Tag Archives: bullying

What makes a bully a bully?

Charli Mills flash fiction challenge at the Carrot Ranch about balloons

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills has challenged writer to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a balloon. It can be a party balloon or a hot air balloon. How does it add to your story? Go where the prompt leads.

balloons, celebrations, happy times, smiling kids

Balloons are almost synonymous with fun and celebrations. They come in all shapes and sizes to decorate parties and other events. A child with a balloon is usually a child with a smiling face – until the balloon bursts, pops or escapes.

What do balloons and bullies have in common, you may ask? I’m sure there are many ways balloons could be used for bullying.

With this Friday 16 March being the National Day Against Bullying and Violence, I decided to write a story that could be shared with children and used as a stimulus for discussing bullying, bullying prevention, and what it means to be a friend. I hope you like it.

Surprises for Marnie

Brucie loved surprising Marnie on her way to school each day.

Marnie expected that Brucie would meet her, but she never knew where.

On Monday, he jumped from behind a bush screaming at her.

On Tuesday, he stuck out his foot and tripped her.

On Wednesday, he snuck up behind and pulled her hair.

On Thursday, he popped a balloon in her ear.

On Friday, he surprised Marnie by not surprising her at all.

But, after she’d put her bag away, he pulled it out and emptied its contents on the floor.

“Whose mess is this?” demanded Mrs Brown.

bullying, being mean, hurting, pulling hair

What do you think? I have put the story together with some teaching suggestions in a resource to add to the readilearn collection.

The story has the potential to initiate discussion around issues and questions such as the following; for example:

  • What is a friend? What do friends do?
  • What is a surprise? Are all surprises good?
  • What is bullying? Are some people always friendly? Do some people always bully?
  • How do you think Marnie responds to Brucie’s “surprises”? How does her body feel?
  • Why would Brucie bully Marnie?
  • Do you think Marnie tells anyone about what Brucie is doing? Why wouldn’t she tell?
  • What should you do if you see someone being mean or bullying another?
  • Have you ever been bullied?
  • How did you respond? What would be a better way to respond?
  • What could Marnie have done to get Brucie to stop?
  • Have you ever bullied anyone?

These are just a beginning. The Bullying No Way website has some great resources to assist you in educating children about bullying and its prevention.

Bullying is defined as

“an ongoing misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that causes physical and/or psychological harm.”

The important words here are:

ongoing, repeated, misuse of power, causing harm

Single or isolated acts of unkindness or aggression are not considered bullying.

Brucie is obviously engaging in bullying behaviour as he repeatedly abuses Marnie causing her physical as well as psychological (fear, anxiety) harm.

Marnie is reluctant to talk about the situation for fear of making it worse.

Children need to learn that there are safe people they can talk to about incidents that occur, and they also need to learn strategies for responding to unkindness and bullying.

When discussing bullying situations, it is important to not label a child as either victim or bully, but to describe the behaviour. Behaviour can be changed but it is often difficult to remove a label once it has been applied. What we need most are supportive schools that fosters acceptance and respect.

I have previously discussed bullying in Stop bullying now!, Safety in friendship, Targeting prey, and Bully for you.

Karen Tyrrell Songbird Superhero and Battle of Bug World empowering books for kids anti-bullying

I also interviewed Karen Tyrrell, Australian author of empowering books for children and adults, about her junior fiction books Song Bird Superhero and The Battle of Bug World that, along with Stop the Bully, have important messages for kids about bullying.

One of my other favourite books about bullying is Willy the Wimp by Anthony Browne.

What are your favourites ways of discussing bullying with children?

Thank you blog post

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

crows ravens bullying and kindness

What’s there to crow about?

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a raven. It can be in nature or used to describe humanity as a metaphor. Follow the bird. Go where the prompt leads.

While ravens and crows may have their differences, as an Australian, I can be forgiven for having difficulty in telling them apart. As this article about the Australian Raven in Birds in Backyards says,

“There are six members of the family Corvidae found in Australia: five native breeding species and one infrequent self-introduction. Three are called crows and three ravens, although there is really little difference. Most Australian species are similar in size and colouration, and can be difficult to tell apart.”

In fact, when I attempted to find photographs of crows and ravens, I found the same photograph labelled ‘crow’ in one location and ‘raven’ in another!

I provide this information only so you’ll understand why I refer to crow rather than the raven of Charli’s prompt.

You see, Charli’s prompt reminded me of this video in which a crow shares its bread with a mouse.

I wondered why the crow would make such an effort to share with a mouse. Don’t crows usually eat mice?

I was reminded, then, of the Aesop’s fable The Lion and the Mouse in which a lion, surprised at the idea that a mouse might one day be able to help him, forgoes a meal and releases the mouse. The mouse returns the favour one day by freeing the lion when it was ensnared by hunters.

