First Person

Answers to parents' top five questions about bullying

Bullying is a topic that has been getting a lot of media attention recently. Dr. Andrea “Andie” Weiner, a child therapist and author of “More Than Saying I Love You: Four Steps That Help Children Love Themselves,” answers the five questions parents ask most about bullying.

The latest statistics show that 77 percent of students say they have been bullied. Because many children do not like to appear as a “tattletale” or “snitch,” they often do not report a bullying incident to the teacher or parent and that is why half of all bullying incidents go unreported. Here are answers to important questions parents typically ask about bullying:

Why do kids bully?

Bullying is characterized by a power differential between someone who has an unfair advantage over someone else who is victimized. It is an intentional act; someone has the intent to harm the victim. It is not generally a random act or single incident and is characterized by repeated occurrences.

A child who is a bully does it for the power. Research shows that children who bully may be learning to use power and aggression as their way to deal with others. Often this gets carried over into later relationships (dating aggression, spousal abuse, or workplace harassment). Bullies also process social information inaccurately. For example, a common line they often use is “What are you looking at?” This is an incorrect perception of provocation that, to them, serves as justification of aggressive behavior.

What are the typical forms of bullying?

  • Physical aggression: Hitting, shoving, kicking. Physical aggression is more common among boys.
  • Social aggression: Subtle and indirect, usually in the form of alienation, ostracism, deliberate exclusions, and spreading of untrue rumors. Researchers call this relational aggression that attacks another person’s self-esteem, friendships, or social status. Social aggression is more common among girls.
  • Cyberbullying: This form occurs most commonly in social media platforms such as MySpace or Facebook where unkind, harassing comments are made to others anonymously and are intended to embarrass and hurt someone else.

Who are the typical bullies and victims?

Typically, one thinks of a bully as the biggest and strongest kid. That is not necessarily true. Bullies come in all shapes, colors, and genders. Often they can be the popular kids that use power to control others. Although they seem to have a strong self-image, this is usually the opposite. They use fear because underneath the tough exterior they are scared and do not think highly of themselves. Victims that are bullied are often socially withdrawn. They typically are passive and let others be in control.

What do you do if your child is being bullied?

Signs of being bullied include:

  • Reluctance to go to school;
  • Sleep disturbances;
  • Vague physical complaints such as stomach pains or headaches;
  • Belongings that are missing or clothes that are ripped.

If you suspect your child is being bullied, don’t ask them about it directly. Use indirect questions to a child like, “How do you spend your recess time?”, “What’s it like walking to school or being on the school bus?”, or, “Are there are any children at school that are bullies?” You need to talk to the teacher to determine if your suspicions are correct. Ask the teacher to observe your child’s peer interactions.

What do you do if your child is the bully?

Most of the time, when parents hear that their child is a bully, it comes as a shock. A parent needs to get all the facts before they can decide on the best course of action. You do need to send a clear message that bullying or any type of aggression will not be accepted and discuss the consequences of any future bullying behavior. Discuss other alternative approaches to aggression when the child feels angry or hurt. It is important not to get uncontrollably angry or use physical punishment.

For more information on bullying, check out the resources available at EdNews Parent.

Source: National PTA

First Person

With roots in Cuba and Spain, Newark student came to America to ‘shine bright’

PHOTO: Patrick Wall
Layla Gonzalez

This is my story of how we came to America and why.

I am from Mallorca, Spain. I am also from Cuba, because of my dad. My dad is from Cuba and my grandmother, grandfather, uncle, aunt, and so on. That is what makes our family special — we are different.

We came to America when my sister and I were little girls. My sister was three and I was one.

The first reason why we came here to America was for a better life. My parents wanted to raise us in a better place. We also came for better jobs and better pay so we can keep this family together.

We also came here to have more opportunities — they do call this country the “Land Of Opportunities.” We came to make our dreams come true.

In addition, my family and I came to America for adventure. We came to discover new things, to be ourselves, and to be free.

