Battle of the bully
September 29, 2010
- Educator and author leads violence-prevention workships in Heidelberg
- Coloroso used her own experiences as a parent to help others
- Coloroso has appeared on Oprah, Dr. Phil and CNN
HEIDELBERG, Germany - Barbara Coloroso is no stranger to bullies. Her own children were victims of bullies, and her son knew the teens who massacred 12 students and one teacher at Columbine High School in 1999.
When her son was growing up, he was bullied for being "artsy" and "different."
As a former Franciscan nun and educator, Coloroso said she knew the issue was much bigger than her three children and decided it was time to find the root of the problem and to help others understand how to battle the bully effect.
Years later, Coloroso - 63 and author of four international bestselling books about parenting, teaching, school discipline and violence prevention - ventured from Littleton, Co., to Heidelberg Sept. 23 to share her experience with 65 educational professionals from all over Europe.
She was the reason Selena Doctor-Smith, the Child, Youth and School Services lead in the youth center at U.S. Army Garrison Schweinfurt, traveled to Heidelberg's Patrick Henry Village Pavilion.
As a mother and a professional who works with youth every day, she said she wanted to be part of Coloroso's two workshops: "The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander: Breaking the Cycle of Violence" and "Kids are Worth It - Teaching with Wit and Wisdom."
"My son was bullied, and I saw the effects of that and I felt it. I am here because every other child out there is my child," Doctor-Smith said.
The training was designed to give educators like Doctor-Smith, practical tools and techniques to recognize, prevent and discourage bullying and violence in their schools and communities.
"We may be from different places but all of our jobs are the same, and that's to take care of these kids and represent them and to make sure that we are providing a sound and secure future for them so they feel like they're not just here, but that their lives are important - that they are important. That's why we all are here," she said.
The Beaufort, S.C., native said she originally got into the educational field 18 years ago after having her son.
"As a parent, just being a part of his life lets me know that I'm also a part of their lives," Doctor-Smith said. "That's why this is so important. We need this training in the homes with the parents. It's not just for us. We have to take it and share it."
Judi Patrick, Installation Management Command-Europe Region CYS Services school support specialist, said parents and children throughout Europe have voiced concerns about bullying.
The act of bullying can have long-term effects on a child, Patrick said, adding that these workshops were designed to highlight the age-old problem and generate awareness for both parents and educators to stop it.
"It affects them because it affects their self esteem," Patrick said. "You know a lot of what goes on in schools is not all education, it's about social development and their self-esteem and how they get along with others ... it can also affect their growth and development. So what we are trying to do is break the cycle."
During the open forum, educators shared their on-the-job experiences and posed questions to Coloroso during her presentation. A popular topic was the emergence of cyber-bullying.
Cyber-bullying involves using the Internet, a cell phone or other communication technologies to intentionally harass, hurt or embarrass another individual or group of people.
One elementary school counselor shared how one of his students was victimized over the Internet by a group of girls because of a dispute involving pop singer Justin Bieber.
Coloroso said bullying is a universal problem that can begin as early as age 5 and progress.
"I work all over the world, and literally (bullying is) everywhere and anywhere in private schools, independent schools, public schools, military schools," Coloroso said. "Small town, big town, suburbs - it's there, and it's an issue today. Our kids in many places in the world are swimming in a culture of mean where it seems to be OK to laugh at someone else's pain."
The act of bullying is not about conflict but contempt. It should not be looked at as "just a part of growing up," she added.
"The premise of my work is that it's a short walk from schoolyard bullying to hate crimes, which are on the rise today, to genocide. So once you dehumanize another human verbally you can do anything to them and not feel any shame or compassion," Coloroso said.
She praised the Department of Defense schools and the military for being at the forefront of many social issues such as domestic violence, integration and now bullying and for continuing to foster an environment of diversity across the board.
Coloroso also encouraged parents and educators to get involved to stop bullying by setting the example for their kids and teaching them not to be bystanders when they see others being harassed.
"Kids fight, that's normal, natural and necessary, and we have to teach them how to handle their conflicts nonviolently," she said. "Bullying is a learned behavior ... how can they best learn that' From their parents, from their peers and from their school climate. So we have to as a community work on our homes, our schools and community, to stop in its tracks - anything that would fuel contempt for another human being. "
Coloroso has appeared on Oprah, Dr. Phil, and CNN, and has worked with the Department of Defense Dependents Schools for several years.
The violence-prevention workshops were open to all school personnel, parents, law enforcement, community members and youth development professionals.
"This is just the beginning, and I think that we can expand this so far," Doctor-Smith said. "We need to learn this and then educate our families and the kids. Because without it we are losing our kids everyday to something ... we have to take it back into our homes and into our hands and just mold these kids. That's our job."