Let’s talk about bullying.

Middle school can sometimes feel like a battleground. Some of our young people are the targets of bullying every single day; others only witness it second-hand, feeling powerless to address it. Some of our Deep youth may even be perpetrators, through words or fists. Regardless, bullying is a topic that’s real and relevant to all of our young people, and a Deep workshop can be a great place to talk about it.

  • Avoid preaching. Our kids have already heard their teachers and administrators give speeches about the evils of bullying. They know it’s wrong without your having to jump on a soapbox.
  • Use readings. The easiest way into a discussion of bullying is to foreground it in a reading about bullying. Try some of the ones below, which will resonate with the kids in your workshop going through similar experiences. Use a few of your discussion questions to address the bullying in the piece.
    • Chuckie by Victor LaValle (good for Revealing Details, Figurative Language, and Tension weeks)
    • Indian Education by Sherman Alexie (good for Form week)
    • Skin I’m In by Sharon Flake (good for Tension and Mood weeks)
    • Kiara Robertson’s story (good for Tension week)
    • “Becoming Joey” by Paul Gorski (good for Revealing Details week)
    • I Will Be Chosen by Ramesh Kathanadhi (good for Form and Tension weeks)
    • “Whale” by the Boston slam team (good for Figurative Language and Form weeks)
  • Hold space. Kids who have experienced bullying often struggle to talk about it. Instead of pushing, try using targeted writing prompts to give them the chance to tell their stories in a safe way. Here are just a couple of options, but feel free to create your own. 
    • Write about a time you or someone you know experienced bullying. How did you feel? What were you thinking at the time?
    • Has someone ever made you feel bad about yourself? Imagine you could go back in time to that moment. What do you wish you could have said in response?
  • Mentor. Support their bravery in your commenting, and remember to include these points:
    • What you experienced wasn’t your fault.
    • It was unfair that this person behaved this way to you.
    • You deserve respect.
    • Thank you for sharing. This is very brave.
    • You are a great writer.
  • Reclaim the power. One of the reasons I love “Whale” by the Boston Brave New Voices slam team is that the poets, who were both called “whale” because of their size, reclaim that animal as a strong, fierce avatar able to crush their bullies. Figurative language can be a great tool to reclaim the power in bullying.
  • Follow up. Sometimes you’ll learn about a bullying situation that gives you concern for a young person’s safety. If something is raising red flags about suicide, self harm, extreme depression, or the young person hurting others or being hurt, talk to Deep staff immediately.

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