Taking the Bully by the Horns

Vol 4-Issue 1 Taking the bully by the HornsA bully is someone, who uses his strength to intimidate others.

There are many situations that parents dread, one of which is discovering that their child is/was the victim of bullying. Bullies can be not just other children but also a child’s supposed friends or even teachers.

What should you do as a parent of a bullied child?

The most important step a parent can take is to reassure the child that it is not his fault. Teach your child to be proud of any differences in himself that he may be conscious of. Clarify that many of the world’s successful people did not get where they are by being the same as everyone else.

A natural parent’s initial reaction is that of anger and wants to confront the bully, or to approach the parents of the bully. This could create more problems for your child and yourself. If the bully is aggravated, it may fuel his or her intent for further harming your child. If the bully comes from a violent home, you too could find yourself on the receiving end of some unwanted harassment. Let the school take the responsibility of contacting the parent(s) of the bully.

Assess the seriousness of the situation. Sometimes, a harmless tiff can be blown out of proportion. Before you know it, the children are friends again, when you and the other parents are still at war.

Inform your child’s school, but first ask your child, whether she would prefer to speak to a tutor or the principal. If necessary, ask the school to protect your anonymity. Sometimes, the best way to expose a bully is for the teachers to catch him or her red-handed.

Find out what the school’s current bullying policy is and how the school intends to monitor the situation.

Teach your child strategies for dealing with the bullying. Tell your child to stay in a group when at all possible, and to let you know exactly, where he is going and with whom. Enroll him in a self-defense class, not as a method of harming the bully, but as a means of defending himself. If the bullying is verbal, tell your child to confront the bully by saying: “Please don’t call me that again. It’s cruel and hurtful.”

Encourage your child to feel comfortable talking to you, a teacher, or a counselor and to report every incident of bullying confidently.

Ask your child to keep a dated diary of events to share with you. On your own side, make your own record of incidents, including any mood swings or emotional and physical effects that you notice in your child, as they may be attributed to bullying.

How can schools take ownership?

Schools that are committed to implementing comprehensive bullying prevention programs should take the following steps:

  • Establish a committee for developing the school’s bullying policy and coordinating bullying prevention activities.
  • Survey students about bullying.
  • Establish a clear policy prohibiting bullying and then communicate that policy to students, staff, and parents.
  • Provide close and adequate supervision of areas, where bullying is likely to occur, such as: outside the classroom, in the hallway, at the bus stop, on the playground, in the cafeteria, and bathrooms.
  • School personnel need training on recognizing the signs of bullying, knowing what to do, when incidents happen, and learning, how to prevent bullying.
  • School-wide anti-bullying activities help remind students about school policy regarding bullying and the importance of supporting their classmates. In addition, they help generate energy for the program.
  • Integrate bullying lessons and activities into the classroom curriculum. This might include conducting a lesson about bullying, asking students to read a book about bullying, which can be followed up with a classroom discussion, or having a classroom meeting focused on the issue of bullying.
  • Empower bystanders to support the victims of bullying. Although school staff members often are unaware that bullying is taking place, typically, other students are not only aware of it but are present, when the incidents occur. Bystanders to bullying can play a crucial role in helping to address the problem.
  • Involve parents in the program. Parents need to be informed about the school’s policies regarding bullying, and they need to be encouraged to reinforce that policy with their children. Schools also might survey parents to elicit their views and knowledge about bullying in school. Parents also need to be informed, if their child has bullied, or has been bullied by another child.
  • Pay special attention to students, who are at risk. Students are more likely to be bullied, if they’re isolated from their classmates, in special education programs, have a physical characteristic that makes them stand out from their peers, or are new to the school.
  • Take reports of bullying seriously and act quickly. Encourage staff to respond to all reports of bullying that come to their attention. An incident that might appear minor to a teacher can loom large in the life of a student.

Noting Down Lectures

Hafsa Ahsan discusses the art of taking notes during lectures

Lectures given by different teachers through the course of the semester hold a lot of importance. The vitality of these lectures lies in the fact that out of a broad based topic, it is only the lecture given in the class that determines the specific aspects you have to pay special attention to.