However, in the fable, it was the potential prey who helped the predator in an act of kindness.

In the video, it is the predator showing kindness to potential prey. Finding a motive required some divergent thinking. This is what I came up with as a start.

Crow and Mouse

“Caw, caw,” called Crow in the morning from atop the tree.

“Caw, caw,” called Crow at midday from the neat vegie patch.

“Caw, caw,” called Crow, perched high on a wire, at the end of the day.

“Shoo, shoo,” shouted Man in the morning, shaking knobbled fists.

“Shoo, shoo,” shouted Man at midday, stamping his feet.

“Shoo, shoo,” shouted Man, clattering his pans at the end of the day.

Sneak, sneak went Mouse from his hole in the wall, to the kitchen and back, unnoticed by Man who was noticing Crow.

And so it repeated, day after day.

Until, one day, Man grew tired of shooing Crow and loaded his slingshot with a rock. Mouse, ready to sneak, saw Man take aim. Mouse ran–across the floor and up Man’s leg. Man stumbled. In so doing, he dropped the rock upon his toe. He hollered. Crow heard the commotion and flew away, cawing his thanks to Mouse.

Man saw where Mouse hid. He fetched his hammer, nails and a board.

Just in time, Mouse escaped–down the stairs, through the garden and into the woods. In the darkness, Mouse trembled.  All his life, he had filled his belly with three good meals a day from Man’s kitchen. Could he fend for himself? He looked about this unfamiliar world. When the quiet was interrupted by a flap-flap-flap, he ducked for cover.

Too late–he’d been spotted.

“There you are,” cawed Crow, placing a piece of bread on the ground in front of Mouse. “Thank you for your kindness. One good turn always deserves another.”

What do you think?

Stories, stories, everywhere

I had fun writing the story and it reaffirmed for me that potential stories are everywhere, not only for adult writers, but for children too. I think children would love to discuss the video of the crow and the mouse and would ask many more questions and come up with more inventive stories than I did. What a fun writing prompt it would be. Children could also compose dialogue for the animals and act it as a play.

Of course, this story is much too long to qualify for Charli’s flash fiction 99-word requirement. For that I thought I’d go back to school with a chance for the bully Brucie to learn some kindness. The timing is just right with the observation of National Day for Action Against Bullying And Violence on 16 March, and both Harmony Day and the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on 21 March.

In this article from ABC News, I discovered that clever crows are learning from magpies to swoop in order to protect their nests. It also seems that they never forget a face. Perhaps they are no happier to see bullying than we are.

This is my response to Charli’s challenge. I hope you like it.

Nothing to crow about

Brucie had to get there first to stake his place at the very top. He didn’t slow on the still-wet grass, and only momentarily to laugh at Jasmine who slipped as he brushed past. From his perch, he smirked at the disappointed faces below.

“Caw!” said a crow, alighting alongside.

“Shoo!”

It didn’t shoo–more came.

Brucie shouted, waving his arms.

The crows shuffled closer.

Brucie thrashed wildly.

Bang! Bang! Bang! Jasmine banged a cricket bat against the frame.

The crows flew away.

“Are you okay?” asked Jasmine.

Brucie nodded, then let the others play.

The crows never returned.

Thank you blog post

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

The Battle of Bug World – Interview with Karen Tyrrell – Readilearn

This week I have the pleasure of welcoming Karen Tyrrell back to the blog. I previously interviewed Karen about her book Songbird Superhero for the Author Spotlight series. Karen has now published a second book in the Song Bird Series The Battle of Bug World.

I enjoyed Songbird Superhero, so was delighted when Karen approached me to participate in her blog tour. The fact that the book is about bugs may have something to do with it. As you saw last week, I am a fan of minibeasts, including bugs.

As soon as Karen announced the release of her book, I purchased an advance copy and was able to post a pre-review on Goodreads. This is what I wrote:

I loved Song Bird Superhero and wondered if a sequel could possibly match it. But with The Battle of Bug World, Karen Tyrrell didn’t just match it, she surpassed it!
This fast-paced page-turning story is packed with disasters that even Song Bird is not sure she can fix.
What is that nasty Frank Furter up to now? And what’s with the severe thunder storm hovering above his house? What’s happened to all the bees? And why has Song Bird’s sister

Continue reading: The Battle of Bug World – Interview with Karen Tyrrell – Readilearn

Author Spotlight: Karen Tyrrell – Readilearn

Read all about award-winning author Karen Tyrrell and her empowering book for children – Song Bird Superhero; just in time for the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence.

With today being the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence in Australia, today is the perfect day to introduce you to author Karen Tyrrell.

