Bullied to Death

If you’ve read this blog before you know that I’ve had more than a few stories about bullying, bystander behavior, acts of violence and agression toward a particular person or group.  It seems, though, that there is no dearth of news about this at its core, and I feel that advisory should be a place to discuss many of these issues.  It has the power to provide a safe space from this kind of behavior.

A couple of weeks ago, bullying led to a suicide.  Phoebe Prince, a 14 year old high school student new to the school, committed the crime of being new, different, and threatening to social life of an older girl.  She was chased in the hall and called and “Irish Slut”; phone messages, texts, and Facebook pages haunted her.  (Even after she died, bullies posted terrible messages on her page). It is another chance to learn something, to change what is sadly a common response to fear and jealousy.

Activities: With any of these activities, you will probably want to have students understand what happened in South Hadley to Phoebe (using the articles below and the news piece), and allow them to ask questions to learn more about it.

  1. Read the poem: “What do we do with a Variation?”
    1. What are the different ways that poet James Berry says that we (humans) deal with difference?
    2. Which seems to have been in place for the bullies at South Hadley High School?  Why?
    3. What is your favorite metaphor in the poem? Why?
    4. Berry shows us the range of responses we have – some of us have all these responses in different settings – what response to dealing with difference represents how you respond most often? Give a couple examples.
  2. Read the editorial by Kevin Cullen “The Untouchable Mean Girls“.
    1. Talk with students about what an editorial is and how the rules of journalistic objectivity do not apply.  This might be a good time to review fact vs. opinion with them.  (You can use a T-Chart graphic organizer to have them write words and phrases that are facts from the stories and then opinions he derives from those facts). Have students discuss what the tone of his editorial is. How can you tell?  Do you find his editorial persuasive?  Why?
  3. Discuss as a group, based on what you know, where does the responsibility of this type of death lie?  (I would only do this activity if you have built a group with strong norms to listen and respect one another and the topic.  This could be trivialized in an immature setting. We do not have all the information and it would be irresponsible to dole out blame in this case.  Encourage them to think more abstractly.)  Have students discuss where the responsibility lies in these cases.  (One way to frame this could be – if we were going to make changes so this didn’t happen in the future, where would we have to spend most of the energy).  Have them in small groups discuss:
    1. What is the responsibility of the School?
    2. What is the responsibility of the (the bullies’) Parents?
    3. What is the responsibility of the bullies?
    4. What is the responsibility of the bullied?
    5. Other: ______________
    6. The using the Pie Chart graphic organizer have each student dole out the responsibility for this event to any or all of the four groups/people above – it must add up to 100%.  On the back or in the margins explain the “why” you have given the percent of responsibility (not blame) to.  If you have time, have each group member present to the small group and, if possible, come to some agreement on a group pie chart. After looking at it, discuss, what does this assignment of responsibility suggest about how we should move forward to impact the future?
  4. Have students respond in quiet journaling: Does learning about these stories cause you to think differently about acting with others?  What did you learn from Phoebe’s situation and her choice? What is it that can and should be done about these incidents? Why?



  • Research the increasing incidents and any current thinking about how to combat Cyber Bullying.  How is it different from bullying in person?  Is it more pervasive or less?  How do bullies experience this?
  • Is there a difference between when and how boys bully and when and how girls bully?  Look into research to see if gender plays a role in this.
  • You might choose to have students create an ad, write a persuasive essay, or creatively express their feelings on and solutions to this chronic bullying.

Enciendalo! Please People, Light that Spark!

The Game of Death

Well you might have heard the ruckus all the way from France, but a live French TV show (“The Game of Death”) just used the basis of the Milgram experiment for a reality show.  They asked members of the audience to flip switches to pulse electricity through a man who needed to be “punished” until the actor (though no one knew this) appeared dead.  This has started a hot debate – are humans programed to listen to “experts” and act out on others or do they understand the artifice of the tv context and they are playing out fantasies because they must know it can’t be real?


  1. Ask students to read one of the articles (and or listen to the NPR story) and after reviewing the comprehension around the story, have them do a four corner exercise (put a label at each of the four corners of the room – in this case “Strongly agree” “agree” “disagree” and “strongly disagree” – and present a question to them such as “How would you rate your reaction to the statement – I believe that this television show confirms that human beings are morally flawed.” After the class divides up and comes back together (I would tally it on the board) and then begin a conversation/debate defending their positions.  (I might also have students write the “why” their position before entering into the debate.


The WonderYou Blog Overview of the Milgram Experiment


Two Great Math Blogs

Ok, so I hate to be too postmodern – a blog about blogs, but I found two resources that would be good subscriptions for advisors who are looking to help students expand their critical thinking skills. These resources are for you – the adult – to keep creative and focusing on interesing

The Opinionat0r – Steve Strogatz

The “Opinionator” Blog at the New York times provides a lot of interesting info an mathematical thinking.  He writes about interesting and challenging topics – and just reading a few has helped me connect ideas for investigations for student projects (when I can follow it).

