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Thursday, February 28, 2013

The real issue

I presented today at the School Safety Advocacy  Council Conference on bullying prevention.  I started my presentation by posing the question on why given the awareness of the problem, available resources, laws in every state, and the research that converges on what works in addressing it, it is still a persistent problem in schools today.

Think of it this way:  if there were a cure for cancer and available resources for providing the treatment necessary, would it still be a problem in our society.  Polio used to be a serious health problem and now it's not.  We wouldn't be talking about the disease we would be talking about why there were hospitals and doctors who didn't use the treatment.

There is no mystery about how to deal with bullying.  Social psychology has pointed towards how bystanders have the greatest influence in preventing and reducing it. Research has only shown us why they either speak up or don't.  These two pretty basic facts are ignored in most schools where it comes to practice.

  The real issue is not bullying; it is why are schools so resistant to change, resistant to taking and using this available knowledge.  This's question is almost too challenging to ask ourselves, so we skip over it or quickly change it to what program,curriculum, speaker, assembly to have that will solve the problem bullying.  This is why we keep having conferences,having new products, movies, TV shows all about bullying and yet we don't seem to get anywhere.  We won't get anywhere until we have the courage or as Jim Collins says in Good to Great face the brutal facts and look where the real problem lies- the resistance of our schools to use the knowledge that we already have that will have a positive impact.  The change is really incumbent on the school leaders to ask the hard questions and then keeping asking  with an open mind to truly go where they need to go even if it is unfamiliar territory that is questioning some of the basic assumptions of how we educate our students.  Just because a question might be hard to answer shouldn't mean we don't ask it.

Monday, February 25, 2013

No cost, little time, baby steps

Sometimes the enormity of change can paralyze us.  The challenge of preventing and reducing the amount of bullying in schools when added to the pressures of raising test scores, implementing the Common Core curriculum, RTI, analyzing data and implementing a new teacher evaluation process, can be easily pushed aside or moved to the bottom of the priority list.  This tendency to push initiatives aside can unfortunately become a habit on the part of staff.  When the “hidden story” of bullying prevention is really a negative, critical one-“You haven’t done a good job and you better do a better one because now if you don’t you’ll be violating the law and school policy,” it is easy for people to tune out any attempt asking for any type of change.  Add this “repelling type of story” to this often subconscious tendency for many staff to nod in outward agreement, and only comply with the basics of the mandate, it is no wonder bullying prevention is taking place in name only in many schools.

There is an almost automatic response that people will give to call for change that is imposed upon them: we have no time and no money.  These are the universal and perpetual reasons for not doing anything.  The reason they are universal and perpetual is because it is impossible to say anything to counter those arguments.  Schools are busy places overloaded with demands and have dwindling budgets.  But there are alternatives even if they might be microscopic.

One of my favorite axioms for change is by Michael Fullan: “Think big but start small.”  The thinking “big” part can be focusing on an important principle basic to education and to helping others.  As much as I dislike using formulas, sometimes to get jumpstarted on a problem, they can be useful.   Here is one to try using the that axiom:
  • ·      Working with a small group of representative staff, present a list of principles related to not just to bullying prevention but also to the basic values of education.  If staff prefer to develop their own that would be ok also.
  • ·      Ask staff to talk with colleagues or present the list to the entire faculty to select one that they feel is most important and relevant to the school’s needs.
  • ·      Once the small group has chosen that principle.  Ask them to generate as many different ways that the principle could be practiced more consistently in school, with the confining parameters that it wouldn’t cost any money and would not require any planning or meeting time to implement.  This means that it would be simple enough for people to do or say, i.e. already within their repertoire of words and actions.
  • ·      Bring that list of no cost, low time principle based ideas back to the faculty and ask them to reach on consensus on one that they can support at least for one month.
  • ·      Post this principle-based idea on a poster in the faculty room.  Make it visible somehow for staff to see regularly and easily.
  • ·      Get staff to agree to try it as best they can and to reflect on how it might be impacting the school climate.
  • ·      Agree to meet in a month to evaluate how it is going and then decide to either continue it, change it, and/or to try another idea.

Here is an example of what I mean:  Let’s say the principle selected is: Treat students the way that you want them to treat each otherNotice the slight twist in the last part of the golden rule.

One simple thing that staff could do to “operationalize” this principle that would cost nothing and take no extra time, is getting everyone adult in the building to agree to consistently say “please” and  “thank you” every time they ask any student(s) to do anything.

