Bullying: A Big Complicated Problem with Many Simple Solutions

If each one of us untangled one string at a time...

Thursday, September 30, 2010

First Tangled Ball Award Ever Goes To...Stan Davis!

Stan Davis deserves an award just for the title of his first book alone: Schools Where Everyone Belongs. Isn't that a beautiful concept? As a resource for schools, this book, co-authored with his daughter Julia, does not disappoint. It's hopeful and compassionate at the same time realistic and thoughtful. It gets to the heart of how kids really feel and not just how adults assume they feel.

Stan is a teacher, therapist, presenter/entertainer, researcher, activist and father. Although soft spoken, his International Bullying Prevention Association (IBPA) workshops are standing room only. His presentation is built on real research, experience in the classroom and a genuine respect for teachers and kids. (And, yes, there really is an international conference where everyone gets together to try and figure this darn thing out!)

His second book, Empowering Bystanders in Bullying Prevention, is awesome, too. Everyone's a bystander in one way or another. If everyone was taught to step in, a lot less kids would feel alone in their pain.

And one more thing to check out: Youth Voice Project. Stan, along with another well-respected researcher, Dr. Charisse Nixon, had the brilliant idea of throwing out preconceived notions of what works and doesn't work in bullying prevention by asking kids themselves -- over 13,000 of them. Brilliant!! Check it out because the results are surprising.

In preparation for this post, Stan was kind enough to answer two questions:

What inspired you to devote your time and talents to bullying prevention?

My time in the Civil Rights movement taught me two things: positive change is possible, and it comes when people work together. If everyone is doing positive things, no one person has to do it all. Gandhi said "Everything you do will seem unimportant. But it is very important that you do it." I just retired from counseling children after 41 years; during that time I learned over and over that small acts of kindness make a big difference, especially when a school is a place where those acts of kindness come from many adults and peers.

What has been the most satisfying aspect of your work?

Seeing the Bean School where I worked for the last 18 years become a place where every student and every adult could count on support. Building a network of colleagues in this work who inspire and teach each other, including Denise Koebcke, school librarian in Indiana who involved a majority of her middle school students in helping others, Wayne Sakamoto, the School safety officer in southern California who gets members of different High School cliques and gangs talking with each other, Dee Lindenberger in Michigan and Michelle MacPherson in New Brunswick, Canada, who empower youth to help each other, Chuck Saufler in Maine who integrates bullying prevention and restorative justice, Stuart Green in New Jersey who organized a powerful statewide coalition for change, Celia Arriaga who has brought bullying prevention interventions to Latin America, and..... The list goes on.

I would also add the work Dr. Charisse Nixon and I are doing in surveying more than 13000 teens to bring their voices into this discussion.

Then I think of the abused child at my school who made all my and our work worthwhile by her summary of how she has become a strong, positive, kind person despite years of abuse and neglect. She said:"I bring the way school is home with me." I feel blessed to have been part of the work educators do in making schools places of healing, safety, and growth for all.

Standing ovations are hard to pull off online but you deserve one, Stan. Although, having met you several times, it's doubtful that you would consider that important.

Who's tomorrow's winner?
Hint: One thing that Stan and tomorrow's featured expert have in common: they're both fathers.

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