School isn’t in session, but preparation never ends for teachers and administrators. In addition to educating young minds, creating a safe and welcoming environment for students is vital. For that reason, summer is an excellent time for school staff to brush up on anti-bullying and anti-bias training.
Amanda Holder, associate education director of the Anti-Defamation League, explained why summer is a good time to share updated information with teachers and administrators. “We realize teachers are busy throughout the year,” she said. “We want to provide resources early, so teachers have the time to prepare and think about the tone they want to set in their classroom.”
The battle against bias and bullying is ongoing in the Hewlett-Woodmere and Lawrence school districts. Lawrence Superintendent Dr. Ann Pedersen said that helping students become well-adjusted adults is as much a part of the curriculum as English, math and science.
“Lawrence has long included teaching to the social-emotional competencies in its curriculum,” she said. “We’re having assemblies in our schools. Additionally, we’re incorporating the work of Thomas Hoerr, ‘The Formative Five.’ This will expand our teaching of ‘grit’ to the teaching of empathy, embracing diversity, self-control and integrity.”
Grit, as described by psychologist Angela Duckworth, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, is the sustained application of effort, and according to Duckworth, it is the best indicator of future success. Lawrence’s plan is to teach students to work as hard at being kind as they do in the classroom.
Mark Secaur, Hewlett-Woodmere’s deputy superintendent, expressed sentiments similar to Pedersen’s. “The district prides itself on its commitment to social and emotional learning,” Secaur said. “Each school provides developmentally appropriate curricula and learning opportunities that focus on empathy, tolerance and citizenship.”
Like Lawrence, Hewlett-Woodmere is also planning assemblies to address these issues during the school year. “We’re excited to roll out our strategic planning initiative Hewlett-Woodmere 2025,” Secaur said. “[It] emphasizes the importance of providing a safe, supportive and nurturing environment where diversity and inclusion are valued.”
The districts will have a new resource in their fight against bullying. On July 11, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran signed a law ordering the creation of NassauStopBullying.org. The county’s Department of Information Technology will partner with the Police Department and the Department of Health and Human Services to build a website that has information and resources on spotting and preventing bullying, to be used by teachers, administrators, parents and students.
The law requires the site to be online by Aug. 31, and it will have contact information for each school district’s Dignity for All Students Act coordinator. “There is no excuse for bullying,” Curran said. “And bullying can happen anywhere, at any time. That’s why it is so important that we do all we can to protect our youth while educating our children, parents, educators and communities on bullying prevention.”
The Anti-Defamation League’s mission is to help build an America where “those who seemed different were not targets of discrimination and threats, but were equals.”
Holder explained that education is one of the organization’s main tools in this endeavor. “We believe that bias is learned, and therefore can be unlearned,” she said. “There’s an intersection between bias and bullying. Many children are bullied for things they can’t change — their race, appearance or socioeconomic status. Through online and in-school training, we help employees recognize these issues, enhance their curriculum and provide the resources so that schools know how to handle these events.”
Among those resources is the ADL’s Current Events Classroom, which features lesson plans that teachers, particularly those in the humanities, can use to tie in major news stories, such as the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Va., last August or the separation of families at the southern border of the United States.
“Some schools assume that students have opportunities to have conversations about these issues at home,” Holder said. “We provide teachers with lesson plans so they don’t have to figure it all out on their own. They can cover current events, make connections to history and let students express their feelings.”
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