Something this simple and basic could have a profound effect on a school environment.  There could be cynical opposition to this on the part of some staff but I think that even the most cynical staff person would have a hard time verbalizing that opposition.  They may not do it themselves but if the majority of staff started doing it, then the resisters would be the left alone or at least in the majority. 

This type of small step can plant a seed for significant cultural changes.  Once staff has tried this type of “baby steps” approach, it would be easily transferred to having the students do it.  This approach accounts for the 5 simple truths of helping into consideration and allows the school community to create a new story to tell about itself.   

Friday, February 22, 2013

In the eyes of their peers

One of the key principles of bullying prevention should be: Help all students look valuable in the eyes of their peers.

This sounds quite simple and I doubt that there would any teacher who would admit to not doing this, but putting this principle into action is quite challenging given how schools are organized and structured. 

Why it is hard to do?
Schools are designed to sort students into different groups: those who succeed and those who don’t.  This success is primarily based on academic tasks, so those who happen to have a greater initial aptitude towards academic skills are the ones who succeed.   Students who might enter school with other aptitudes or abilities in different areas are at a disadvantage. Schools become very socially stratified as early as kindergarten and it continues right through high school.  It becomes very difficult if not impossible for students to break out of the “box” they are put into. 
Why is it so essential?
Even if you put the problem of bullying aside, it would be still be so important to put this principle into action.  When bullying is considered, it becomes an even greater moral imperative.  Robert Thornberg’s research, which I cited in an early post, points very clearly to the perception of deviance as being the key factor in determining bystander response to bullying.  To put it in the simplest terms:  students who are considered different or inferior from the norm are less and less likely to have any bystanders intervene or help them.  In fact, socially adept students who want to raise their social status by appearing more powerful, intentionally select students as targets based on their knowledge of how they are perceived by peers.   They pick their targets knowing that these students will not have kids helping them because kids will not want to be associated with them.

Why is it particularly challenging for teachers?
Teachers can be easily trapped into inadvertently conveying and reinforcing the perception that certain students are less valuable than other students.  Just think of a student who presents a behavior challenge to a teacher.  If a teacher is implementing a PBIS system giving out tokens or tickets, it is inevitable that some students earn more than others and subsequently gain more teacher praise and approval.  Even though PBIS strongly wants to separate the individual from his/her behavior, it is impossible to avoid having some kids viewed as “winners” and some as “losers”.  In fact, gaining teacher approval based on showing appropriate behavior is a key tenet of the program.   Most kids if they were interviewed in most schools would probably say that the student who misbehaves is giving the teacher a hard time and would probably have more empathy for the teacher than the “problem student”.   Students with problems in most schools unfortunately are considered to be a problem to the teacher and usually then to the class.

What can be done?
It is hard to change of the culture of most schools because the basic underlying structure has made this social stratification just part of how things are.  It is hard or almost impossible to imagine school being any other way.  Teachers and students become almost trapped in this culture.  This is why starting with a different principle to guide words and actions is so essential.  A school leader can devote a small portion of a faculty meeting by putting this principle before the staff.  Instead of talking about rules, regulations, programs etc., let staff discuss what this principle means to them.  They can discuss and possibly debate its importance.  The discussion can go in almost any direction as long it can start getting people to think even a little differently about their practice.
What potential does this principle have?
It is hard expect a system that is largely responsible for a problem to assume responsibility for addressing that problem successfully.  It is hard for people to accept the implicit criticism of their own performance when they are presented with the problem itself.  The traditional structure of school unfortunately does not like problems and wants them to go away as quickly as possible.  When they don’t they are either denied or someone else is usually to blame for them.   Effective leaders realize this so they frame the issue differently.  They can take bullying prevention from a problem to be solved and instead present a principle like, Help all students look valuable in the eyes of their peers, to the staff.
Ask the staff and at some point in time the students, how do we make this happen?  This becomes the goal and challenge and it is based on aspiring to something better rather than criticizing what is there.  It might take longer to put this principle into action than it would take to get compliance with a mandate, but any energy devoted to moving this direction would do more in the long run to make schools better places for learning for all students.

