclaimed magnet school. I go there because my home school wouldn’t offer me the kind of education I’m after. So a nationally ranked school that promises college prep and world readiness should offer some sort of challenge to an intelligent, determined, hard working student, right?


School is EASY. And I know, I know, not everyone thinks so. A lot of my friends don’t think so. And I also know that I am not the majority. I was in gifted classes all through middle and elementary school, so I’m used to having someone say: This is the minimum. If you do this, you will a C. I don’t want C work, I want A work. I want you to give me all you’ve got. I’m used to being expected to produce work that I’m proud of, not work that passes under minimum inspection.

So now I’m at a supposedly challenging high school, and I can scrape by with barely any effort. I’m bored out of my skull. I’m two years ahead in math and in AP history and it’s NOT ENOUGH. Teachers don’t expect anything of us, and we’re the cream of the crop! So they say, anyhow. My problem with school is that I am a student who wants to give everything I have. I want someone to tell me that it isn’t enough just to try. I want a teacher who will stimulate me intellectually, creatively, and emotionally. I want people to stop telling me that I’m the best of the best and start treating me like I am. If I turn in an essay that took me five hours to perfect and get the same grade as someone who did it that morning on the bus, I’m not going to be spending five hours on my next essay, I promise you that much.

My realization has been that the problem with my slacker friends didn’t start with them. They didn’t have the classes I had early in life. They never got pushed to do their best. So they think that their best is giving up. They think their best is what they can do before they get bored. They never had someone tell them that they were capable of great things, that they had it in them, that their minimum effort was not acceptable. I feel like my fellow students have almost been… punished.

Instead of preparing us for a standardized test, prepare us to be intelligent, educated, informed adults. Turn us into scholars, not drones. If you expect the minimum out of us… we’ll give it to you.

I’m sick and tired of being treated like a teenager. Treat me like a student. I want to LEARN.


What do you think of Emily’s perspective?  Do you agree that schools need to change to accommodate more gifted students?  Please leave your thoughts.

Tomorrow’s post:  Aewl thinks that we shouldn’t go to college until we can pay for it.

Image by Horton Group

Here’s What I’d Change About School

Dear readers:

There are some exciting developments happening at Classroom as Microcosm.  The last week has seen a major uptick in traffic, not least because a recent post, Fail Better, was chosen as a WordPress Freshly Pressed feature and so attracted a whole bunch of new followers and, at last count, 228 comments – welcome and thank you!

In the meantime, I have received lots of interesting and articulate responses to a question I posed to student readers: what would you change about school?  I’d still love to know what you think about this topic – please hop over to the post and leave your comments – but in the meantime, several readers have agreed to let me publish their answers as posts, for your consideration and discussion.

Accordingly, next week I will run five posts from five students, in which they explain what they would change about school if they were Supreme Leaders of the Universe.  Look out for Emily’s post on Monday, in which she tells us her problem with school: it’s just not challenging enough.

Image by Julien Tromeur

What Do Students Think Should Change About School?

This is a call out to students.  Whether you’re in primary, middle or high school, whether you’re a college undergrad or a postdoctoral fellow, I’d like to hear your opinion.  What do you think should change about school?

My friend Gen X has asked me to put this question out there.  She’s interested in students’ frustrations about all aspects of our society – school, workplace, social life, etc. – but to begin, I’m especially interested in what’s bugging you about school.  How could school be better?

You can leave your thoughts in the comments below.  If you’re shy, you can send them to me by email through the form on my contact page.  And if you’d like to really get your hands into it, write and email me a mini- (or maxi-!) essay of 200 words or more. I will feature the best essays as a future guest posts here on Classroom as Microcosm!

Parents, teachers and other non-students, please forward this question to the thoughtful and articulate students you know: if you were Supreme High Overlord or Overlady of the World, what would you change about school?

Image by Ivan Prole