Tag Archives: Responsibility

Mercury Retro., Climbing Off Anger Mountain & “List” Musings

Happy Retrograde!  Yes, a Mercury Retrograde began this Friday, and this aspect will continue until December 16th.  Have you noticed that traffic is “jammin’?”  Or that communications are “twisten?”  That’s OK, just blame it on the retrograde!  That’s what I like to do!  LOL.

Speaking of blame!  I have been thinking a lot about the different forms of that term, and I would like to share them.  –I know, it’s Thanksgiving.  I should be writing about something more positive.  But in the end, you will notice that I am indirectly, and directly at the end, expressing gratitude for my education and educators:  Read on, and I hope you find this “educational.”  Happy Thanksgiving!

Blame: justified or unjustified?  Well, I think the unjustified form of it has other terms, and those are denigration and stereotyping.  (Here, by the way, are some definitions, from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.  I learned these terms at university, when studying Sociology and Psychology in the 1980’s, and I am so grateful for having learned these concepts.)

Definition of denigrate 

transitive verb

1 : to attack the reputation of : defame denigrate one’s opponents

2 : to deny the importance or validity of : belittle denigrate their achievements

Definition of stereotype 

noun

a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment

Hmmm.., too, I see blame as another way of not taking responsibility for one’s actions, which is another “twist” on that term.

And also very importantly, how do we react, when we are falsely blamed, or stereotyped and denigrated?

Well, I think our first reaction is to get emotional, and then to react, likely in hurt, anger and outrage. 

So, what would Jann Timmreck, my favorite educator and List author say about that?  “Ye who goes emotional, looses!”  Another way she would have expressed it, would be, “Don’t go beta!” 

www.therealitydynamicslist.com

Also, there is a lot of research that shows that if a person gets very emotional, they actually don’t think as clearly or as rationally as they would if they were calm.

Thus fear, anger and hate are also intense emotions, that can be manipulated to the manipulator’s advantage (whether they are consciously aware of this or not.) 

Unfortunately, all these emotions can be very intense, beta energies: and another important very important thought or dynamic comes to mind, which I also learned from Jann and Joe Timmreck. 

People almost always “harmonize” with, or go into rapport with, the most intense energies.

IE, anger begets more anger, fear begets more fear: and hate begets more hate.

It spreads,  or generalizes, likely without rational thought, and all of a sudden people are fearing and hating and being angry at whatever it is convenient for them to be angry at: perhaps some childhood beef, or some unjust and historical prejudice.  It may not be what first started the intense emotional energies: but hey, it’s the next best thing.

In the extreme, all of a sudden you have a society where people feel unsafe, people are attacking each other, and conflicts continue to generalize and grow.

OK, I’m rambling a bit, but these are some of my thoughts.

Another interesting piece of psychological research that came to my attention recently is this; men are more likely to form alliances based on bias.  (Well, let’s not get “biased” against men.)

Bias!  There’s another word that can be thrown into the same categories as blame, denigration and stereotyping.

And remember, all this may not be based on the truth.

The truth: what is that, in this day and age?  Well, for me, the most significant truth for people to remember is that all energy flows in a circle (again, Jann and Joe Timmreck and List theory.)  Whatever we do and say, always returns to us in like kind: hence, for me, the validity and power of the List, and it’s focus on positive words and expressions.

Not to say that all anger and fear are always negative.

Some things it’s right to be fearful of: and some things it’s right to be angry about.  It’s just please let’s try to keep it under control.  For example, don’t let it get you to the point that it causes you to do something illegal!  Especially like hitting someone or causing someone’s death.

Also, try to keep it based on truth.  Ask questions.  Research.  Make sure, for example, that the person you are angry with really meant what you are thinking they meant!  Often, from my experience, it is something different.

The positive aspects of fear is that it can protect us from danger: we just need to figure out if the danger is real or not.

And the positive aspect of anger according to Jann and Joe Timmreck’s Mind Frames theory is that anger can be used to get someone or some organization unstuck.  Again, though, it needs to be kept within “controllable limits.”

When I was a teacher, I remember we taught the students not to go too high up anger mountain.  There were strategies to employ before one got up to say 10 out of 10 on the anger scale: breathe, was one of them.  Take a deep breath.

Next, walk away.  Think about it, before you act.  (In List theory terminology, let the Right Brain insights have time to come in: take time to get unstuck from Left, where the beta emotions occur.)

Then, we often taught students, make an I message.  For example, “I don’t like it when you____, and I don’t want you to do it anymore.”

