A Four-Part Article About Solutions To Bullying,
By Marnie Hancock, B.Ed, Author, Teacher, Consultant
A Personal Note From The Author:
As many of you know, I recently returned to teaching part-time in the Public Education System. What you may not know, however, is that within this system I have had a long history with Anti-Bullying Programs. In a way, my interest in The List, aka Reality Dynamics, is due in part to this interest. Essentially, the List is all about personal empowerment and safety, which is the direct opposite of what people experience in Bullying scenarios. My recent return to teaching was so inspiring, largely because of the great progress in Anti-Bullying Programs that I experienced at the stellar school where I was teaching. So often successes in the Public Education System go uncelebrated, and so my goal is to do just that. Too, my goal is also to assist with the problems of cyber bullying and the resultant teen suicides. Only very briefly do I touch on The List Program, although I believe that The List process would be a valuable addition to any Anti-Bullying Program. Read on, and I hope you enjoy this unique and experienced window into the evolution of Anti-Bullying Programs in the Public Education System today.
Because of the extensive content and depth of this subject, I have divided this article into four parts. I hope you enjoy reading this article, as I share further aspects of this topic with you over the next several months.
Part 1. Anti-Bullying Programs Today & Yesterday: Emotional & Cyber Bullying & Teen Suicide
Finding new solutions to cyber bullying and resulting increased teen suicides was Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s appeal on Global News in May of 2013. He asked that all Canadians need work together to find solutions to this new and challenging situation. As a 25 year Public Education Teacher, I would like to respond to Stephen Harper’s call, and I would like to share the many successful Anti-Bullying Strategies that I have learned over my 25 year teaching career. Essentially, I have closely researched and utilized Anti-Bullying Programs since their inception, almost 25 years ago.
At the risk of sounding like a “know it all,” receiving teachers were often impressed at how well my students learned, often being able to read, write and complete Math activities well beyond their grade level. My students were happy, too, having fun at school. Essentially, I found that the benefits of addressing Bullying in my classroom were immense. When children felt safe, their potential for learning was infinite.
From my experience, however, not everyone in the Public Education System has made Anti-Bullying a priority. While there have been some good reasons for this, with the added and exponential influence of technology, and the resulting teen suicides, I believe we cannot wait any longer. All of us need to learn about and address Bullying now, for the benefit of our children and society.
To this end, and from first-hand experience, I will share with you every aspect of Anti-Bullying Programs that I have learned, from 25 years ago up until today.
In particular, this spring, I had the honor and privilege of teaching with a very fine group of professionals, at a well-established B.C. Lower Mainland school. This brilliant group of professionals did make Anti-Bullying a priority; and I wanted to share this valuable experience with you.
After a 15 year hiatus from teaching on contract, this spring I ventured into teaching three days a week as a French Immersion Kindergarten Teacher. When I arrived at this wonderful school, much to my surprise, these professionals were just starting to implement their yearly Anti-Bullying Program.
At my first of two monthly staff meetings, the School Counselor got up to tell us about the school’s upcoming Pink T-Shirt Day, a National Anti-Bullying Week activity that he and his Anti-Bullying Committee were organizing for the whole school.
Secretly I thought to myself, “What, did I actually end up at a school where Anti-Bullying is made a priority?” From my previous 25 years in the teaching profession, with 15 years as a teacher on contract and 10 years as a teacher on call, I must admit, this had often not been the case. Here and now, at this school, I was about to see a new Anti-Bullying Program implemented first hand, and expertly.
To set the stage, though, I want to share with you my earlier teaching experiences with Anti-Bullying Programs.
Anti-Bullying Programs of Yesteryear
25 years ago, Anti-Bullying Programs were just starting out in Lower Mainland Schools. At that time, I felt a strong need to have effective strategies to prevent Bullying in my classroom.
I was teaching Grades K-3, and I had heard rumors that one of our district’s principals was implementing the first Anti-Bullying Program at his school. So, after school one day I made an appointment with him, and he offered me his Anti-Bullying file.