The Math Mom

The Math Mom has a great way of framing experience through the lens of math.  Her site is filled with reflections and activities from looking at the world daily as a quantitative mind.

There are also activities to use that are framed around daily life experience. They are divided into “easy”, “medium”, and “hard”.  Give them a try and sign up for the newsletter.

Enciendalo! (x2)

Pi Day

As if you needed a reason to celebrate a mathematical concept, today is Pi Day (3/14 – get it?).  So why is this important?  (I have to use the Greek Pi, as opposed to the symbol in the blog).  There aren’t many activities here, but mostly a shout out to Pi (and those who shout out for it).

  • Pi shows the relationship between diameter and circumference of a circle.
  • Pi is a constant – no matter what size the circle, as a ratio, its value remains the same.
  • Pi is known mostly as 3.14, but it has been calculated out to over a trillion digits.
  • Pi has a long history: it comes from the Greek letters and the Egyptians used the equivalent of Pi/2 for their proportions of the pyramids – this seems to have been a good choice, if longevity plays into architecture….
  • It is central in equations for area of a circle and volume of a cylinder (central to those of us who like curling and cans of soup).
  • Is Pi a normal number?
  • Are people who wear a Pi t-shirt normal?  Lots to think about.
  • Are there any other constants that have (or should have) a day?


  1. Pi Day Website – Learn about Pi
  2. Wikipedia explanation with cool animation that actually makes the concept understandable! (This would be a great experiment to recreate.  Give students four or five circles (lids, etc) of different diameters.  Measure the diameter of each, mark a spot on the circle and roll it out, then measure the circumference (or use measuring tape).  Is the circumference 3.14 x the diameter?  Have them record their findings on a chart.


All Summer in a Day

“A thousand forests had been crushed under the rain and grown up a thousand times to be crushed again.  And this was the way life was forever on the planet Venus, and this was the schoolroom of the children of the rocket men and women who had come to a raining world to set up civilization and live out their lives.”

“All Summer in a Day” is one of my favorite short stories that I had a chance to teach recently.  It is short (less than four pages), has 9 years olds as the central characters, creates vivid characters and a poignant scene, and a deals with issues of group membership, how groups deal with difference, prejudice, and bullying. The characters, setting and theme create an safe topic for conversations of behaviors that may be common to students.


  • Have students do a quickwrite activity framed in the discussion you want to explore: (This one is to look at how groups treat difference.) “Have you ever been in the company of a group of which you were clearly not a member?  What was the circumstance?  How did you act?  How were you treated?”  Pair share, then report out.
  • Read aloud with students – check for understanding and have students pick out words they are not familiar with.
  • There are many activities to do with this story (and a few guiding sheets in the resources section).  One interesting discussion might be to have students discuss who should be held responsible for Margot’s treatment and then discuss what those people might have chosen to do which would have led to a positive outcome.



Obama Supports the Met


In a speech about education policy today President Barak Obama talked about what he would like to see in educational practice – and mentioned the Met school in Providence specifically! (See the link to the video and the speech below).  He says,

That’s why we’ll follow the example of places like the Met Center in Rhode Island that give students that individual attention, while also preparing them through real-world, hands-on training the possibility of succeeding in a career…That’s how we can curb dropout rates and boost graduating rates. I have to point out, in the 21st century, high schools shouldn’t just make sure students graduate — they should make sure students graduate ready for college, ready for a career, and ready for life. And that’s why we’ll foster what are called early college high schools that allow students to earn a high school diploma and an associate’s degree or college credit at the same time. We want to learn from successful charter schools where students can take advanced and college-level courses…So government has a responsibility. Government can help educate students to succeed in college and a career. Government can help provide the resources to engage dropouts and those at risk of dropping out. And when necessary, government has to be critically involved in turning around lowest performing schools.

One of the battles he is proposing to fight is help stem the tide of high school drop outs.  He has worked with Colin Powell’s group, America’s promise who has created an initiative called GRADNation.

Some statistics from the America’s Promis Website:

  • Every 26 seconds, another student drops out of school in America – more than 1.3 million students per year.
  • Today, more than one in three students fails to graduate from high school.  As a result, we lose an entire graduating class every three years.
  • Among minority students, less than 50 percent of Native American and a little more than half of African American and Hispanic students completing high school on time.
  • Young people who drop out are twice as likely as likely as graduates to be unemployed; three times as likely to live in poverty; eight times more likely to wind up in prison; and twice as likely to become the parent of a child who drops out.
  • Of those who do graduate, only about one-third have the skills they need to succeed in college and the 21stcentury workforce.


  1. Watch the video and or read selections from the text.  What are Obama’s main points?  do you agree or disagree?
  2. If you are in a Big Picture School, what does it mean to you to have the President to praise your type of school?  What do you know about the Big Picture network.
  3. Write a journal entry about your own journey in school. What keeps you dedicated to finish?  Why do you persevere?
  4. What do the stats about mean to you?
  5. Do a little QR – based on these stats, how many people drop out each quarter?  From each state? (How many from your state)?