Believe it or not, that works.  (Jann Timmreck always taught that an internal person will always give in to an external person.  And an I message is very external.  In Mind Frame terminology, Left External, to be exact.)

Too, I always taught my students that we needed to stay calm when we were discussing problems, we needed to use nice words, and we needed to use nice body language, including a nice tone of voice.   

Next, when there was a problem or a dispute, I would also often have children act out what happened.  (Somewhere in there, questions were asked, feelings were shared, and empathy was created.)  Usually, doing this, problems were resolved easily, and oftentimes the children came to realize the problems were not caused on purpose: they were usually an accidental bump, say, misunderstood as deliberate.  (IE, understanding the intention was important.)  Next, I encouraged both children to apologize, and in the end, they were often friends again.  –And until I did this?  The battle usually continued.

Very few students were actually bullies–or racists or bigots: whatever you want to call them.  These children were often kids who had been bullied or seen bullying themselves; or they had not been taught the social limits to their behavior.

But I am digressing.  I guess by now you’ve figured out that I’m talking indirectly about the current political and societal situation (and even, comments on the internet.)

While I see some anger as valid, I see a lot of denigration happening; denigration that is not based on truth, on either side, and on some sides more than others.  I guess I’m a little bit afraid that as whole society is heading way too far up anger mountain!  Really, mostly, I am just observing.  I am trying not to judge.

I see problems on both sides of the political spectrum.  I do sometimes see the liberal media twisting leaders’ statements to sensationalize what’s happening.  (What, does this increase ratings?)  On the opposite side, I do see leaders using denigration, or what I used to call “put downs,” to their advantage.  (If I put someone down, others will follow.)  And all this rage and anger that this generates will give me the leverage to get what I want done and weaken my opponents– whether either side is consciously aware of this dynamic or not.)

By the way, in my classroom, I had a rule, “No putdowns!”

Truly, some institutions are stuck, and they do need change.  But doing it this way?  Hmm….

What I see mostly that concerns me is that much of what is said and done is not based on the, or my, personal truth.

I sit back and I wonder, don’t people know that much of this “mud slinging” is wrong?  Why aren’t they acting more intelligently?  Why aren’t they acting more wisely?  Why aren’t they discussing things more intelligently, calmly, positively: just like I taught the children who had a difficulty in the sandbox.  (Then I remember, I actually only learned many of these  problem solving techniques about half way through my teaching career, from a program we used called Second Step and another teacher.  And the Timmreck information, I learned in my late 20’s.  Thank you Second Step, Laura W., and thank you Jann and Joe.)

Well, I guess I am lucky in that I had the education and teachers that I did.  I wish that Psychology and Sociology, and positive parenting and discipline strategies, and yes the List and Mind Frames, were all taught more in schools, and not just left to the educational elite: people who can afford to send their children to college and university, say, to learn the “humanities.”

Because I often think that it’s the uneducated that take out a gun and want to shoot their neighbor, over say a fence dispute.  They don’t take the time to stop themselves, and to not go up that anger mountain.

Humanities: yup, I think we all need to learn to be more human.  To be better at taking care of each other, and our society: and to try the best we can to be more positive, in everything we do and say, so that positivity returns to each one of us in like kind, and thus to our society as a whole.

Let’s crawl back off anger mountain and try to talk more positively, calmly and intelligently to each other. Too, let’s look at the whole picture, and not just one or two of the parts.  And please don’t get angry with me, for trying to talk about politics or what we say on the internet: let’s stay calm, and use positive, respectful words: because it all comes back to each and every one of us in the end, because it really is—our very own society—that we’re talking about.

Thanks for listening.

Marnie Hancock, B. Ed & List Teacher, @ www.therealitydynamicslist.com

 

Anti-Bullying Programs In Schools: A 25 Year Teacher’s Perspective, Conclusion, Peer Mediation, Part 4

Part 4.  Peer Mediation: The Anti-Bullying Strategy of the Future

Laureen Harper, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s wife, recently named Peer Mediation as the Canadian Anti-Bullying Strategy of the future.  She presented this strategy after an inquiry into preventing Bullying and Cyber Bullying in Canada, and thus preventing teen suicides.

So, Just what is Peer Mediation?