I remember being a bit shocked when I first saw it: a large file, brimming over with loose papers, with some printed and many hand-written notes. I remember asking him where the program came from, and I believe he replied that the program came from an introductory workshop made at a Principal’s Meeting. Now, this principal tells me he remembers this first program was called, “Bully Beware.”
Despite my hesitation over the informality of this file, though, I rifled through it, and I copied everything that seemed relevant. I then took it back to our school. At our next Staff Meeting, I proposed that we implement the program.
After the usual discussion at our Staff Meeting, however, the principal that I was working with at the time recommended that we do not implement the program. Needless to say, I was disappointed. To his credit, though, he had a number of good reasons. First, he felt it was more important to implement the new Social Skills Program that our district had just purchased for all of our schools, called The Second Step Program. Especially, he wanted us to teach the Problem Solving Unit within that program.
He knew more about the first Anti-Bullying Program than I’d thought, informing us that learning Problem Solving Skills was an important part of the new Anti-Bullying Program. When teaching this Unit, I learned that this principal was right. Basically, the unit taught conflict resolutions skills, and especially how to be assertive in any situation. This is a key and effective strategy in Anti-Bullying Programs today.
Next, our principal shared that there were really very few resources included in this new Anti-Bullying Program. That, I could to attest to, having seen the original file.
Third, he added that even those people implementing the program had found that incidences of Bullying even increased when implementing this program. As a principal, and often being the final recipient of challenging behavior at school, he was moving forward cautiously. I respected this, and so I let it go.
Secretly to myself though, I thought, I think I know why this program actually increases bullying. When I was looking through this program, even in its beginning stages, I was quite concerned with its emphasis on so many negative wordings and images. I knew from my own lay psychological studies that negative words, especially when repeated, often created the reality that the words described. As I looked through the program, I saw the word “Bullying” over and over again, with accompanying bullying images being viewed and drawn. So, while the intent of the program was positive, I, too, was concerned about some of the program’s negative influences.
The lay psychological information that I had, however, was quite new information, and so I wasn’t really confident that my input would be accepted.
I had been very lucky to meet and study with one of the pioneering teachers in new thought psychologies, and her name was Jann Timmreck. The title of her work was The List AKA Reality Dynamics. The findings of her work, however, were not yet main stream. So I waited for a more appropriate time to share them; and I continued to research and develop the education system’s and my own Anti-Bullying Strategies.
Emotional Bullying Identified
One of the very positive and important points that I remember from this first Anti-Bullying program, however, was that Emotional Bullying was for the first time clearly identified. Emotional Bullying included activities such as teasing, taunting, name calling, exclusion, and not respecting another person’s space. Physical Bullying, such as hitting in all of its various forms, was really more obvious. For the most part, it had long been identified and dealt with. But the emphasis on Emotional Bullying was new; and I felt, long overdue.
Emotional Bullying, at least at my grade level, was a really big issue. As a classroom teacher, I felt I was dealing with this type of Bullying at least several times a day, and every day. Complaints such as, “Johnny called me stupid!” “Sally laughed at my coat!” and “Frank budged!” were all very common in my Primary Classroom. (Please note that throughout this article the identities have been changed to protect the very innocent!) Usually the incident would have happened outside, on the playground or before school, and it was brought into the classroom when I opened that door.
While these problems may on the surface seem innocent and trite, to young students they are very important. To a teacher, trying to deal with the emotions involved is both complex and time-consuming; but the fallout from not dealing with these problems can be even more challenging. From my experience, unresolved emotional bullying leads to even more serious conflicts, and even more disruptions and thus lost learning time in the classroom.
In those earlier years, when asking for assistance as how to deal with Emotional Bullying, I often found that it was just “glossed over,” by teachers, administrators and parents alike. Comments such as, “Tell the Supervisor,” “That’s an outside problem, not an inside one,” and “Tough it out,” easily dismissed the need for adult intervention.