Now let’s be a little realistic here. Most of us would like to believe that our memories are extremely good, and that the main points in a lecture will be permanently etched in our brain the whole year around. Unfortunately, while this may be true for a very few people, it isn’t for the majority. As the semester proceeds and you cover a diverse range of topics, it is more than likely that you will forget what you learnt at the beginning of the semester.

This is where noting down lectures comes in handy. By noting down I don’t really mean that you act as a typewriter for your teacher, but that you jot down important points as reminders, so that at the end of the semester you know how to approach that specific topic when studying for exams.

When we talk of different skills related to studying, there are certain techniques for noting down lectures. The following pointers will definitely help you out in this area:

Keep a separate register for every subject

Now I know those of you, who have around five to eight classes per day, can’t manage such a load, especially if you have to take your textbooks along as well. The key is to either keep a thin register or college notebook of around 60 pages or, if that’s not possible, divide one register and use it for two subjects.

The reason behind this pointer is that it becomes very easy and convenient at the end of the day, if you have all your subject lectures in one place, instead of scattered around in two or more registers. Plus, it happens sometimes that teachers leave a topic unfinished at the end of the class hour. Then, when the topic is continued in the next class and you are using one register for all your subjects, things fall in place; but if you are using the same register for many, then it will only add to the confusion.

Write in short hand

I know I shouldn’t really write this, since this is a generally known fact. However, I have seen many people write full sentences, when they are taking down lectures, and because of this they miss out on a lot. When you’re writing down the lecture, use the same language that you do when sending an SMS or chatting.

Write phrases, not sentences

This follows from the above point. You shouldn’t be writing sentences, when you’re taking down lectures. For instance, the teacher says: “There are three states of matter. Number one is solids, number two is liquids, and number three is gases.” If you’re an astute note taker, then what you write should resemble this: 3 states of matter: solid, liquid, gas. The trick is to listen to the whole sentence of the teacher and then note it down in a phrase.

Make appropriate headings and subheadings

One of the most amusing things I have come across is that when the lecture is written in an essay-type or linear form; the notes made later out of those lectures are decorated with headings. Headings and subheadings are supposed to be made distinctly, when you are noting down the lecture and not later. Whenever the teacher mentions what she will be teaching that day, note it as a heading. Number your headings and subheadings clearly. Remember, you can always sort them out, rearrange, and renumber them later.

Leave spaces

It wouldn’t do to economize on the space in your register. It sometimes happens that you have no time to fair out your lectures. The best approach is to note down your lectures in a way that even if you don’t make separate notes, you can easily revise a topic from your lecture. That isn’t to say that you rely only on your lecture, but that you use it as a revision tool. And for that you must leave ample of space between the different headings, subheadings and points. Also leave spaces, if you are unsure of a point or you have missed a point.

Rely on your own lecture notes

Now you may think that noting lectures is one of the most boring activities in class, and you’d rather spend the time chatting with your friends and take the register of some other student later on for photocopying the stuff. But I will strongly advise you against such a shortcut. Firstly, something that you have written yourself will be easy for you to comprehend. Secondly, if the student who lends you the register has written in shorthand (and each student has his / her shorthand), it will take you ages to decipher what is written. And thirdly, what if she / he has written something you understand perfectly and skipped something you don’t (may be because she/he understood that part and didn’t feel the need to write it down?). So, instead of taking shortcuts, note down your own lectures and rely on them only.

I know most of the above was almost like stating the obvious. But it wouldn’t hurt to revise all this and keep some of these in mind, when you attend your next class. Happy note taking!

Discipline – Noise Control

Vol 2 -Issue 4 Discipline-Noise controlDiscipline is a common challenge for teachers both new and old. Structure and fairness combined with clear goals and lesson planning in a caring, non-threatening environment are the keys to effective and successful teaching. Teaching is not an easy profession, even if you are the most experienced teacher. Through each situation there is a lesson to be learned. Here are some suggestions and ideas for disciplining students and controlling the noise level in classrooms.