Just what is Peer Mediation, and how does it work?  I first encountered Peer Mediation about six years ago, when I was a Teacher On Call in the first District I ever worked for.  One lunch hour, I was teaching at the same school of the very first Principal to implement an Anti-Bullying Program in my District, 25 years ago.  You will remember from Article 1, 25 years ago I went to this Principal to get the first Anti-Bullying Program, with the goal to eliminate Bullying in my classroom.  Unfortunately, my school and many others did not choose to implement this program.  But this particular Principal never stopped in his drive to eliminate Bullying.  Not only was he the first Principal to implement Anti-Bullying in our school district, but he was also one of the first Principals to implement Peer Mediation.

Arriving at his school at lunch hour, unbeknownst to him, I saw how his Peer Mediation program worked first hand.  I arrived when his students were still outside, playing out on the playground.  (You will remember in Article 1 that the playground is often where Bullying occurs.)

As I approached the school’s entrance, I noticed two or three students who were wearing brightly colored blue and black jackets.  I realized later that this identified them as the Peer Mediators, and the Problem Solvers.  I remember being simply amazed when I observed two other younger children run up to them, very agitated and upset.  When these children found their Peer Mediators, they quickly told them about a problem they’d had with another student, who had been Bullying them on the playground.

To my amazement, these mediators listened calmly and carefully, valuing and even clarifying what the children said.  I was astonished at their level of maturity and skill, with being so young.  (I think these children were in about Grade 5.  Grades 5-7 intermediate students are the ones chosen to be Peer Mediators.)

Resized 3 Responsible Children

Coming out of nowhere, I suddenly noticed the school Principal, and he stood quietly watching in the background.  The mediators soon noticed him too, and they turned and began to tell him about what had happened.  He stopped them, gave them a quick word of encouragement, and said, “You know what to do!  Go on, go and find him!”  So off they went, with renewed confidence and ease, to find the “Bully,” and then to problem solve with all of the children involved.  All in a quick instant, a problem that at 1:00 pm would have taken the classroom teacher 10-15 minutes of teaching time to solve, had already been to be taken care of.

Problem Solving Strategies, a Part of Peer Mediation

I don’t know what exactly happened next, because I had to sign in for work.  But I believe that these children had already been trained in many of the Problem Solving Strategies that I discussed in Part Three of this Article.  Summarized here, they are: respectfully discussing feelings and reactions; calmly getting to the truth of what happened; gently encouraging empathy; and finally sharing appropriate apologies.

Rules, Consequences and Rewards Too!

I am fairly sure that this school would also have had a well-established set of Rules, Consequences and Rewards, which the Peer Mediators and the whole school would have known about.  Ultimately, if the incident were really serious and frequent, I’m sure the Principal himself would have been talking with the child who had Bullied, and if necessary, beyond an apology, more serious consequences would have been applied.

Add Peer Modeling and Peer Mentoring

Subtly, during Peer Mediation, the powerful tools of Peer Modeling and Peer Mentoring are also at work.  In Part 2 of this Article, I described the wonderful work of another very special School Professional, a School Counselor at the great school I was working at this Spring.  This Counselor had amazing successes when through the School’s Student Council he implemented the Anti-Bullying Program of Pink Shirt Day.  His success rate implementing Student’s Council Peer Modeling and Peer Mentoring was simply amazing.  I remember I was astonished that on Monday’s Pink Shirt Day everyone in my classroom arrived wearing pink; and almost every one of my students wore a Pink T-Shirt.

A School Counselor on Peer Mediation

Speaking about this Counselor, just before I left this placement, I spoke briefly with him about Peer Mediation.  I asked him if he’d heard about Peer Mediation before, and he said he had.  He told me that there was a school in his district using Peer Mediation, and it was working very well for that school.  We talked about the upcoming layoffs of Special Education Assistants at his school, who were the lunch and recess time supervisors there.  We concluded that his school would benefit greatly from implementing a Peer Mediation Program, and he was very interested in facilitating this.

Resized Two Boys With Briefcases

Sadly, I heard that this coming year, due to even more cutbacks in our government’s education funding, this Counselor’s position had been completely eliminated.  –Ah..; and I thought it was Bullying we were trying to eliminate?  Need I say more?  Sigh.  Well, yes, I think I do.

Marnie’s Rant, On Government Cutbacks

This spring, at the wonderful school I taught at, I attended numerous recess and lunch hour meetings about how the School and the District were going to implement this new round of government cutbacks.  I was very sadly reminded of the last years of my on-contract teaching days.

In the late 90’s, we as teachers were finally able to celebrate having obtained Class Size, Class Composition and Preparation Time language in our Teacher contracts.  The next year though, suddenly the Provincial Government came in and completely stripped our contracts of this language and more.  Suddenly, we felt that the much more stable and positive learning environment that we’d achieved, for both ourselves and our students, had been lost.

