This week, ninth graders currently enrolled in one section of Health 9 took part in an interactive presentation on the reality and dangers of cyber-bullying, led Ms. Allison Barker, Old Rochester Regional High School’s new librarian.
The presentation was one of the first lessons that are part of the new library curriculum for the high school. “Digital citizenship integration” is the overall topic for the freshman class, and cyber-bullying is just one part of this theme.
Principal Mike Devoll supports the decision to focus on cyber-bullying.
“I think it’s a big issue that needs more awareness,” Devoll said. “Kids don’t realize their actions on social media can be harmful. They just think it’s the way things are.”
Sheryl Briggs, one of the Health 9 teachers, agreed with this.
“We need to be very careful of what we say and put online,” said Briggs.
The 90-minute session highlighted the dangerous possibilities that go along with having an online social media presence. Acknowledging that many of them have accounts across a variety of sites, students agreed that it is very common to come across hurtful things when interacting with others on the Internet.
“Comments on YouTube can be bad,” one student said as the class gave examples.
The damage that such comments online could cause was demonstrated through group discussion and a series of videos in which perpetrators, victims, and bystanders told their stories of such cyber-bullying incidents.
Afterwards, the freshmen worked in groups to come up with scenarios of bullying online and how they would appropriately react to witnessing or being involved in the situations.
“Tell an adult” was a common solution, one backed by Ms. Barker and the rest of the ORRHS administration.
“But make sure to screenshot the conversation,” she instructed the students. “Always have proof of what happened to show an adult.”
Barker, a native of Minnesota, majored in Archaeology and Visual Arts as an undergraduate at Brown University before recently receiving her Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from the University of Rhode Island.
When not in a classroom setting, Barker runs the high school library. While updating the resources available to the entire school population and adding dozens of new books to the shelves, she also can be found aiding students in subjects outside of the library’s curriculum.
“I’ve walked into the library hoping to maybe find a book about a subject I have work on, and I end up getting an extra helping hand from Ms. Barker,” junior Ayana Hartley said. “She has expanded my knowledge greatly on U.S. History and helped me with research in English. She is so passionate about what she talks about, no matter the topic.”
The freshman students received Barker and her lesson just as positively, as well.
“It was great!” stated one freshman, Hailey Boren. Her classmate Kate Marsden elaborated further. “It was good; I think it helped people be more aware.”
“Overall, I think they really enjoyed it,” said Barker. “Their feedback [through an anonymous survey] showed that the students thought the presentation was very informative and interesting.”
“I love it,” she said of teaching students in her new position.
By Jo Caynon