Quiet Lights

When the class gets too noisy, switch off all the classroom lights and fans. When the children realize that the room has suddenly turned dark, you have their attention. They will see you at the switch with your finger on your lips gesturing them to be quiet and understand that they need to stop making noise and focus on the task at hand. Don’t do it too often or it won’t be as effective.

Cooperative Coloured Circles

When working with cooperative groups, you can keep the noise level under control by using colored circles. If a group is on a task and use quiet voices, give them a green circle. If they need to be reminded about the noise level, give them a yellow circle. If a group is way off from the task, give them a red circle and step in to give them assistance. This is a great way to model appropriate behavior, when you are just beginning to establish group rules. It also saves time, because it does not interrupt the entire class, when one group is off track.

Appropriate ‘Talking Times’

Students love to have time to talk. In order to keep them from doing it during instruction, you can apply the ‘My Time’ strategy. During ‘My Time,’ students must pay attention. They neither can talk nor disturb others, who are paying attention. At the end of class, ‘Their Time’ is the last five minutes, when they can talk amongst themselves.

Awesome Noise Control

Write the word ‘awesome’ on the board. When there is noise in the class, erase a letter starting backwards. If the class makes it to break time with the word intact, they sit where they like. If not, they are assigned seats. If they lose the entire word by the end of the day, they are deprived of their lunch break. If the entire word was intact at the end of the day, they are rewarded with 15 extra rewards for the next day. With each next day you will notice an improvement.

Waiting Cards

You can use numbered cards to organize students, who need her individual attention. Laminate the cards made for your classroom and place them in order in a basket. When you are busy talking to someone, a student can come up, take a card, and go back to the seats instead of waiting in line. When you are finished with one student, you can call on the next number and conference with that student.

Safekeeping Box

Sometimes children bring things from home to play with, which, of course, distracts them. You can resolve this problem by creating a safekeeping box. Take a medium-sized box with a lid, decorate it, and put a label on the box that says ‘Items in safekeeping, to be returned later.’ When you see children playing with something that is distracting them, ask them to put it in the safekeeping box and let them know that they can retrieve their item at the end of the day. This validates their personal treasures and assures their return. Additionally, it cuts down on distractions in the classroom, as the students quickly learn to avoid having things put into the box.

Quote the Student

When trying to convince a student to change his or her behavior, you will benefit from framing a persuasive message that quotes the student. You can say: “Danish, you said something the other day that I can’t get out of my mind,” or “Something you said made me start thinking.” You’ll find that many students, who appear to be non-listeners, will be intrigued, when you use this personalized technique. As a result, they will not be able to resist listening and responding to what you have to say.

General Discipline Tips

(1)   Over-correction

There are two types of over-correction procedures that you may be familiar with. During restitution training, a student is required to improve. For example, if Erum writes on the wall, she is required to clean the whole wall, instead of just the space she wrote on. The other type of positive practice involves the student practicing the correct response repeatedly. If Sana turns in an assignment that is too sloppy to read, she must not only redo that task but do better.

(2)   Questioning Behavior

When a student has a discipline problem, just ask him / her to answer the four questions on the discipline questionnaire:

  1. What did I do wrong?
  2. Why wasn’t my action acceptable?
  3. What should I have been doing instead?
  4. What will I do in the future?

Then, mail the form home to the child’s parents. This system forces students to own up to their actions.

(3)   Behavior Notebook

Keep track of irresponsible student conduct by assembling a 3-ring notebook and dedicating a page per student at the beginning of the school year. On the first day of school, show the students their blank pages and challenge them to keep them blank the whole year. Here’s how it works. When a student breaks one of the rules set for the class – (of course, make these known at the onset of the school year), – that student must go to the behavior notebook and write a brief explanation. If you agree with the assessment, sign and date it. Send it home with the report card at the end of the marking period. If a student has a blank page all year, send home the original blank page with a heartwarming note of praise for good behavior all year long.