I believe that when people discuss a principle like this one and are invited to help in realizing it, then creativity can be triggered.  Creative solutions emerge not from free form brainstorming but rather from the tension of putting a principle into practice.  It is not easy, but if the people involved in this type of problem solving feel safe and are freed from feeling blamed or put down, they can commit to working together to find the way to this principle come to life and touch the lives of students for the better.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Common Sense

I read an article in the newspaper today about how many schools are returning to zero tolerance policies (some have never left them) following the tragedy at Newtown.  There was an example in the article about one kindergarten boy who made a toy gun from legos and pretended to use it.  After he didn't immediately respond to the teacher's directions he was subsequently suspended for two weeks.  Another two boys were using their fingers to play guns on the playground and ended up being suspended.   A superintendent was interviewed and justified these suspensions by claiming that schools needed to take these incidents seriously and show that they are concerned about people feeling safe in schools.   A critic of these decisions labelled these actions as criminalizing "play".

Play, if not criminalized in schools,  today has just about been outlawed because it is considered "fluff" and detracts from real academic learning.  Criminalizing just takes this type of thinking to the next logical conclusion.  These responses to student behavior are not only deeply wrong that are also indicative of serious problems with the basic assumptions that underlie policy and practice.  These assumptions that govern decision making that are not only ineffective in preventing bullying, they inadvertently promote bullying behaviors in schools. 

Here are just a few points to consider:

As much as governmental policy stresses the need for evidence based programs, why is it that the clear research on the lack of effectiveness of zero tolerance policies so easily ignored by so many schools.

Learning is what school is all about (or should be about).  Why is it that all solid and clear research on cognitive, language and social development including the critical role that play has into three of those domains, been overlooked and ignored?

How does a five or six year student interpret school suspension?  Does the child say, "I did something bad that I better not do again." What does that decision tell the child about his/her relationship to school itself?  I think it sends a harsh message, a very harsh message:  be careful about what you do or say or do.  I think it would be very hard for children to separate a lack of acceptance of their behavior from a lack of acceptance of themselves as people.

How do bystanders perceive these decisions made by school administrators and supported by teachers?  These decisions stigmatize the perpetrators making them look very different from the students who are not suspended.  This perception of difference among peers is a primary reason why bystanders don't speak up for others.  These children who are so easily suspended become prime targets for future bullying.

If they do become targets for bullying, will they be more or less likely to trust the school to help them with their problems?  It is pretty clear that they would have little trust in schools to help them with anything.  It is very likely that schools would be viewed as unfriendly places.

As bystanders become older and start to judge and evaluate the words and actions of adults, these zero tolerance policies will only decrease the respect that students have for those in charge.  This lack of respect depresses the likelihood for them feel ownership in the school and the likelihood of them taking the risk of speaking up or intervening.  They might even fear getting in trouble themselves for "helping".

At a time when trust and respect for schools as institutions is less and less a given in our society, decisions by school administrators that demonstrate a lack of common sense only make people wonder about the competence and judgement of anyone who works in a school.

Zero tolerance policies don't even permit the possibility of school administrators making decision based on individual students, their own assessment of the real threat involved, their own thinking and reasoning.  "Schools" become places that blindly follow a rule or procedure without any thinking or reasoning.  This only reinforces the view of schools as bureaucracies and not places of learning.

As a principal for seventeen years, I suspended one student from school for one day. That was the only time I used suspension as a consequence.  I did this early in my tenure and it was for pulling a fire alarm.  I found that as time went on that there were many, many other alternatives to suspension as means to deal with problem behaviors.  Was our school chaotic, unruly, and out of control?  On the contrary, our discipline problems were minimal.  We had such success within the school building that we felt confident about tackling the school bus issues.  We applied what worked in the school to the school bus and then had success in dramatically reducing our bus problems.  How did we do it?  By learning about each student and what each student needed to be successful.  We switched from a criminal justice mindset when it came to behavior problems to an educational mindset.  We decided that kids made mistakes not as criminals but as kids and it was our job to help them learn from their mistakes. Might be radical but we involved kids in problem solving their own problems and tried to give them the tools they needed to solve problems in a more effective way.  We built community and nurtured trusting relationships so that when a student did something irresponsible there were trusting adults available to help them learn from their mistakes.  It doesn't have to be more complicated than that.  Ask yourself:  do you need to suffer some form of punishment to learn from every mistake you make, or is it possible to learn without suffering.  If the answer is the later, which it was for us at our school, then we found other ways of helping kids learn and those other ways almost always "worked".  It just took a little common sense! Let's not have "common sense" (or as Barry Schwartz referred to it: "practical wisdom") become a radical notion in schools.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Wisdom of the Ages

"Humans are not ideally set up to understand logic; they are ideally set up to understand stories."-Roger Schank