As long as I can remember, government funding to School Districts has been decreasing almost every year.  In 1985, when I first started teaching French Immersion Kindergarten, I actually had an assistant who made teaching materials for me, several hours a week.  That was so great, because back then, there were no French materials to buy.  (Teachers, by the way, buy most of their own resources.)  But the next year, and almost every other year afterward, reductions in support time of various kinds occurred.  Over the years, Resources Teachers such as this wonderful Counselor, had their time reduced and reduced, because they did not enroll a classroom, and they were not deemed essential.

I remember the final year of my on-contract teaching days, during the 1999/2000 school year, when my Learning Resource Teacher announced that she was not going to be coming to my classroom anymore.  No more time for her to take that small group of children who needed extra help to learn to read and write.  (Forget about time for Math: that had been gone a long time ago.)  No more time for her to assess their needs, and then to work with myself and parents to design a program that would work for them.  No more time for her to model for me new and old teaching strategies, and to help me become a better teacher: because usually Resource Teachers are our Master Teachers, and their input is highly valuable.

To clarify, because Resource Teachers do not enroll a classroom, they are not encumbered by the need to do report cards five times a year, nor for organizing programming for 25-30 children.  They have time to research and develop new programs.  Too, they have often been very successful teachers, who have taught for a long time, and then who have gone back to university to get a Master’s Degree in Special Education.  Without them, then, what does this mean, for the quality of our children’s education?  They are our mentors: and suddenly they were gone.

A Stressful Learning Environment

Too, when cutbacks are very large, such as they were this last year, District strategies are to lay off everyone first, and then they reoffer employees their jobs, but for a lesser amount of time.  Some classroom teachers have to move to another school; and Principals and staff are left with very difficult decisions to make.  Until this has been decided, however, many meetings go on at school, at recess and lunch.  As a result, much stress occurs amongst Administrators, Teachers and Resource Staff; and yet they must all continue running their schools and their classrooms.  Ultimately, I believe the students suffer from this stress also.

The Parent View

While all parents see is strikes, the need to get babysitting for their children, and a lack of report cards or after school sports, there is truly much more going on within a school that counts.  I mean, aren’t we really there too teach?  Aren’t our children really there to learn?  Where is that in this picture?

When teachers consider job action, there is really much more at stake than an after school Volleyball game.    Can your child read?  Can your child write?  Can your child perform Math activities, at their grade level or more?  Why is this no longer a concern?

Also, Is Your Child Happy at School, or is He or She being Bullied?

And, for the purposes of this Article, is your child happy at school?  Is your child well adjusted?

Or, even more specifically, at school, is your child being Bullied?

Resized Playground Scene

One day, because of government cutbacks, are you going to find out that your child was Bullied, to the point of committing suicide?  And all because of a government that swore to eliminate Bullying, eliminated Counselling positions instead?  Because it is a School Counsellor who will help a child who seems unhappy.  It is a School Counsellor, who given the time, will find out what is going on, and work with parents, teachers and students to fix the problem.  It is a School Counsellor who will model compassion and concern, and find and implement the programs that will help to eliminate Bullying in our schools.

I’ll never forget the year too, again during the 1999/2000 school year, when the School Counsellor at my school told me, “I don’t have time to work with your kids Marnie.  Just put in the referral, and I’ll refer them out to another service.”  She, too, even back then, was spread between three schools.

When Teachers Strike

I know, when teachers strike, it is important programs like Anti-Bullying Programs, and important Resource Teachers such as the School Counselor and Learning Resource Teachers, and ultimately the quality of our education system as a whole, that teachers are fighting for.

By Sept. of this year, when I had posted Part 1 of my Anti-Bullying Article, I tried to contact the School Counselor that I had been writing about.   When he didn’t respond right away, I found out that that he had gone from working almost full-time at this wonderful school, to completely losing his position, to then working at this school part-time; but then he had been placed at two other schools as well.  When I sent Part 1 of this Article to him, he told me he read my article in his car, parked and taking a short break from driving between schools.  Need I ask, how effective is this?

This, I believe, is the real issue.  There is a need in our society for Anti-Bullying Programs and Special Education Resource Teachers, such as this Counsellor and my former Learning Assistance Teacher.  Yet there is simply no funding for it: and what there is, continually gets eroded.

