Recent research suggests that bullying is less prevalent in school communities and classrooms that value all student voices.1 These findings are consistent with Facing History and Ourselves’ philosophy of creating a reflective classroom community. We believe that a Facing History and Ourselves classroom is in many ways a microcosm of democracy—a place where explicit rules and implicit norms protect everyone’s right to speak; where different perspectives can be heard and valued; where members take responsibility for themselves, each other, and the group as a whole; and where each member has a stake and a voice in collective decisions. We extend this philosophy to the adult learning communities in which we participate. It stands to reason that in order to facilitate meaningful discussion, improve school climate, and reduce bullying, we must foster the characteristics of a reflective, democratic learning community.
As you plan your approach to viewing and discussing BULLY with your school community, faculty and staff, parents, or students, it is essential to nurture a reflective environment by
- creating a sense of trust and openness
- encouraging participants to speak and listen to each other
- making space and time for silent reflection
- offering multiple awareness for participation and learning (e.g. large and small group discussion, writing and journals, varied discussion strategies)
- helping students appreciate the points of view, talents, and contributions of less vocal members
We have found success by emphasizing journal writing and employing multiple formats for facilitating large and small group discussions. In the Discussion Strategies section at the end of the guide, we have provided a collection of discussion strategies that we have found effective in ensuring that every voice is heard and valued.
Finally, we recommend that before viewing and discussing BULLY, you first create a group contract with those who will participate, be they adults or children. Contracts typically include several clearly defined rules or expectations for participation. There are a variety of ways to go about creating a contract. A sample contract is provided below. You might choose to present it to the members of your community before viewing and discussing the film, making sure to have them affirm their agreement with each guideline. Then invite the group to discuss or amend any parts of the contract before continuing.
Sample Community Contract:
- Listen with respect. Try to understand what someone is saying before rushing to judgment.
- Make comments using “I” statements.
- If you do not feel safe making a comment or asking a question, write the thought down.
- If someone says an idea or question that helps your own learning, say “Thank you.”
- If someone says something that hurts or offends you, do not attack the person. Acknowledge that the comment—not the person—hurt your feelings and explain why.
- Put-downs are never okay.
- If you don’t understand something, ask a question.
- Think with your head and your heart.
- Share talking time—provide room for others to speak.
- Do not interrupt others while they are speaking.
- Write down thoughts, in a journal or notebook, if you don’t have time to say them during our time together.
Continue to discussion page >> 
1 Philip C. Rodkin, “Bullying and Children’s Peer Relationships,” in White House Conference on Bullying Prevention, 36–37, accessed October 18, 2011, http://stopbullying.gov/references/white_house_conference/index.html .