By Emily Bazelon, author of Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy (Random House Trade Paperbacks, February 2014).
In the year since my book about preventing bullying and building empathy, Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy was published, I’ve traveled around the country talking to students, parents, and educators. I hear over and over again about a hunger: For complex conversations, with and among teenagers, about their social experiences. Parents and educators know this is important, but that doesn’t make it easy to know how to start. And so I find that when I ask a roomful of kids how many of them are sick of hearing “Don’t bully,” they almost all raise their hands. But if I ask if they get the chance, in class or other organized settings, to have deep discussions about online cruelty, or slut shaming, or upstanding, few if any hands go up.
For me the takeaway is this: We don’t need to preach at kids about bullying. We need to give them more opportunities to think through the social difficulties and realities that they’re grappling with every day, online and off. That’s where I hope my book can come in. Rebecca Grodner, an 8th grade teacher at the school Quest to Learn in New York City, read the book with her students and wrote to me: “This book has become a transformative classroom tool and an integral part of my curriculum. My students connect with and are moved by the stories you tell, inspired to debate the tough questions she asks, and driven to take action against bullying culture.”
For the paperback edition, I worked with another wonderful teacher and school director, Meredith Gavrin of New Haven Academy, on a teacher’s guide that I hope will allow more schools to use the book as a text for middle school and high school students. Since Meredith did all the work, I feel like I can say that the guide is excellent! Sticks and Stones focuses on the individual stories of three students, Monique, Jacob, and Flannery. The teacher’s guide is designed to take advantage of the three narratives, but as a teacher, you also have choices about the way you use the lessons in it. For each story, there are lessons on the following themes:
Upstanders and Bystanders
Media and Social Media
The teacher’s guide is available online for free. And since students can also read and analyze Sticks and Stones as journalistic nonfiction, the lessons in it are all aligned to the Common Core’s objective for reading, writing, and critical thinking. If you use the guide, I’d love to hear about your experience—please let me know how it’s working, at firstname.lastname@example.org.