No More Us and Them by Lesley Roessing

College of Education Professor Publishes New Book

(Aug. 1, 2012) Armstrong College of Education professor Lesley Roessing has published her second book for educators, No More “Us” and “Them”: Classroom Lessons & Activities to Promote Peer Respect (Rowman and Littlefield Education). This latest work follows her 2009 book, The Write to Read: Response Journals that Increase Comprehension (Corwin Press), and marks a new direction for Roessing's teaching texts, one which she never really intended to follow.

Throughout over twenty years in middle school education, Roessing's focus has been on literacy. She has used that expertise to teach College of Education students at Armstrong and as director of the Coastal Savannah Writing Project. But the inspiration for No More “Us” and “Them” came from a personal rather than professional experience.

“The book actually came out of an unfortunate news event,” said Roessing. “In a radio interview, a social worker was trying to explain ‘otherising' among kids. I was shocked they had come up with a verb for excluding others and dividing themselves into ‘us' and ‘them'. And then I thought about what I had done and what teachers can do to promote not just tolerance but respect among their students.”

The goal of No More “Us” and “Them” is to give teachers direction on how to build respect among students within already existing curricula so overburdened teachers are not saddled with another segment to fit into the tight school day. The book provides inspiration and concrete ideas for 4th to 10th grade classroom lessons and activities that can be incorporated into many subject areas, from language arts and foreign language to math, social studies, science and even physical education. Once students learn respect in the classroom, their attitudes will naturally carry over to the playground and their communities.

“A lot of times we look for reasons why kids bully,” explained Roessing. “What it boils down to is a feeling of ‘us' and ‘them.' Once ‘they' become part of ‘us,' everything changes and respect is established. You don't bully someone you respect. Also, student surveys have shown that the top deterrent to bullying is other students speaking out”

“We don't need to give teachers one more thing to do,” she added, “so the most important thing to do is to help them work these activities into their existing curricula. We can promote peer respect if we build it into the classroom.”

Not only will No More “Us” and “Them” help current teachers, coaches, camp counselors and social workers, but it will also help future teachers. Roessing's hope for the book is that teachers will inevitably have the same experience that she did with their own middle school students.

“Cultural diversity is not just ethnicity and race; it's gender, religion, socioeconomic status, exceptionalities, even age,” Roessing said. “I see that the lessons in the book work when kids walk into a classroom with something from their cultural heritage and feel free to share because they feel safe and accepted in their group. The classroom is like a microcosm of society, and there is no such thing as a completely homogenous group. It is imperative that teachers build community in their classrooms and across their academic teams and grades in order to make school a safe and supportive place for all students.”