Our guest poster today is none other than Ms. Kate Messner, author of SEA MONSTER and THE BOSSY FISH! As a teacher, I am a "fixer"--I see a problem, and I want to take over and take care of it. But, that doesn't teach my students how to respond to and deal with bullies and bullying. So, today, Ms. Messner is talking about how to respond to bullies.
When a new school year begins, we teach kids all the things we want them to know
about how things work in the classroom, the hallways, the cafeteria. Here’s how you
put your name on your paper. Here’s how to line up to go to art class. Here’s where
you go if you need to buy a hot lunch, and here’s where to stand in line if all you
want is milk.
But do we take that same time and care to teach kids specific responses to bullying
and exclusion? Doing so can make a huge difference in the classroom and school
Books and role playing can be terrific tools when it comes to teaching kids what
bullying looks like and how to respond to it or, better yet, prevent it. Anyone who’s
spent time on an elementary school playground has heard the hubbub of kids
starting up their own club by the jungle gym or next to the swing set. Often, it’s a
“secret club” or a “private club,” and those words should be red flags for teachers,
playground monitors, and student advocates.
The first question to ask about any recess-hour club is this: Is everybody welcome?
If the answer is no, we should explain to kids why that club is bound to result in
hurt feelings. Kids who have been taught this ahead of time – before the club is even
mentioned – won’t be lured in by shiny invitations and will be more likely to play in
ways that are friendly and inclusive.
Books can help to launch that conversation. In SEA MONSTER AND THE BOSSY
FISH, Ernest the Sea Monster is invited to join a fancy “Fresh Fish” club started by a
new student at school. The hip new fish hands out super-cool sunglasses to all the
members, but it turns out, not everyone is invited to be part of his group. He deems
Ernest’s sturgeon friends “too old and stodgy looking to join,” and suddenly, Ernest
realizes that his cool new shades feel heavy on his snout.
Teaching kids to be aware of this kind of exclusion – and teaching them to recognize
that “heavy-snout” feeling – can nip playground bullying in the bud before it
becomes a chronic problem. Kids who recognize this kind of behavior can then be
encouraged to report it to a teacher or playground helper or simply speak up. A
brave soul saying, “I don’t join clubs that leave people out” can have a powerful
impact on playground culture.
To help create that positive, anti-bullying culture, we’ve created a “Friend Fish
Pledge” to go along with SEA MONSTER AND THE BOSSY FISH. It’s a great tool to
share with kids and to post in the classroom and hallways as a reminder of Ernest’s
song lyrics: When everybody plays, it’s way more fun, so the Friend Fish Team’s for
Thank you, Ms. Messer! I really appreciate you taking the time to write a post for us today!
And don't forget to take the Friend Fish pledge! You can download it here
And now for the giveaway! Your very own copy of SEA MONSTER and the BOSSY FISH! Open to friends in the US or Canada! Please leave your name and email in the comment section below. I'll use a random number generator to pick the winner on Friday, August 30. Then I'll email you for your address, and forward that information on to Chronicle Books. They will mail your package to you.
Author Kate Messner has written 16 books, from professional books for teachers to picture books to novels. Some of my favorites include: Marty McGuire and Capture the Flag. You can view a complete list of books here.