Karen is an award-winning author who writes books to empower kids (and adults) and help them live strong and be resilient.  After many years of classroom teaching experience, she continues to educate through sharing her own story of resilience as a survivor of bullying, through her words on the page, and through her workshops for adults that deal with writing, marketing, and funding, in addition to empowerment. She presents workshops for children in schools, libraries, and other creative spaces. With her flair for costuming and performance, she always conducts entertaining sessions with a splash of fun staring in her own scripted pantomimes.

In her first book Me and Her: A Memoir of Madness Karen tells of the bullying she experienced as a teacher, and of her remarkable survival story. Her second, Me and Him: A Guide to Recovery tells of the important role of her husband as support on her journey back to health.

From there Karen has gone on to write a number of children’s books, including Bailey Beats the Blah and  STOP the Bully, both of which are endorsed by Kids Helpline. She won an RADF (Regional Arts Development Fund) grant for her picture book Harry Helps Grandpa Remember about memory loss and strategies for remembering.

Karen’s three Junior Fiction novels Jo-Kin Battles the ItJo-Kin vs Lord Terra, and Song Bird Superhero share positive messages of self-belief, resilience, team building, problem solving and STEM science; each with a good dose of humour included.

It is Song Bird Superhero, a book for readers of about 7 – 10 years, that Karen and I are discussing today.

 

Continue reading at: Author Spotlight: Karen Tyrrell – Readilearn

Safety in friendship

With Australia’s National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence occurring  this Friday 17 March and Harmony Day next Tuesday 21 March, it is timely to consider what we can do to ensure our schools and communities are safe places; places where everyone is included, diversity is appreciated, and others are treated with compassion and respect.

I recently wrote about the importance of teaching children strategies for making friends and getting along with others.  As for children in any class, these strategies would be very useful for Marnie and others in her class. Marnie, a girl who is abused at home and bullied at school, is a character I have been developing intermittently over the past few years in response to Charli’s flash fiction challenges at the Carrot Ranch. I haven’t written about her recently as the gaps widened and the inconsistencies grew and I felt I needed to give her more attention than time allowed.

You may wonder how I got here from the current flash fiction prompt by Charli Mills to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a honeymoon story. But my mind will wander.

Sometimes, when children are having difficulty settling in and making friends at school, are being bullied, or are bullying, it is easier to point the finger, allocate blame, and attempt to place the responsibility for a solution on others. Firstly, I think we, as a society, need to realise that we share responsibility. Secondly, we need to be the type of person we want others to be: compassionate, kind, accepting, welcoming, respectful. Thirdly, we need to teach the attitudes and behaviours we wish to encourage and make it very clear what is and is not acceptable; including “Bullying.No Way!”

We are not always aware of the circumstances in which children are living or the situations to which they are exposed which may impact upon their ability to learn or to fit in. I wondered why Marnie might be abused at home. Although I knew her parents were abusive, I hadn’t before considered why they might be so. Charli’s honeymoon prompt led me to thinking about young teenage parents, who “had” to get married and take on the responsibility of caring for a child when they were hardly more than children themselves. I thought about broken dreams, lost opportunities, and definitely no honeymoon. Such was life for many in years not long ago.

Blaming is easy. Mending is more difficult. Safety and respect are essential. I’d love to know what you think.

Honeymoon dreams

Marnie sat on the bed, legs drawn up, chin pressed into her knees, hands over her ears. “Stop it! Stop it!” she screamed inside. Why was it always like this? Why couldn’t they just get over it? Or leave? She’d leave; if only she had somewhere to go. She quivered as the familiar scenario played out. Hurts and accusations unleashed: “Fault”. “Tricked”. “Honeymoon”. “Bastard”. Marnie knew: she was their bastard problem. He’d storm out. She’d sob into her wine on the couch. Quiet would reign, but briefly.  Marnie knew he’d be into her later, and she? She’d do nothing.

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Remember to catch up with Karen Tyrrell who writes about empowerment in my interview on the readilearn blog this Friday.

Making friends – Readilearn

What many children look most forward to about school is playtime with their friends.

Learning how to be a friend, and how to make friends, is an essential ingredient in an early childhood classroom. Children’s socio-emotional development is perhaps more important than any other as their future happiness and success will depend upon it. Happy kids learn more easily than unhappy kids.

The importance of developing a warm, welcoming, supportive, inclusive classroom environment cannot be overstated. Many readilearn classroom management resources assist teachers with this, and I have previously suggested ways of helping children get to know each other, including using class surveys and the Me and my friends worksheets to discover their similarities and differences.

In this post, I suggest strategies that can be used to help children develop friendship skills.

Continue reading: Making friends – Readilearn

Targeting prey

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills expresses her admiration for the raptors that “wheel on currents of air high above the La Verkin Overlook” near her new home in Utah. She marvels in their flight and challenges writers to let their imaginations take wing and soar.

