As a superintendent in public education, I believe educators and administrators need to take an active role responding to accepted cultural behaviors such as bullying. More than ever, children are entering and existing inside and outside of our American schools under duress. I define duress as those students who are victims of social, emotional, physical, verbal, and cyber bullying, including intimidation, hazing, humiliation, harassment, discrimination, social exclusion, bias, revenge and bystander effect. As a school leader, I view these accepted behaviors as unacceptable, acknowledging it is imperative that they are addressed at school. Our children can learn a new way to interact with each other. The school can serve as place that embraces a culture of affirmation, not fear and destruction. As educators, we have a job to do. Our job is to eliminate bullying entirely by creating a generation of individuals who do not accept this antisocial behavior. State legislators and Departments of Education recognize the implications of bullying and mandate bullying policies. Teachers need the resources, research, curricula and pedagogy to effectively respond as “front line” interventionists to reshape student behaviors, beliefs and attitudes.
In order to affect this change, trusting relationships need to be formed between teachers and students. Additionally, school systems must adopt resources such as character and citizenship curricula, bullying programs, and use teaching tools such as movies to strengthen the understanding of the inferences of bullying, and identify replacement behaviors. To all, movies are a familiar medium that create comfort and relatability, yet they have the power to reshape one’s thinking.
This most recent work of Dr. Brian Johnson and his colleague, Dr. James Vines, could play a significant role in helping our schools and teachers to understand the power of film to address bullying. The authors note that film increases student engagement, complements instruction, and promotes interaction and higher order thinking skills. Specifically, as a member of our school community and well respected faith based leader, it is known that Dr. Johnson and Dr. Vines understand bullying and bullying archetypes. He recognizes that on a daily basis our children face being bullied because of race, sexual orientation, gender identity, and religious preferences. As experts and well-known figures in our community, Dr. Johnson and Dr. Vines passionately advocate for the elimination of bullying. In this book, Reel Big Bullies: Teaching to the Problem both authors present the reader with resources, research, curriculum guides and teaching strategies, all aligned to bullying behaviors within popular movies. I highly recommend this read to all educators. We have a social responsibility to address undesirable bullying behaviors exhibited by our students, within our schools and classrooms. This book can help us meet that goal.
Cathy S. Keegan Superintendent of Milton (PA) Area School District January 2018