"The story ... is one of the basic tools invented by the human mind for the purpose of understanding.  There have been great societies that did not  use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories."- Ursula Le Guin

"If stories come to you, care for them.  And learn to give them away where they are needed.  Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive."  Barry Lopez

Every experience except for this moment right now is a story.  Our life except for this moment right now is a story and nothing more.  Our sense of continuity of who we are, our identity that is, are the stories that we remember of our self interacting with the world.  The stories we tell ourselves and we tell each other define our world and how we make sense of it.  Our words and our actions are like the script we write for ourselves in the story we write of who we are.  Our stories either open up horizons or confine us to a limited set of choices.  Change our story of ourselves and we start to live differently.

Our stories intertwine and if we are open to each others stories we discover how much we have in common.  When we discover these common themes in each other's stories we open up even more and listen more deeply to those other stories because we know instinctively that there is much to learn from them.  Other people's stories are so important for us to reflect upon own our story.  It is safer and less threatening especially if our story becomes one that we don't like.  Other people's stories give us a safe and hopeful way of changing our life story for the better.

The less able we are to reflect on our story the more we become trapped inside of our own story.  We sadly make the often tragic assumption that we do not create our own story but that it just is-our story is reality-immutable, fixed, and imposed.   Ironically if we feel that we can't change our story, we often have to cling to the story; we confuse it with reality and then defend it at all costs.  Changing it becomes a threat.  Anything we are asked to change becomes a threat to us if we believe we can't change it.  Our stories, when we don't realize that they are stories, become our mistaken, fixed versions of reality which can easily compete other people's fixed reality.  Stories give hope and inspire; they are at the heart of true change.  When our lives are seen as fixed and we can't imagine the possibility of new stories, hope can die a slow death.

This is why storytelling is so central to the human experience.  We need to hear many stories to ultimately understand our own story,  so we can understand ourselves.  This is why it is frightening that the reform movement in schools is locked into the story that stories are not real and should be replaced by primarily with technical, scientific, and mathematic subject matter.  Ironically we have science, math and technology because humankind has changed the story of itself-discovered that the world can be discovered, understood and changed.  Every scientific discovery is an exciting human story.

When we value stories in education we are valuing our humanity and telling our children about their humanity.   I cannot think any lesson taught in a classroom on any level that could not be put into the context of a story.  Ask any person to think of a moment in his/her life that changed him/her and there would be an intriguing story to tell. The story would be  how that moment  is remembered and  internalized.  We all naturally desire to be pulled into a good story because we all want to hear how it turns out.  We want to hear how someone resolved a conflict, solved a problem, learned a lesson, was surprised, was transformed.  The best teachers are the ones that create the best stories-the stories that compel deep listening, that make connections, that inspire and become internalized.  This is how these teachers influence lives.

The best teachers who influence their students lives do not have to invest time and energy in controlling them every minute.   Ask someone to tell a story about a teacher who influenced him/her and I highly doubt that the person would say it was the teacher who gave him/her the most stickers, tokens, or any type of reward.

The experience of learning should be an adventure story where students are the listeners and the actors at the same time.  Schools should be places of learning, places filled with adventure stories that kids want to and need to hear.  If educators could start to believe in the power of stories and view education as such an adventure, then all the time and energy spent trying to get kids to learn, would no longer be necessary.  (Do kids have to be bribed to see a PIXAR movie?)   Is there a reason why teaching and learning cannot be this way?  The better question would be how come teaching and learning in schools have drifted so far away from its human roots.  How come the wisdom of the ages (the value of stories) no longer  seems to apply to  learning in schools?  Maybe the reason why we seem to need to control the kids in schools is because we as educators have forgotten the wisdom of the ages. Maybe we as educators should reflect on how we need to change rather then how the kids need to change. Maybe educators need to reflect on the hidden stories they are telling themselves (all sadly our children)  about what teaching and learning is really all about.  Let's tap into the wisdom of the ages available and waiting for us today.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Data: Now What?

Having a destination is preferable to just driving around aimlessly. Once you decide you want to go somewhere it helps to know where you are when you start. Knowing where you want to go and knowing your starting point are essential but they don’t tell you the best way to get there. The starting point and destination point also don’t provide the motivation to start the journey.

I can see how the current focus on data is embraced as the answer to so many problems in education because without it educators can just teach without knowing where students are and where they need to go. Data can certainly provide a sense of direction and allow progress to be monitored. Without being able to do that the “status quo” can stay permanently entrenched.