Anti-Bullying is Moral Issue

I would like to leave some final thoughts about Anti-Bullying with the same Principal who first implemented the two very powerful Anti-Bullying Programs in my District; the first Anti-Bullying Program, “Bully Beware,” and then later, Peer Mediation.  As you will remember from Part #3, I had recently met with him at his new school district, where he was made Director of Instruction, when I went to pick up an old T4 for my records.

During our conversation, while I had heard that he was no longer involved in any type of Anti-Bullying work, he told me that he had actually not abandoned this pursuit at all.  Several years ago, he became involved in a Nation-Wide Campaign to Eliminate Bulling.  He travelled all across Canada, coordinating with the RCMP and several other key educators, teaching about what Bullying was and how to eliminate it.

He also stated that in his opinion, dealing effectively with Bullying was really a moral issue.  What he meant by this, initially I wasn’t sure.  Just like when I first met him 25 years ago, I was slightly taken aback by his unique and innovative position.  –He was always so ahead of the game.

What Did He Mean?

Upon reflection, I believe this is what he meant.  Teaching tolerance and respect is essentially, teaching morality.  For example, by addressing bullying, you are actually teaching the moral and golden rule of, “Do unto other as you would have them do unto you.”

Also, I think he means that as bystanders, we all have a moral obligation, or a responsibility, to stop any type of Bullying:  whether we are teachers, principals, parents or government leaders alike.

During our conversation, he also shared that sometimes it is not easy to stand up for someone who is being Bullied.  Ultimately, he was implying that this takes courage.

Certainly implementing the new programs such as those mentioned above takes courage.  By doing so, the people involved are taking a stand against Bullying.  Certainly this principal and the teachers, administration and support staff at the wonderful school that I recently taught at, demonstrated all of these qualities; and many, many more.  I believe that we need to ask our government leaders to actually show more courage, and now to actually fund the programs that they endorse.

It’s Not Just Children Who Bully

Returning to what this Principal shared, lastly, he added that it’s not just children who Bully.  I was so surprised to hear this from a fellow colleague: but I knew it was true.  Not every school I had worked at had been as positive, forward thinking, and as inclusive as the one I taught at this spring.

At some schools, Principals simply impose their policies, rarely valuing teacher, parent and staff input.  Also, some parents can Bully school staff, if there was the slightest hint that their child is misbehaving.  Too, for whatever reason, teachers have long been the target of what seems to be unjustified Bullying by certain media and governmental groups.  Not that all teachers are completely innocent themselves!  I have sometimes for example observed teachers let Bullying comments by students go unchallenged.  Unfortunately, this allows Bullying to thrive, and this puts students at risk.

Eliminating Bullying Takes Moral Courage

It takes strong and courageous people like this Counselor and this Principal, however, to step up and make all of these Anti-Bullying strategies successful.   I only hope that those in charge, especially government leaders, begin to see how even the slightest cutbacks in education are actually eroding the success of not only our education system, but Anti-Bullying Programs today.

Ultimately, in my opinion, if we want our youth not to Bully, and we want to prevent Teen Suicides, then we must have the courage to do everything within our power to achieve this.  We must model positive, respectful, and inclusive behaviors ourselves.  This does not mean that we must be “mamby pamby.”  It is us, the adults, who are in charge!  We must remember this.  When necessary, we must be tough, “courageous,” strong, implementing consequences when necessary, and doing everything we can to uphold the values—and morals—that we want in our society.  Lastly, we must be educated.  Ultimately, we must encourage our government to spend money on developing and providing many more Anti-Bullying Resource Materials, and we must encourage them to fund Resource Teacher and Counsellor Teaching times.

Building a Strong, Safe Anti-Bullying Community

I am so grateful for having had the opportunity to work at such a stellar school this year, and for finally being able to see my desire to have effective Anti-Bullying Strategies implemented in Lower Mainland Schools.  I am so grateful for the strong leaders I have met along the way: those who helped me to develop my own Anti-Bullying strategies in my own classroom, and those who developed these programs on a school-wide level: this school’s Counselor, the special Principals; and the Learning Resource and classroom Teachers, who all taught me so much.

Ultimately, building a safe, strong Anti-Bullying Community for our youth takes time, education, special strategies, encouragement, moral courage, innovation, committment, funding, and very special, skilled, kind and courageous people like those described above.

Also, I do not believe that these strategies are just for teachers alone.  Parents and government members all need to be aware of and utilize these Anti-Bullying strategies, so that we all can bring them to bear on any type of Bullying: be it cyber, emotional or physical.