Moreover, we also came here to learn new things like English. When we came here we didn’t know any English at all. It was really hard to learn a language that we didn’t know, but we learned.

Thank God that my sister and I learned quickly so we can go to school. I had a lot of fun learning and throughout the years we do learn something new each day. My sister and I got smarter and smarter and we made our family proud.

When my sister Amira and I first walked into Hawkins Street School I had the feeling that we were going to be well taught.

We have always been taught by the best even when we don’t realize. Like in the times when we think we are in trouble because our parents are mad. Well we are not in trouble, they are just trying to teach us something so that we don’t make the same mistake.

And that is why we are here to learn something new each day.

Sometimes I feel like I belong here and that I will be alright. Because this is the land where you can feel free to trust your first instinct and to be who you want to be and smile bright and look up and say, “Thank you.”

As you can see, this is why we came to America and why we can shine bright.

Layla Gonzalez is a fourth-grader at Hawkins Street School. This essay is adapted from “The Hispanic American Dreams of Hawkins Street School,” a self-published book by the school’s students and staff that was compiled by teacher Ana Couto.

First Person

From ‘abandoned’ to ‘blessed,’ Newark teacher sees herself in her students

PHOTO: Patrick Wall
Jennifer Palumbo

As I sit down to write about my journey to the USA, all I can think of is the word “blessed.”

You see my story to become Ms. Palumbo started as a whole other person with a different name in a different country. I was born in Bogota, Colombia, but my parents either could not keep me or did not want me. I was, according to my adoption papers, “abandoned.” Abandoned is defined as “having been deserted or cast off.” Not a great start to my story, I know.

Well I was then put in an orphanage for children who had no family. Yes at this point I had no family, no home, not even a name.
I spent the first 10 months of my life in this orphanage. Most children at 10 months are crawling, trying to talk, holding their bottles, and some are even walking. Since I spent 10 months laying in a crib, I did none of those things.

Despite that my day to be chosen arrived. I was adopted by an Italian American couple who, after walking up and down rows of babies and children, chose to adopt me. My title just changed from abandoned to chosen.

But that wasn’t the only thing about to change. My first baby passport to leave Colombia is with the name given by the orphanage to an abandoned baby girl with no one. When I arrived in America my parents changed that name to Jennifer Marie Palumbo and began my citizenship and naturalization paperwork so I could become an U.S. citizen.

They tried to make a little Colombian girl an Italian American, so I was raised speaking only English. Eating lots of pasta and living a typical American lifestyle. But as I grew up I knew there was something more — I was something more.

By fourth grade, I gravitated to the Spanish girls that moved into town and spent many after-schools and sleepovers looking to understand who I was. I began to learn how to dance to Spanish music and eat Spanish foods.

I would try to speak and understand the language the best I could even though I could not use it at home. In middle school, high school, and three semesters at Kean University, I studied Spanish. I traveled to Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Honduras to explore Spanish culture and language. I finally felt like the missing piece of my puzzle was filled.

And then the opportunity to come to Hawkins Street School came and as what — a bilingual second-grade teacher. I understood these students in a way that is hard to explain.

They are like me but in a way backwards.

They are fluent in Spanish and hungry to obtain fluency in English to succeed in the world. I was fluent in English with a hunger to obtain it in Spanish to succeed in the world. I feel as a child I lost out.

My road until now has by far not been an easy one, but I am a blessed educated Hispanic American. I know that my road is not over. There are so many places to see, so many food to taste, and so many songs to dance too.

I thank my students over the past four years for being such a big part of this little “abandoned” baby who became a “chosen” child grown into a “blessed teacher.” They fill my heart and I will always be here to help them have a blessed story because the stars are in their reach no matter what language barrier is there.

We can break through!

Palumbo is a second-grade bilingual teacher Hawkins Street School. This essay is from “The Hispanic American Dreams of Hawkins Street School,” a self-published book by the school’s students and staff that was compiled by teacher Ana Couto.