Any successful and effective approach to preventing and reducing bullying must use data to determine its starting point and to monitor progress. Data can also provide important information on frequency, duration, and location of bullying. Using the analogy of high blood pressure, we can be easy fooled about how healthy we are without relying on a more objective and accurate measure as opposed to relying on how we feel or how things look on the surface. A school with a serious bullying problem can look on the surface no differently  than a school without a serious problem. It is hard for people to trade this subjective estimation of a situation with any other interpretation of it.

Since data gives us the hope of really knowing what is happening which is highly preferable to our often inaccurate subjective estimation of it, it is understandable many people see that breaking through this data barrier is the key to meaningful change. I wish that this was true but unfortunately it is not. I have worked with schools where administrators have pinned all of their hopes for motivating staff to commit to bullying prevention on showing them the data. School leaders often think that when staff finally see the “numbers” showing the depth and the breath of the problem, they will then commit to doing whatever it takes to decrease the frequency and duration of bullying. Data alone doesn’t do this. Maybe it would if we were all Mr. Spocks and based our decisions on rational arguments. We are not and never will be.  We are human beings who respond to an array of many emotional  influences, conscious and unconscious, that motivate us or not. It is too easy for people to discount or discredit even the most objective, quantifiable data especially if there are other forces at work keeping them doing what they are used to doing.

People change people. Change is a social act. Change is not something that can be carefully managed step by step by a few people directing many. It is a human enterprise where data can be one piece of a many layered and complex process that must manifest itself differently in each situation. Bullying prevention ultimately is about changing people’s hearts and minds. Changing hearts and minds cannot be the outcome of the change process unless people’s hearts and minds are fully engaged in the process of changing them. You change hearts and minds by engaging people’s hearts and minds in the process of changing hearts and minds.

The journey of that change is a really a heroic quest driven by moral purpose. Returning to the analogy I used in an earlier post: bullying prevention can be told as the story of a PIXAR movie but in this case the audience must also be the creators of the movie. Data give us the “once upon a time” but people need to be attracted to the story and willing to become a part of it-they will need to be the ones to create the story by living it. School leaders must be master storytellers who invite people to listen and participate in creating the story that they start for them.

Monday, February 11, 2013

If YOU build it, they won't come (around)

If we want to change the “story” of bullying prevention from just “a problem to solve” to an opportunity for positive overall growth and improvement, we would be wise to remember what social psychologists call the Ikea effect. 

The IKEA Effect refers to the tendency for people to value things they have created/built themselves more than if made by someone else – in fact, nearly as much as if an expert had created the same item.  This is based on research done by Michael Norton, Daniel Mochon and Daniel Ariely and published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology 22 (2012) 453-460.

They called it the Ikea effect because Ikea furniture doesn’t come assembled but requires the buyer to put it together.  The act of assembling the furniture increases the person's  appreciation of the product and their estimation of its value.  We have all experienced this in almost anything we do from cooking a meal, writing a poem, or growing something in our garden-what we put into it affects how we feel about it and end up responding to it. 

Using the Ikea effect is an essential way of dealing with the 5 simple truths of helping that I mentioned in a previous post.  This is why is it so important not to impose problems and solutions on people.  Although it might take longer, people first need to become invested and involved in learning about a problem and what it will take to address it.

It is better to provide the right environment, resources, and the right questions for reflection for people as they begin to encounter the problem of bullying and all that it implies.  This is what I call “leading the learning” which is most effective approach a school leader can take in addressing any problem or change initiative.

Since the “Root canal or Right to Know” type of story is already associated with bullying prevention is schools, school leaders must realize that they cannot change the story by just telling people a new story-a more heroic story driven by moral purpose(PIXAR type story).  Old stories get stuck in people’s heads and don’t move aside when someone starts to tell a new or different one.  If the story of bullying prevention is going to change in people’s hearts and minds, they must be involved in discovering and creating a new story. 

The Ikea effect assumes that the person has chosen to shop at Ikea or start a garden or write a poem.  This cannot be assumed in schools especially regarding bullying prevention.   To get people to even start the process requires that people first and foremost trust their leadership and feel that their input is not just valued but essential to the entire process of change.  If you want bullying prevention to be meaningful and effective (your final product or outcome), you must be very attentive and careful about the process you use to get it.  This is why the mandates and pressures for stopping any problem immediately often force school leaders to impose solutions.  This once again becomes getting compliance at the expense of commitment.  “Looking good” becomes more important than really “doing good”.  This is the story that has to change.