If we do this, I believe we will develop much stronger, healthier, safer and happier children.  Our children will know how to make good, healthy decisions; and as a result of our elimination of bullying, and they will not even get close to bullying others, or ever considering suicide themselves.

Peer Mediation Boys

Thank you for listening.  Here are the Website links for the Anti-Bullying Programs I have mentioned in this article.

http://www.erasebullying.ca/

http://www.bullybeware.com/

www.thesecondstep.org

For Discipline with Dignity, http://www.educationworld.com/a_admin/admin/admin534.shtml

http://k6educators.about.com/od/classroommanagement/a/communitycircs.htm

http://www.mslbd.org/Logical_Consequences_FDC3B.pdf

http://www.studygs.net/peermed.htm

By Marnie Hancock, B.Ed., Author, & List Trainer.

www.therealitydynamicslist.com

Marnie Hancock is available to speak to individuals and groups upon request.  If you would like to learn more about The List, AKA Reality Dynamics, the ultimate Anti-Bullying tool, please visit the website above.  If you would like to contact Marnie personally, please write to marnie@therealitydynamicslist.com.

Anti-Bullying Programs In Schools: A 25 Year Teacher’s Perspective, Part 2

Part 2.  Anti-Bullying Programs Today

A Four-Part Article, By Marnie Hancock, B.Ed, Author, Teacher, Consultant

Introduction:

In my first article, I shared my 25 year history with Anti-Bullying Programs.  I shared how initially Anti-Bullying Programs were not very popular, because of thier inherant difficulties.  In Part 2 of this article, I discuss Anti-Bullying Programs today, from the context of recently teaching at a stellar Lower Mainland school.  Much has changed, especially at this school.  Here, modern Anti-Bullying Programs have both evolved and thrived.

Pink Shirt Day & My First Staff Meeting

Return now to present day, and the wonderful, brilliant school where I was teaching this Spring.  From my first article, you will know that at my first Staff Meeting here I was secretly and absolutely thrilled, as I learned that Anti-Bullying was made a priority.  When this stellar school’s Counselor got up to speak about Anti-Bullying Activities, I listened with surprise and sharp, keen interest.

The School Counselor’s Anti-Bullying Program this year was going to include all of the school’s students preferably wearing a Pink T-Shirt, on National Anti-Bullying Day.  The Student’s Council was also going to do some fun and creative activities in the afternoon, running stations such as face painting for the younger students.   At first, I didn’t really understand how this would relate to Anti-Bullying; but I was soon to find out.

At this staff meeting, the Counselor and fellow Resource Teacher also talked about some of the concerns inherent to the Anti-Bullying Program.  (What?  Déjà vu?)  First of all, they were concerned that some of the children, especially the boys, would be teased (i.e. Emotionally Bullied) for wearing a Pink T-Shirt.  –I was really impressed at this level of sensitivity, given to an Emotional Bullying scenario.  As I mentioned before, previously I had seen the emotional needs of students simply brushed off by the adults around them.

Then the Counselor and his committee added that while they wanted to encourage the children to wear a Pink T-Shirt, they decided not to make this mandatory—wearing a pink bracelet or anything else pink would do.   (What?  Even more sensitivity?)

Increased Bullying on Anti-Bullying Day

Next, the Counselor mentioned his third concern.  The Counselor mentioned that they were not going to have the usual “Walk for Bullying” activity, because they had found that when they held this event, incidences of bullying actually increased!  (He added that no one really knew why, but this was the case.)

What?!  Déjà vu again!  I thought, well, here I am, 25 years later, listening to the same piece of information, and I believe I know exactly why this happens!   I remember thinking, I need to talk with this Counselor privately, and to talk with him about why this is.  Being such a sensitive person, and a counselor with psychology training, I thought maybe I had finally found someone within the system who would understand.  –But of course, with teaching being such a busy profession, and with the counselor working in a completely different wing, I never got the chance.  This article is in part my way of sharing this reason with this amazing Counselor and school.

Modeling and Peer Mentoring

Anti-Bullying Week fast approached, and the way it was orchestrated, I was really, really impressed.  The Friday before Pink Shirt Day, several Student Council members arrived in our classroom, all ready to talk about the upcoming activities.  They arrived as a great mix of boys and girls, and they were all wearing Pink T-Shirts.  (Silently I was thinking to myself, what great modeling!)  Modeling, by the way, is one of simplest and yet most effective teaching and Anti-Bullying strategies available to us today.  Another term for modeling, at least in this context, is Peer Mentoring.  I will explain and describe this term further below.

