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!


Valentine Type Love

Another Valentine Related Series of Activities:
Lots of ways to express how you love someone. For this activity, encourage students to get in touch with their creative side.  Sure, they could give a canned Valentine (like Lisa gives Ralph in the Simpsons – “I Choo Choo Choose You” – and it has a train on it), but there are many other ways to express your love and appreciation on Valentine’s Day.  Here are a few examples of ways to do this.
  • Give students some examples of love turned into mellifluous creativity.  (If you’ve got that kind of group, help define sublimation for them and spark their interest in the unconscious.)
  1. Have students watch the “This Type of Love” above and do their own version  – what type of love are they looking for (or have). What metaphors, similes, and other comparisons can they come up with to describe their experience?  You might have students each write one of their own, or write a couple of lines that you could put together in an advisory poem (type love).
  2. Listen to (or watch) Love Songs: 311’s Version of “Love Song”; Alicia Keys “Falling”; Mary J. Blige “Love at First Sight”; Lady Gaga “I Want Your Love”; INXS “Never Tear Us Apart”; The Police “Every Breath You Take”; go through lots of older songs (“Oh Girl anyone”) 100 Greatest Love Songs (NYPost);
    1. Obviously – go wild with this one: You could have them take a song and break it down. What does love mean to the artist?  Is it a song of longing? sadness? happiness? confusion? jealousy? ecstasy? Is it about falling in love? Unrequited love? rekindling love?  The challenges of (You might try the You do, We do, they do method with this.  Have them bring in one of their own for friday for the you do part to share with a partner in advisory. Try to pick a song that (unlike what I did earlier in the blog picking “In Your Eyes” doesn’t belie your age and dorkiness…)
    2. Have students create an advisory Valentine album – each person picks 10 love songs that should be on any album (an extra 10 points for any Prince song).  You could then have people design a CD case or each choose one song and make an advisory cd.  What would the theme of the CD be? Have students write liner notes – what does this song say about love?  How does it fit the theme?  – If you were ambitious, research with students how would you get permissions for the songs if you wanted to compile, package, and sell your product.
    3. An interested student may want to make this into an action research project.  Have them make a survey of people’s favorite love songs. Go to a public place and ask people a couple of questions – maybe  a scale of how romantic they think they are, how much the enjoy love songs, and which song is their favorite love song. They can interview 30-50 people, record the info and present the results ina graph. What did they learn? What was their hypothesis going into it?


What We Want

What We Want

What we want
is never simple.
We move among the things
we thought we wanted:
a face, a room, an open book
and these things bear our names–
now they want us.
But what we want appears
in dreams, wearing disguises.
We fall past,
holding out our arms
and in the morning
our arms ache.
We don’t remember the dream,
but the dream remembers us.
It is there all day
as an animal is there
under the table,
as the stars are there
even in full sun.


  • Solicit Prior Knowledge: Ask students to write or talk in pairs (or both) about some of the things they want. Can they put them in a continuum- things they want the most to least?
  • Review metaphor and imagery as theme and ideas.
  • Have students read the poem aloud as a group, then silently to themselves.
  • What line (or lines ) in the poem seem most important to you.  Write it down in your journal, and explain why in a free write.
  • Divide advisory into three small groups and give them each a definition of a literary technique (tone, figurative language, and theme).  With the definition, have the group identify
    • Figurative language: give at least two examples of figurative language in the poem. Explain what they mean. Why would the speaker use these?
    • Tone: How would you describe the tone of the poem (the author’s attitude toward the subject).  If you were acting it out, how would you change your voice to make it sound this way?  What clues are you reading that help you understand the tone?
    • Theme: What are some of the themes explored in this poem  (list at least 2).  For each
  • Then, after working in small groups, have each group report out to the whole advisory – they should prevent the definition of the term and provide an example.
  • Write a journal entry that is like a conversation with a 4th grader explaining what is the speaker of this poem trying to say.



  • Ask the students to show this poem to a parent or friend who has not read it.  What is their interpretation of it?  Did they read it the same way you did? Explain the similarities and differences?
  • Draw a picture inspired by the poem – a scene of an important line, a symbol of the theme, a connection to the mood or tone.
  • Write about times that the things you have wanted took control over you – when was that? Why do you think that happened?  Do you think this is a human experience (across all cultures)?


What Teachers Make

Advisors are teachers too and well, you can call it pandering or sentimentality but I do love this poem.  If you are at all like me, get ready to get riled and give some lawyer the finger!*

You certainly don’t need to make and activity out of this, but any conversation where you talk about how people judge their own worth on the planet has to be good right?  An unexamined life is not worth living, no?

