Friday, 22 March 2013

Reflection on anti-bullying speakers

March was set aside as a month to focus our student's attention on the issues surrounding bullying - to become more aware of what it is and isn't and how to deal with it.

To that end we invited two main speakers to come, both of whom gave different perspectives on the issue.   However both David and Simon said that bullying was not a one off act of unkindness or aggression.  It was an ongoing series of verbal or physical actions by one or more persons against another person.  Both agreed that the effects of bullying are severe on a person's mental status and self esteem and that there are strategies that can be adopted which will work.

I agree with Simon when he said we will never eradicate bullying totally and that attempting to deal with it through rules and punishments usually  makes the problem worse.  The bullies get more angry and the sad truth is that some people will always choose to try and exert power over another person.  Most bullies are in fact people who have been hurt themselves and bullying others gives them a sense of power in their own world.

David Goodwin concentrated on giving the victim creative strategies to deal with the problem and suggested parents help their children best by working out what could be a positive and creative action.  He gave the example of someone taking your lunch from you.  His suggestion was pack two lunches- one for the bully which is bland and tasteless, and one for yourself which is only taken out after the bully has taken your first lunch.  Or if you are being harassed by phone or text -swap your SIM car with one of your parents for a few days.

David's view was that parents need to talk with their children and help them work out a solution.  Just doing it for them is not a help.

Simon said something similar,  He also said that someone else always dealing with the problem does not allow the young person to develop resilience which will assist them to stand up in life to all sorts  of pressures.  He gave an illustration of some scientists who developed a biodome in the desert to see if they could create an environment they could measure.  In this dome trees grew up but as they got bigger their branches would break.  Eventually the scientists realised that the trees had never needed to deal with the pressure of wind and had not learned how to bend and move with the force of the wind.  In the same way our children need to learn to cope with pressures and become resilient.  Our role is to support then in ways that help them develop good strategies and learn the best way to react  to bullies.

Both speaker agreed there is a very important role for the bystanders in these situations to play and that is to speak up.  Simon had two phrases.  They were:  "Our school, our responsibility" and "That's not the way we do things in our school".  My view is that bystanders do ave vital role to play whether in alerting adults to the issue or intervening in a safe and positive way standing alongside the victim and asserting "That's not what we say in our school" or "That's not what we do in our school."

Where does this leave us as a school?

We have a policy that says we have zero tolerance to bullying and that is correct.  A Christian school can never say bullying is acceptable - that's not the way God would have us react.  However such a policy does not mean bullying will never occur.  It simply means we will do everything we can to be proactive and assist both the victim and the bully to get better.

Being proactive means doing things before the problem occurs and before it gets too hard for the victim.  It means educating parents on what bullying is and isn't and how they can talk to their children if they are a victim or if they are a bully.  It means understanding the brain of a bully and helping them stop being a bully and it means giving the victim assistance and help to stand up and not become wounded.  Simon Clegg said the old saying "Sticks and stones may break my bones" should be reworded to say,

"Sticks and stones may break my bones but
words DO NOT HAVE to hurt me."

We have a copy of David Goodwin's book "Strategies to deal with Bullying" in our Library along with copies of Simon Clegg's magazine, "Building resilient Kids" which are available for parents to borrow.  Simon's magazine is available as a free download on Simon Clegg emagazine

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