How do you get a quality product or outcome?  It is usually the result of a team effort where all members’ voices are heard and ultimately contribute to the process of developing plans, strategies and solutions.
If we want to change the bullying prevention story so that it becomes like a PIXAR story, we need to embrace the how a PIXAR story or movie is made.  Their quality is directly related to their process (teaming in the truest sense of the word).  They value, nurture and appreciate every member of their organization.  (If you would like to see a documentary about how the PIXAR approach works, there is a 15 minute special feature on the DVD of Ratatouille that shows the director Brad Bird leading his team in creating the movie together.)

School leaders must remember that WE must become the key word in how they approach any problem or school change initiative.   If WE build it, staff/students will not only come around, they will own, use and love the change and the school.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Key to Positive Change? Change the Story

If we really want to make progress with bullying prevention or for that matter any change initiative, we need to step back and ask ourselves what is the hidden story in that change initiative.  Some stories fail to account for the 5 simple truths of helping that I described in the last post.  These stories “freeze” the change or even prevent it because the people who hear them resist these stories.  Other stories attract not just attention but go to the heart of the people who hear them and then transform them.  We don’t have to look very far to see what stories freeze or repel and what stories attract and are embraced. 
Currently here is the hidden story being told about bullying prevention.  This is the story that people hear (and really don’t want to hear).  It goes like this:

Bullying is a bad thing and it shouldn’t be in schools.  We don’t care if you believe this or not or if it matches your experience, take it from the experts that it is bad, it exists and it has to go away.  You probably caused it.  You haven’t done a good job in getting rid of it (just like you haven’t done a good job with many other things.)  No you have no choice it is the law and you have to get rid of it.  It you don’t get rid of it, you will be in trouble.  Here is the way you have to get rid of it and all you have to do is follow the program.  It is as simple as that.  If you do what you are supposed to do everything will be fine.  The goal is to stop this bad thing (remember you probably caused it and you have done a good job before now in doing anything about it.)  The best result is stopping the bad thing and making sure you don’t break the law.

 This story is one I would put in the category of retelling your experience with root canal, colonoscopies and for those in public schools, your annual Right To Know meeting informing you of the effects of toxic chemicals in your environment.  No wonder some principals feel like they are (excuse the pun) pulling teeth when the stand in front of their staff and talk to them about bullying prevention.  You no one wants so here these stories-our mind naturally resists them.  They are tolerated at best because those with more power are telling them and people don't like to disrespect authority.
This doesn’t have to be the story of bullying prevention.  It can be story of a heroic, noble endeavor propelled by a deep moral purpose, the same moral purpose at the heart of people’s career choice to be an educator.  This story accounts for the 5 simple truths of helping.

Here is how it can go:
Bullying is bad and shouldn’t be in schools because goes against our common values and principles.  All people need to be treated with respect and care.  We respect and care deeply about students and each other.  Bullying is no one’s fault-it is a constant struggle and challenge that we all face together.  We have done a lot about it but it is an insidious, elusive problem.  We need to learn about why it is so challenging and we already know a lot about it from our experience, so we can teach each other and learn more about it together.  With this collective and shared knowledge we can increase the knowledge, skills and dispositions of all members of the school community to work together to make our schools better places for everyone. We can make decisions together that will fit the needs of our community.   If we do this positive change is not just possible but is inevitable.  This is a journey, one that we all share and need to make together.  There will be problems along the way, bumps in the road, but going on that journey is at the heart of what it means to be an educator-it is noble quest that can affirm what is best in all of us.  It can be more than solving a problem, it can transform us for the better.  This is the surprise and happy ending.

People don’t resist this type of story.  They don’t need to be threatened for not embracing it or rewarded for following it.  They are attracted to it; deep down they want to hear.  In fact they will pay money to hear these types of stories-just look at any PIXAR movie.  This can be the story of bullying prevention. Stories can and should be told in different ways; they don’t have to be stuck in one way.  Stories need to inspire and can be ones that people aspire to.
School leaders cannot expect people to hear the first story and expect them to respond they way people would as if they heard the second story.  The first and most important step for school leaders to realize they are storytellers, they need to decide on what the story is and then tell it in the best way possible.  Ironically once the story is changed, those who hear it will be involved in creating their own version of it in their lives.
If you have any doubt about the power of stories ask this simple question of yourself and those in your community: Would you rather have a root canal or go to a PIXAR movie?