Anyone who has gone to school has witnessed, perpetrated or been the victim of it. It can be blatant, such as one student hitting or threatening harm to another, or subtle, such as a teacher manipulating a student to change his or her behavior. In some respects, it has become so common in the classroom that people hardly notice it when it occurs. Yet the matter in question, bullying, has far-reaching consequences for many students, and can make the difference between a positive view of education that leads to success in school and in life, and a negative experience that leads to low self-esteem, underachievement and lifelong problems that affect not only the individual, but society as a whole.
Linda Rhone, Ed.D. wants to change that – and with the help of a $25,000 Recognition Grant from the Kansas Health Foundation, she is taking an important step in that direction.
Rhone, an assistant professor of education at Newman University, has formed a team comprised of educators from Newman and administrators and 5th-grade teachers from the Wichita Public Schools called the Wichita Teacher Inquiry Group (WTIG), A Newman University and U.S.D. 259 Collaborative. Beginning in January, WTIG launched a 16-month-long program entitled the “Lessening Bullying through Cultural Competence and Transformative Teaching and Learning Project.” Rhone said the project is designed to build teachers’ cultural awareness and skills to help ensure they are not perpetuating bullying behavior, but working to lessen it.
“It is widely known that well over 50 percent of our public school teachers are white and middle class,” Rhone said. “Yet our classrooms are full of students who are non-white and poor. If teachers do not understand the impact of race, ethnicity, and poverty on learning, and transform their teaching behaviors beyond surface changes such as celebrations of food and clothing, this could cause them to push children who are different racially, ethnically, socioeconomically, linguistically and otherwise to ‘fit’ into the kind of narrow definitions that have long defined intelligence in our schools. This is not just another anti-bullying program. It is specifically designed to look closely at how we as teachers can ensure that we are not perpetuating bullying through our teaching and learning practices.”