The Student’s Council members next shared the reasons why they were wearing their Pink T-Shirts.  I had not heard this story before, but several years ago, a young man on the East Coast of Canada had been bullied at school for wearing a Pink T-Shirt, and he had eventually committed suicide over the incident.

When the Student’s Council delegates spoke, I could see the young students listening attentively to their peers.  I was silently amazed, as I watched all of my students easily empathize with the story.  There were no silly, disrespectful reactions; and the students all immediately agreed to wear a Pink T-Shirt on Anti-Bullying Day.  The younger students had heard about it from their “cool” peers.  They had seen caring and concern for the young boy modeled; and they were ready and “dialed in.”  This effectively is how Modeling and Peer Mentoring works.  Research shows that young children are much more likely to listen to their peers, about any subject, rather than listening to an adult.  However, you can still note from above that much adult knowledge and direction is needed behind the scenes to effectively deliver these components of an Anti-Bullying Program.

Now, looking a little deeper, I realize that the Student’s Council were not just modeling how to wear a Pink T-Shirt.  They were also modeling the values of tolerance, respect, inclusion, compassion and empathy.  All of these values are necessary to instill in children, when developing an Anti-Bullying Program.

Back, though, to Anti-Bullying Week.  Even  having seen how well the Pink Shirt Day message was delivered, I still really wasn’t ready for what happened on Monday morning.  When I opened my classroom door, to my complete shock and surprise, I was greeted by a sea of pink.  Pink jackets, pink backpacks, even pink shoes flooded my consciousness; and of course, there were many, many Pink T-Shirts.  On that Monday morning, almost every child in that classroom walked in the door wearing a Pink T-Shirt: and the very few that didn’t, arrived wearing something else that was pink, like a pink bracelet or pink socks.  The message about Anti-Bullying had been received: and I was completely flabbergasted.

Why, after 25 years of teaching, was I so surprised at this full class participation?  Well, in years past, on special days, I don’t think I’d ever seen 100 % participation.  –It could have even been Pink Lollypop Day!  “And even on a Monday?”  I asked myself!  Anyone who has ever taught Primary students knows that young students’ memories can often be fairly short.  Parents memories, too, can be a bit short, due to the distractions of a weekend.  I have to admit, my own memory could be a bit short, too, especially when I was busy teaching.  On that Monday, having forgotten to wear a Pink T-Shirt myself, last minute before I opened that door, and after seeing so many staff members wearing Pink T-Shirts, I quickly cut out a quick pink heart, and I attached it to my necklace and keychain.

With this 100% participation being so rare, I also began to reflect that many more key factors must be at work at this school, in order to make this event so successful.  I will share them with you in context, as I continue on.

Reduced Bullying During Anti-Bullying Week

Later that day, all the younger students had a wonderful time having their faces painted by the Students Council.  This time, on Anti-Bullying Day, no increase in Bullying took place.  To the school Counselor’s credit, he had effectively eliminated one of the principal difficulties with the Anti-Bullying Program: increased bullying, during Anti-Bullying Week.  I’m not really sure if anyone at that school, and even myself until I wrote this article, realized how truly amazing this was.

As you will remember, this increase in bullying was the main block the first Anti-Bullying Program being implemented at my earlier school, 25 years ago: and in one easy step, this Counselor and his Committee had simply eliminated it.  What I think happened, was that they took the emphasis on the negative aspects of bullying, just touched on them briefly, and then they changed the whole event into a much more positive, Peer Mentoring experience.  Bravo!  (This, by the way, is also the basics of how the List Program works.  You take a problem in your life, you write it down in a specific way, and then you rewrite the negative experience into a positive one.  This easy step effectively rewrites any limiting beliefs in your subconscious mind, changing negative realities into positive ones.  And, it works!)

More Amazement: An Assembly Extraordinaire!

Later that week, I continued to be astounded by the Anti-Bullying Program that this Counselor and his Student’s Council were able to present.  At the end of the week, the whole school attended a special Anti-Bullying Day Assembly.  There, the Student’s Council modeled and taught everything anyone ever needed to know about Anti-Bullying.  (More Peer Mentoring.) They modeled all the different Bullying scenarios, and then they modeled several effective strategies for their elimination.  I was silently amazed, as different members of the Student’s Council acted out specific Physical and Emotional Bullying examples.  After each example, they modeled the ways the students could help themselves or their peers to stop this Bullying.  The key defenses, repeated over and over, were to be assertive, to get away, and then to tell an adultAdvocacy for children who are being bullied was also modeled.  This was further termed, bystander intervention.

