“Bullying and other violent acts are less likely to happen in a school that feels like a caring community, a place where children experience a sense of connection to one another and to adults, a place where they come to think in the plural and feel a sense of belonging.” Alfie Kohn
In Ontario this week has been designated as BullyingAwareness and Prevention Week. We talk a lot about the issue of bullying in schools and in our communities. Incidents like the the tragic suicide in British Columbia earlier this fall, and other cases that make it to the news media remind us that our schools, like our communities, can be both harsh and harmful places, where the darker tendencies of human nature play out in a myriad of small and big ways.
One thing that has changed a great deal since I was a student in school is the acknowledgement that being bullied is not a ‘rite of passage’ to be endured, but a condition that can be adressed at every level of society; schools included. That is why it is important for the adults to be visible, supportive and proactive in our schools. Our staff can be found moving around in hallways, the playground, the areas where children might make decisions that are harmful to others.
It is also why we are shifting towards using more web-based learning places, so we can model the ways that online communication tools can be used respectfully and appropriately for our students and help them develop the skills and dispositions to use these tools to collaborate and create community. It is important to note that all learning occurs in context, and that learning to be a good citizen online requires that one actually be online, with guidance and support, of course.
Lastly, and this speaks to both the quote and the video linked above. Programs and supervision are key pieces to making sure a school is safe; but the essential component of a safe school is the depth of inclusion and acceptance that exists in the classrooms and beyond. Schools where differences in learning styles, cultures and dispositions are seen as assets to be tapped, rather than challenges to be overcome, will ultimately be safer places for children because it is the imbalances in status and power that form the basis of most bullying incidents.
As we work to craft a school community that focuses deeply on inclusion, please continue to connect with us, let us know when there are concerns and work with us to make sure that our school is growing to reflect this goal in our structures and our actions.
Ultimately, as parents and educators, inclusion is what we want for all our children.