3 Teens Who Have Bounced Back to Fight Bullying
Editor's note: October is National Bullying Prevention Month, so Choices Teacher-Adviser Amy Lauren Smith--a 6th-8th grade health teacher at the Shanghai American School in Shanghai, China, and the brilliant mind behind our monthly Teacher's Guide--has some wonderful examples of resilient teens who have faced bullying and come out stronger.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month, so my 8th graders are working on their campaigns to spread positivity around the school. Research shows that initiatives have a much better chance of sticking when started by the kids, so we try and do this project at least one time per year.
I always try to show the kids examples of other teens who've gained a reputation for being nice, and this month one of my students pointed out a common thread: Many of these kids were sparked into action because they have been targets themselves.
My students were impressed that rather than let the experience push them to unhealthy coping skills, like becoming a bully themselves, they fought back, but on a much bigger--and healthier--scale.
Here are three examples of teens who have demonstrated resilience in the face of bullying and inspired my students along the way:
1. Natalie Hampton
After being targeted for being the new girl in 7th grade, Natalie Hampton experienced a very dark time in her life. She ended up transferring to a new school, but she kept that time in her thoughts, never wanting other kids to experience the same. She realized that lunch was usually a tricky time for new kids, so she had the idea of creating an app, Sit With Us, that would allow students a safe and rejection-free way to find somewhere to sit.
In this article from the Washington Post, she shares that she'd like to study psychology when she's older. This connection is what prompted one of my students to remark on her growth mindset and her passion to inspire and help other kids.
2. Jeremiah Anthony and The West High Bros
As an entry point for our project, I show my students a video clip of Jeremiah and the Twitter group he started at his school to spread positivity. In the video, you see Jeremiah's classmates talking about the work that he's done, and how much of a difference he's made. There are examples of his posts and photos of him hanging out with a large group of friends.
As a freshman, Jeremiah didn't really have many friends at all, but he remembers the one student who took the time to be nice to him, and that was the motivation behind his viral social media campaign.
3. Caitlin Prater-Haacke
After someone snuck into Caitlin's locker to steal her tablet and post a negative message on Facebook, Caitlin decided she wanted to fight back with love, rather than more hate. She wrote compliments on over 800 post-it notes and put one on each locker in the school.
Word of her awesome deed spread fast, and she was asked to speak at the TEDx Teen event and was featured in a story in Choices Magazine.
It's awesome to see positive behavior getting national attention, and these teens serve as a great example for our students. Not just for the work they're doing, but also for the way they've all bounced back... stronger, more passionate, and driven to make a difference for everyone else.
For instructions and a rubric to introduce this project in your school, check out Positive Peer Pressure to Help Combat Cyberbullying.
More Choices stories for your anti-bullying curriculum:
- The Many Shades of Mean
- Debate: Should Schools Punish Cyberbullies?
- Bullies Behind Bars?
- Body Bullies
- Which One of Them is the Cyberbully?