So, Did Anti-Bullying Week Stop Bullying At Our School?

Ultimately, the success of any program can be measured by whether or not the concepts have been transferred into every-day experience.  So, did Anti-Bullying Week stop Bullying at this school?  Well, to answer this question, I would have to say, “Yes,” and “No.”

Here is the “Yes” answer to this question.  At this school, there was always a sense of calm and maturity amongst the older, intermediate children, towards their younger student counterparts.

Were these results simply because of Anti-Bullying Week, however?  The answer to this question, I think, would have to be, “No.”

It Takes More Than One Special Week to Eliminate Bullying

I recently had the delight of speaking with the very first Principal to implement Anti-Bullying at my very first School District.  Just by chance, I was over at his School District’s Office, picking up a T-4 copy from my Teacher On Call work there.  I asked to speak with him, and he came down to talk to me immediately.  I reintroduced myself, reminding him of our past interactions.  I told him about the wonderful school I’d just been teaching at, and their many different Anti-Bullying activities.  Immediately he stated, it takes more than just Pink Shirt Day to eliminate bullying at a school.  I was initially a bit shocked by his statement, but I had to agree.  I will share with you more about our conversation, but first here are some examples of what I believe he meant.

Many Factors Implemented Over Time Contribute to Eliminating Bullying

As I mentioned earlier, there were many other positive mechanisms at work at this school, introduced behind the scenes and over time, which I think contributed to eliminating Bullying.

I experienced another special day over Easter, also implemented administered by the School Counselor and The Student’s Council.  A school-wide Easter Egg hunt was carried out, and the Student’s Council led the whole event, being especially attentive to their younger student’s.  Here I saw even more Peer Mentoring and Modeling, especially of the values of compassion, caring and responsibility.

In my classroom, too, every Friday was Buddy Day.  This was a day when a classroom of older students arrived in our room, and they helped us with theme-based lessons that both teachers designed just for Buddy Day.

I was surprised that in the four months that I taught at this school, I never saw an intermediate student at the office.  This in itself was a complete miracle.

The Office & Administration Contribute Greatly

Speaking about the office, here also was a key factor to the very smooth and positive functioning of this school.  The Principal and Vice-Principal were always right on top of everything that was happening at this school, but in a very friendly and positive way.  I have to say, too, that the secretaries at this school were simply amazing.  On my second day at this school, one of the secretaries caringly asked me how my day had been, and I was very grateful and surprised.  Her caring and compassion towards an unknown Teacher On Call was very unique.  Too, newsletters were a joint effort between the administration, staff and the secretaries, and newsletters to parents were always perfectly timed, friendly, and informative.  Also, there were many community events that families and staff could attend.  While Staff Meetings were many, I actually found that this was very beneficial for the effective running of this school.  The Principal and her Vice Principal always had an agenda; but input from the teachers and support staff was requested, valued and respected.  Special contributions and personal events in were often celebrated.  This positive and inclusive environment led to strong leadership amongst the teachers and other staff members.  Everyone had a different specialty; but teachers and support staff were all motivated and inspired, and they all worked very hard and well together as a team.

Effectively, I encountered these qualities and values everywhere I went at this school.  Arriving on my very first day, I was greeted by the Principal at the door.  She took the time to take me down to the classroom where I would be working the next day.  She warmly introduced me to the teacher I would soon be team teaching with.

Essentially, there was always a very positive, strong, nurturing, and caring community atmosphere at this school.  Subtly, too, this created great modeling for the children.

Over time, I realized I had arrived at a very special place.  Many schools spout policies of inclusion and mutual respect, but this can be difficult to achieve.  I would have to say that this school actually lived these policies, and I am so grateful that I was able to finally experience this, after 25 years of teaching.

Bullying can be prevented, when everyone involved is focused on everything that is bullying’s exact opposite; inclusion, nurturing and respect.

Article 3, In Two Weeks

In my next article, I discuss the Ministry of Education’s new program, E.R.A.S.E. Bullying (Expect Respect and A Safe Education.)  I also discuss the “No” answer to the question, “Did Anti-Bullying Week stop Bullying at this school?”  Despite the many Anti-Bullying successes at this marvelous school, I found that some bullying still occurred.  In Article #3, I will share many personal classroom management strategies that I believe contribute significantly to eliminating bullying.