October is Bullying Prevention Month and nothing beats the power of a good story to help students understand the emotional impact of bullying. Listenwise brings you this collection of public radio stories featuring the voices of young people who have been bullied or been bullies themselves. The speakers talk about developing empathy and the effect bullying had on their lives. Audio like this gives young people who may normally not feel comfortable sharing their experiences a platform to speak. Putting your students in shoes the may never have been in, can create an emotional connection that may inspire them to intervene the next time they see bullying, rather than stand by and watch.
Psychology of a Bully
This story suggests that everyone has been a bully at some point in their lives. In this story we hear from a senior in High School, Alice, as she reflects on the bullying she did in 5th grade. We also hear from a psychologist who puts Alice’s actions into context. Time: 5:58
Class Discussion Questions:
- Alice says she was “just having fun” and thinking about “what’s next to do to be cooler” when she pulled down a classmates skirt. Why do you think Alice says that bullying makes you “cool?”
- How do bullies’ actions get reinforced? Is ignoring bullying a form of reinforcement?
- How is Alice treated at home? How might this impact her actions at school?
- Alice explains that she felt like an outcast when she first moved to the school because she couldn’t speak English. What impact might this have on her bullying outcasts now?
- Alice says she stopped bullying when she started to get picked on. Why do you think that made her stop?
- The narrator says that “everyone has the capabilities of being a bully.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement?
A Positive Response to Bullying
This story is a conversation between a radio host and a high school student who was bullied. The student, Maisie, explains how she was teased for wearing pigtails in high school. She posted the harassment to her Facebook account and then reached out to her Facebook friends and asked them to all wear pigtails the next day. The response was so overwhelming that it left the victim wondering if she’d gone too far and become the bully herself. Time: 11:29
Class Discussion Questions
- How can social media be used in a positive way? In a negative way?
- What are the challenges and risks of taking a stand against bullying?
- How did the pigtail wearing experience create solidarity and unity at this high school?
- “We all say things we regret” says Maisie’s mother. Have you said things you regret?
- How might understanding the motives of bullies help you understand and respond better to bullying?
- Maisie learns that the bully “has been going through a rough time” and she has empathy for her because when her father died she also felt angry. Define empathy and do you need to have experienced something yourself to have empathy?
From the Perspective of a Bully
It can help to learn the motivations behind someone’s actions, even a bully. While there is no excuse to bullying, often kids give many excuses or reasons why they think their bad behavior is necessary. In this public radio story we hear a compelling, but disturbing, account from the point of view of a bully. He’s a legendary bully who took pride in his behavior and isn’t entirely convinced he should give it up, even as he gets out of jail for a drug crime. Time: 9:34
- How do you feel about Jeff and his behavior after hearing his story?
- The principal says he didn’t “know” it was bullying behavior when he was young, that it was known as “pranks”. How have society’s attitudes changed about acceptable behavior and bullying behavior?
- Jeff’s father used to encourage him to hurt people while playing sports. How might this encouragement have influenced Jeff’s behavior? How do adults’ actions or inactions influence children’s behavior?
- Jeff says he doesn’t think his bullying is going to affect his life in the long run. Do you think it will? How do you think it’s already affected Jeff’s life?
- The narrator says that Jeff doesn’t see his behavior as bullying, but as manipulating. Are these two things different?
The Long Term Effect of Bullying
In this story from StoryCorps, a national oral history project, an adult recalls being bullied and abused when he was caught with another boy. He was as 13 years old and was tormented because he was gay. He reflects on what the bullies might be thinking today. Time: 2:03
- In this story the narrator says he was bullied because he was gay. Why are gay youth often singled out for bullying?
- He says at the time he couldn’t talk with anyone about being gay and being bullied. What resources for gay youth and for victims of bullying exist today that didn’t 40 years ago?
- For a while the narrator felt so desperate he considered suicide. What can society do, or what can you do to help young people who feel so much despair over bullying?
- What is the narrator missing that constantly reminds him of the bullying?
- The narrator wonders whether these bullies have changed their views about homosexuality when he says: “I wonder what they think of their gay son? I just wonder how they living their lives today.” How do you think people change over time? How do you think society changes over time?
Additional StoryCorps Conversations about Bullying
Additional Resource Collections
- The group Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center also offers a host of other resources.
- The organization STOMP Out Bullying has some great ways you can encourage your students to take a stand against bullying this month.