The Problem . . The Challenge . . The Tools . . The Solution . . !
The Problem: Bullying is a worldwide problem among school children as young as six years old. While children who bully others generally do not understand the impact of what they are doing, bullying has a well documented and very serious
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negative impact in both the short term and the long term on targeted children. Left unchecked, it
can also lead to very bad outcomes for unreformed bullying children. Bullying, then, is bad for everyone involved and everyone stands to
benefit if it can be prevented or reduced.
One reason bullying has been such a persistent problem is that there has not been agreement as to just what bullying is and therefore on how best to deal with it. Research now shows, however, that bullying is any behaviour that (i) is deliberate (i.e. targets a chosen person while leaving everyone else alone) and (ii) is repeated again and again in one form or another and (iii) is unwanted because it is "hurtful on the inside," i.e. upsetting,annoying, frustrating, embarrassing, humiliating, undermining, isolating or indeed all of the above. If all three aspects apply the behaviour is bullying. If all three are not present (i.e. if even one is missing) then the behaviour, while possibly unacceptable, is not bullying. Once they know this, even very young children can distinguish bullying from other kinds of behaviour.
The Challenge: Have you ever wished you could contribute to reducing bullying in your school? Well you can! Since bullying is secretive (and you don’t have an eye in the back of your head) and since it involves repetition (so you won’t always be there to see it) what you need to do is to empower your pupils to Recognise, Reject and Report bullying behaviour. Then, when a pupil tells you, you need to know what to do to resolve the situation and restore normal relations between those involved. Twin strategies, applied simultaneously, can deliver this amazing outcome of empowering your pupils and you to achieve resolution in almost all cases. The first strategy is to change the culture among the pupils so they come to regard bullying as unacceptable. This is done through an ongoing awareness-raising programme that works, like the most effective advertising campaigns, by repeating the anti-bullying message again and again in imaginative ways to change the way pupils think and ultimately to change the way they behave towards each other. Once-off interventions cannot achieve this. Only teachers, who are there all the time, can deliver this. The second strategy is to replace the biggest obstacle preventing pupils from reporting bullying to adults - that is punishment – with something that works better. Pupils don’t want to report bullying to adults if it gets a fellow pupil punished (or “in trouble”) or if it might lead to a backlash against either themselves or the bullied pupil. We know that this reluctance is what gives rise to the “no-ratting” culture because when the punishment is set aside and replaced with a better response the "no-ratting" culture disappears and pupils are empowered for the first time to report bullying, and to do so with no fear of a backlash for themselves or the bullied pupil. Then, at last, teachers are in a position to deal with the problem.
The Tools: We now offer teachers ready-made downloadable anti-bullying tools and an easy to follow school-wide framework in which to use them to deal effectively with the problem of bullying. To date, we have over 100 awareness-raising exercises for pupils from age 4 to age 18 available on this website. Use of these resources on an ongoing basis in schools, in the order we suggest, helps change the culture over time to one where bullying is considered unacceptable by the pupils, thereby significantly reducing the amount of bullying that occurs. In addition, we offer teachers the tools they need to respond to bullying situations when they arise, without punishment but with an alternative “Reform, not Blame” approach, that overcomes the “no-ratting” culture and delivers a “win-win” outcome that brings bullying situations to a peaceful end. We have been guided in this regard by the wisdom of such well-known writers and researchers in this field as Dr. Mona O'Moore (Ireland), Dr. Dan Olweus (Norway) and Dr. Ken Rigby (Australia). This development is ongoing.
The Solution: For a bullying situation to be successfully and permanently brought to an end the focus needs to be on (a) reforming the minority of pupils who bully others so they become like the majority who do not, (b) empowering observers of bullying behaviour to safely report bullying to adults (teachers) so this reforming process can be undertaken and (c) equipping the adults (teachers) to carry out both the empowering of the observers and the reforming of those bullying so the bullying stops without any backlash against anyone involved - a "win-win" outcome. Our Anti-Bullying Campaign programme delivers all that. This approach is fully compatible with the Irish "Anti-Bullying Procedures for Primary and Post Primary Schools,” 2013, and can constitute their practical implementation in schools to "resolve" bullying situations (delivering a "win-win" outcome), to "restore" relationships among those involved (to the way they were in the first instance) and to do so "without apportioning blame.” In the school where this programme began in 2003 (Coláiste Éanna, Ballyroan Rd., Dublin 16, Ireland) this led to a dramatic increase in the reporting of bullying behaviour followed by a significant reduction in both the number of pupils bullied and the intensity of bullying situations. It also enabled over 90% of bullying situations that occurred to be resolved. In the absence of punishment there was no negative backlash against either the targeted pupils, bullying pupils or observers. The programme continues to deliver this remarkable success rate.
To minimise the workload involved for teachers, the tools we offer are ready-made and generally self-explanatory - we have already done the preparation and planning for you so you can just take them and use them. They can be used in normal class time without adding to the weekly workload of busy teachers.
Our comprehensive Anti-Bullying Campaign programme, which is now available in Irish language (Gaeilge) as well as in English, can be complemented by an "anti-bullying week" or other occasional one-off anti-bullying events but these alone will not deliver the culture change needed. It can also be complemented by SPHE, CSPE and Religious Education programmes but these alone are insufficient since they have a broader remit limiting their time and they cannot deal effectively with bullying situations when they arise (the fact that bullying is still so widespread in schools is testament to this). Therefore, we encourage you and a group of your teacher colleagues to register above (click on the "Register" icon above and follow the instructions). Together, you can then implement a successful Anti-Bullying Campaign programme in your school along the lines we suggest without adding to your weekly workload. If you do, whether your school is in or outside Ireland you will indeed be doing something very worthwhile. If your school is in Ireland you will also be fulfilling the requirements of the “Anti-Bullying Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools, 2013” in the most efficient way possible. Regardless of this, however, we believe that no work teachers do is more important or should get higher priority than this. If you do this we think that when you see the outcome you will consider it well worth the effort. Your pupils certainly will.
Anti-Bullying Campaign logo by Eoin Kelleher, 4th year student, 2008. Note the faces in the clouds.