*Disclaimer: this does not include any of my many friends and their colleagues who are lawyers, except one -you know who you are and you know you deserve it.

I Have Measured out My Life…

Piano_coffee_spoon“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons…”

from “the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”

A poetic math activity.

This is only one line in this poem, but one it has always striked me as one of the most powerful. There are so many ways to measure your life, to mark time, to define yourself.  (Ok, so this one isn’t as inspirational as laughs created or children saved, but to each his own or her own, right?)

For this exercise – it is very simple – identify and calculate:

How do you measure your life?

  • hours of tv?
  • texts?
  • kisses from loved one?
  • burritos?
  • ice cubes?
  • religious ceremonies?
  • cars that you’ve passed by?
  • haircuts?
  • minutes awake? (minutes asleep?)
  • books read?
  • number of innoculations?
  • great runs?
  • lines of code?

1. Identify: To start this activity, I might ask students to journal a list of activities that define them. What do your friends say about you?  What would your parents or siblings say if they were asked?

2. Estimate: Ask students to think one activity and calculate how many times they have done this.  For example – glasses of milk. If you had approximately one glass of milk per day(defined as 8 ounces) between 4 and 15 years old that would be 365 glasses of milk per year x 12 years = 4,380.  And for 0-4, maybe it is the equivalent to 3 glasses a week which would equal 624 glasses.  Total, it would be approximately 5,004 glasses of milk or 40,032 ounces.  Have students show their work to describe their choices.  Ask them to consider when this might vary and why and find ways to compensate for this in their calculation.

3. Project forward: Calculate the quantity of your life defining activity for when you are 25, 50, 80, and 95 years old.  Do you think your activity will be consistent over time? How will it vary? When? Why? How will you account for this in your estimation?


  1. Create a graph to show visually your estimation for your life from birth to age 95.
  2. What things do you expect will change the trend?  Why? How did you account for this in your calculations? Show these on the chart with specific points and explanations.
  3. Write  a paragraph analyzing your estimation. When you see this, what do you think? Is it exciting? Disturbing? Does it lead you to ask any more questions?  What do you think we should be doing more or less of as a society?  Is there anything as humans you think we should monitor and measure to aspire to do more or to do less?

George Gray


Being on Facebook constantly makes me reflect in an overly-self aware state about my life is. Hearing from people throughout my life makes me think about what I regret and just how much.  Such a dour view brings me back to a memorable poem by Edgar Lee Masters – “George Gray”.  The whole anthology are tales from the dead, from one town in middle America.  Voices of joy, despair, vibrancy, love, fear, and regret fill the air at the Spoon River Cemetery.  For me, this poem presents a great image of regret – a boat with furled sales at rest in the harbor.  It can help students connect both to a particular voice and perspective and also rich metaphor.

Quick activity:

  1. Quickwrite: Do you have regrets?  Are you the kind of person who has regrets?
  2. Review the definition of a metaphor with students.  It may help to help them just to know that it is a figure of speech (versus literal speech) where a comparison is drawn between two things.  (A simile compares two things using the words “like” or “as”.)  For example, calling a person “lion-hearted” describes them a curious, not as a freak of animal experimentation….
  3. Read the poem together with a focus of understanding the metaphor.  Start at level 1, what is the poem saying?  Who is narrating it? What is their mood and tone? What is the “marble” he speaks of? Move to deeper level questioning: What meaning do you make from the poem? What do you think it is saying – give two – three examples from the text to support your opinion?
  4. How does the text relate to your life?  How does it relate to other texts that you’ve read, movies you’ve seen, or songs you’ve listened to?

Poem, “George Gray” by Edgar Lee Masters

64. George Gray

I HAVE studied many times
The marble which was chiseled for me—
A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbor.
In truth it pictures not my destination
But my life.
For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment;
Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid;
Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances.
Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life.
And now I know that we must lift the sail
And catch the winds of destiny
Wherever they drive the boat.
To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture
Of restlessness and vague desire—
It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.

Follow Up:

  1. Have students identify a metaphor for their life – have them sketch a picture of their metaphor. (or do a collage, sculpture, photo essay, etc.)
  2. Design your own Gravestone. Look at some models (see link below).  What shape would you want to demonstrate your life? What words/information would you want on it?
  3. Write a journal entry about your dreams and goals – what do you want to accomplish in your life?  Do you have regrets?  About what?  Have these changed your behavior in the future?