Australia, too, is home to a large number of raptors, many endemic, several threatened. You can read about them in this Conservation Statement by Penny Olsen: Australia’s Raptors: Diurnal Birds of Prey and Owls, or in one of Dr Olsen’s many other publications.

2015-09-19-11-15-11

Narelle Oliver’s beautiful picture book Home, which I wrote about in this post, celebrates one of these Australian raptors, the peregrine falcon. The book is based on a true story of a pair of peregrine falcons that nested at the top of a 27-storey building in Brisbane city. The birds, named Frodo and Frieda, fascinated a city and, for a while, had their own reality show “Frodocam”.

As often occurs, my thoughts head off in a different direction when thinking of Charli’s prompt. Rather than the beauty and magnificence of these amazing birds, it was the word “prey” that grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. It pummelled me into submission, like a bully that seeks out the vulnerable when targeting prey.

This may be due to the promotion of October as National Bullying Prevention Month in the US. There the program is called Stomp Out Bullying. In Australia, the The National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence is held on the third Friday of March each year with a program called Bullying. No Way! I wrote about that here. Websites for both programs are packed with useful information and resources for teachers and parents.

It is probably a good thing that these dates don’t align, as there is no time that is not a good time to eradicate bullying.

No bullies allowed

I have previously written about bullying in posts and flash fiction stories, especially those concerning Marnie, about whom I wrote several stories, collected here. Stories about bullying specifically include these:

 

·       Not funny at all! from the post Bully for you!

In this post, I listed books that feature bullies, including:

The fairy tales Cinderella and Rumpelstiltskin,

Roald Dahls stories Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Twits, and

Anthony Browne’s Willy the Wimp.

·       Symptoms from the post Displaying symptoms or true colours

In this post, I shared information about a rap version of “True Colours” with additional original anti-bullying content written by 12-year-old MattyB to support his younger sister who is excluded and bullied because of her “symptoms”. Here is the song. Check back to the post for more information.

·       Art class from The story behind brown paint

For this post I wrote a longer story to provide more information about Marnie and the bullying to which she was subjected.

·       Motives from It’s a steal

In this post, I suggested that children who tease, torment and bully are often themselves victims of similar behaviour. They may feel powerless and lack control in their own lives. They are possibly lowest in the pecking order at home, and targeting someone more vulnerable provides an opportunity to find a sense of power; for a while at least.

One of the most effective ways of reducing the incidence of bullying is through the development of social-emotional skills; including helping children develop

  • self-esteem
  • confidence
  • resilience
  • friendship skills and
  • empathy;

in an environment in which they feel welcome, valued, and supported.

We need to model the behaviour we want children to develop, provide them with alternatives to inappropriate behaviour, and teach them how to respond when the behaviour of others upsets them.

It is also important to teach children to recognise bullying and to seek help if they see it occurring. Observing and doing nothing is a way of condoning the behaviour, and the bullying may escalate if an audience gathers. Ignoring bullying in a way also condones it. It is important to take action to prevent or stop it.

Karen Tyrrell, “an award winning Brisbane resilience author who empowers you and your children to live strong”, has written books for both adults and children about bullying. Having been on the receiving end of bullying herself, Karen understands what it is like to be targeted.

stop-bully-jpg-largesongbird-jpg-large

Karen’s books STOP the Bully, for 9 to 12-year-olds and Song Bird for children of 7+ years, both explore issues related to bullying.

Karen told me that “The little boy in the photo read STOP the Bully 6 months earlier after my first book shop visit. Then found me again 6 months later to say thank you when Song Bird came out.”

If you are looking for resources to initiate the discussion about bullying, Karen’s are a good place to start. You may also like to access the free teacher resources and free kids activities Karen has available on her website.

raptors-prompt

Now back to Charli and her birds of prey prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a raptor.

With apologies to the magnificent birds, I offer my response about a child in need of understanding, and of learning friendship skills such as getting along, caring for others, and empathy.

Prey time

Children chattered like birdsong – not a ruffled feather in sight. If only all playtimes were as peaceful.  Sudden realisation.  She scanned the children. Anxiety stirred.

“Has anyone seen Zane?”

Thomas pointed to a distant figure flitting and swooping, arms outstretched.

“Zane!”

She couldn’t leave him there. Could she?

“I’ll get him, Miss.”

As Thomas approached, Zane screeched and rushed towards him. Thomas fled, missed his footing, and fell. Zane, still screeching, pounced, pinning him down.

“Zane! Let him go!”

“I’m a raptor. He’s my prey.”

Thomas cried. “I’m not playing.”

If he was, it would be more fun.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.