Studying Effectively

Practical advice from Hafsa Ahsan for making the most of your study time and avoiding the pre-exam panic

Effective studying isn’t about opening a textbook and learning each and every chapter by heart. In fact, when you learn everything by heart and regurgitate it during exams, you’re not really learning anything. You may get good marks, but do you realize that this method of learning is unreliable? Often when nervous, all that has been memorized is forgotten. So, what are more effective methods of studying and applying knowledge acquired during exams? Here are a few tried and tested techniques.

Mapping out ideas

Once you have read a whole chapter or part of it, simply write down the main point or central theme in the center of a sheet of paper. Then, around the main point, write supporting words or key phrases related to the central theme. This will help you remember the key concepts, without having to resort to rote learning.

Making a list of important points

If mapping confuses you, then stick to its alternative-making a list of important points. I have noticed that many students tend to write down whole essays as notes and then try to cram them. Listing is a more useful technique. Here is a small example:

Question: How has globalization affected the Third World countries?

  • Adverse effects on trade
  • Exploitation of cheap labour
  • Rise of multinationals
  • Adverse effects on the local economy
  • Loss of local languages
  • Loss of cultural values
  • Subservience to international economic organizations
  • Positive effects for the average consumer
  • Positive effects of increased flow of information

If you have noticed, each point in and of itself needs a huge explanation. Learning these phrases and then explaining them in your own words during an exam is a much better option than spending hours filling pages and pages with explanations of key words and then spending another week studying them.

Underlining important points in the textbook

You can use this technique in conjunction with the above. While you are reading a certain chapter, underline important points and explanations. Then, use the above technique to make a list of key points. When you are revising, keep the list in your textbook, so as to be able to go over the main points alongside the explanation in the textbook. Remember, learning key phrases is not the point; rather, how they relate to the main theme of what is to be learned.

Linking up related points

In subjects, such as sociology, international relations, etc., almost all chapters are inter-related. While studying, try to discover, where they are linked and chart that out in a map. When answering questions on one chapter, you can always refer to other chapters to prove your analytical and critical reading skills.

Studying with proper breaks

I hate to shatter the popular myth, but studying for fourteen hours at a stretch will not ensure that you’ve learnt more than your friend, who only put in five hours a day. Studies show that there is an optimum level of study, which can be achieved within five to six hours per day. This is where you learn and retain the maximum from what you study. Beyond this, you will discover that you hardly retain anything, but rather suffer from mental fatigue and often hardly understand what you’re reading. The optimum number of hours that can be put into studying effectively varies for every person, but the average comes to around four to five hours a day. The best thing to do is to study for a while, then take a short break and return to your books after some time.

Learning to manage time

It goes without saying that if you have only opened your textbook a week or two before exams, you can expect to put up with a huge workload coupled with bouts of panic. However, studying something immediately after it has been covered in class will ensure that in the end, when you sit down to study for an exam, you will have with you a few mind maps and lists of important points to revise for each topic. You can then make a workable timetable, giving each subject an equal amount of time. Time must be managed throughout your academic session. Try putting in one hour of study daily, after completing your assignments, and you will have no problem managing your time, when the exam time is around the corner.

Proper means ‘proper.’

According to research, the best way to relax your mind is to engage it in various activities. Put simply, it means that lying back with your eyes closed after putting in an hour’s worth of study will definitely not relax your mind. The mind can only be relaxed, if you do something different from studying. Go to the kitchen, for instance, and fix yourself a snack, pick up a storybook for light reading or go out for a quick jog – these are proper breaks between studying that will ensure a relaxed mind, when you come back to your textbook, as well as enable you to concentrate fully on the next part of your timetable.

So, here you have it – a range of techniques to help you study in a much better way. The most important thing to remember while studying is: study is for the sake of learning. If you’re only studying for the sake of exams and good marks, then you might as well stick to the rote learning system. However, if you seriously want to learn, you’ll have to let go of the conventional techniques. When is a better time to do it than now?