What the first Anti-Bullying program did, however, was to start to shine the light on what exactly Emotional Bullying was, and eventually how important it was to deal with it. The principal I was working with at the time asked us all to be more aware of this type of bullying, and in the future to treat it just as seriously as Physical Bullying.
Emotional Bullying at the Root of Teen Suicides
Overall, I now believe that this type of Bullying, Emotional Bullying, added to the exponential influence of our cyber world, is very much at the root of teen suicides. Now especially, we need to learn strategies to deal with Emotional Bullying, just as much as Physical Bullying.
Granted, one of the simple reasons why Emotional Bullying is often glossed over in schools is that Emotional Bullying usually takes place in areas where adults are not. As I touched on earlier, Bullying often takes place in “hidden places:” on the school playgrounds, during recess and lunch, in cloakrooms, or before and after school. Essentially, Emotional Bullying takes place where students are not as closely supervised by an adult, and where they are left to interact with their own young and “burgeoning” social skills.
With a mandate for teachers to teach Reading, Writing and Math, and any number of new programs, in the past addressing Bullying has taken more of a side note. Too, Problem Solving due to any type of Bullying can often take a lot of time to work out, and effective Problem Solving takes special knowledge and skills. Hurt feelings are often caused unintentionally with younger children; but if you choose to problem solve about them, you need to take the time to talk with the students involved, and to carefully move the situation to final resolution. All the while, too, you are supposed to be teaching 20 to 30 other students! For myself, it took me almost half of my career to learn effective strategies to facilitate Problem Solving, especially in Emotional Bullying scenarios. I will share the basics of these strategies further in other parts of this article.
Teen Suicides in BC
Continuing with my history with past Anti-Bullying Programs, fast forward to about three years ago, when many aboriginal teenagers had committed suicide in the Lake Cowichan area on Vancouver Island. Then, the local RCMP and the Aboriginal Community were reaching out for help, just as Stephen Harper is doing now. At the time, I had stopped teaching on contract, and I had long moved into substitute teaching. I did this because I needed time to teach the lay psychological program I mentioned earlier, which explained why the anti-bullying program had inherent difficulties. By this time, I was the co-author of the book, The List AKA Reality Dynamics, and I had moved into speaking about and teaching the program to churches, colleges and local societies.
I felt that The List Program had much to offer to the Cowichan teen suicide crisis, and I wanted to share the additional Anti-Bullying strategies that I had learned in my teaching career. Essentially, The List Program helps to create much more safety for children, and much more prosperity and happiness for their families. Being very effective, The List can also help parents to have more control over what happens in their children’s lives, in terms of who their children’s friends are, their children’s success at school, and the direction of their children’s future. But after many calls, there seemed to be no way in. Most everyone I could get through to did not even return my calls.
Finally, I even contacted the original principal who had implemented that very first Anti-Bullying Program in my district, 25 years ago. When I reached him, this principal had been promoted to Director of Instruction in a different Lower Mainland School District. (Someone was listening!) He informed me, however, that he was no longer directly involved in Anti-Bullying Programs. He did mention, though, that the BC Ministry of Education was now involved, under the Department of Safer Schools. He added that this Department would be coming out soon with a new Anti-Bullying Program, titled E.R.A.S.E. Bullying (Expect Respect and A Safe Education.)
So, even though he was no longer as directly involved, he was still “on the pulse.” I was disappointed that I couldn’t find a way in to assist in Lake Cowichan. I was also disappointed that this principal (I thought) was no longer involved in working with the program. But I was relieved that the Ministry was going to make Anti-Bullying a priority. I looked forward to seeing their new program, and I continued with substitute teaching and teaching my own prosperity and even Anti-Bullying Program, the List, AKA Reality Dynamics.
In further parts of this article, learn more about E.R.A.S.E. Bullying (Expect Respect and A Safe Education), Behavior Management Strategies, Peer Mediation, and much, much more.