Ideas for Anti-Bullying Week

 

Hello,

It’s November! And this month’s newsletter is dedicated to that November calendar event (the one that isn’t to do with mock exams and moustache growing) – Anti-Bullying Week (17th – 21st November).

Around 20% of callers to the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line are from the teaching profession. What’s more, bullyonline.org reveals that teachers are the majority group emailing their BullyOnline support network and as such the education sector “is proving to be the worst sector for this
behaviour.”

Although these statistics alone are concerning, it’s also worrying that it’s these same teachers, who may well be under considerable stress themselves, who also have responsibility for significant numbers of children, many of whom struggle with their own bullying issues. So how can “Let’s stop bullying for all” work in your school?

For victims of harassment or bullying in both the staffroom and the classroom, generations have maintained a “don’t tell” mentality which perpetuates cycles of bullying: tell someone in the hope of help and the bullies will get back at you in some way for “grassing”; don’t tell, struggle in silence and they’ll continue their quest to make
you miserable. Ultimately, whether you’re a teacher or a student affected by bullying, you really should speak to someone, even if it’s just to sound off about the situation. You should also gather as much evidence as you can to be able to demonstrate the extent of the problem, for when you are ready to make a formal complaint.

 

From the Annual Bullying Survey 2014, several key findings jump out in the context of schools:

  • 45% of young people experience bullying before the age of 18 (of course, for the most part over the ages of 4 to 18, these young people are in school with us, which means that almost half of the children we see day in, day out, are being bullied).
  • 39% have never told anybody that they are being bullied, which, in comparison to the above statistic, means that only a handful of victims ever share what is happening to them. For the rest the bullying goes unchallenged.
  • 51% were not satisfied with the bullying support they got from teachers.
  • 83% said bullying had a negative impact on their self-esteem.
  • 56% said bullying affected their studies.

Although all of these are of equal importance, the fact that over half of the victims of bullying felt that they weren’t getting enough support from teachers is truly significant. According to the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, all head teachers are legally responsible for preventing bullying amongst their pupils. With so
many respondents to the survey feeling unsupported, it seems that it’s up to staff to be asking questions of their school, as well as of their own personal practice:

  • What is our school doing to eradicate bullying?
  • How many (and even who) out of the staff know how to deal with bullying incidents?
  • Is a protocol and policy in response to bullying clearly defined and consistently enforced throughout daily practice in school?
  • What are the systems for gaining evidence, offering intervention and favourable solutions that assist the person being bullied but also offer remedial action to support any issues arising for the bully?
  • What is my role, as a teacher, in helping to improve my school’s policy on bullying: perhaps through more rigid implementation or requesting to be a part of a committee to review the policy, particularly if it’s not robust enough and does not offer standard procedures which staff, as well as students, can easily understand and feel supported by?
 

Whether you’re experiencing school bullying personally at a staff level or seeing it happen in your school between your students, a key question to ask yourself is about expectations. Are you (or your students) expected to cope with it or to deal with it?

Coping strategies are all well and good in the short term if they make getting through each day possible, but in the long term they do nothing to address the main issue. As such, incidents which are ‘coped with’ become almost acceptable, which racks up certain types of incident and methods of bullying to a level where they
are seen to be ‘tolerated’.

As schools we have (or should have) zero tolerance against all types of inequality, and bullying is an area where nothing short of zero tolerance is acceptable. It really is up to teachers and management to not only talk the talk about zero tolerance, but also walk the walk by challenging every incident and supporting
every victim to eradicate bullying.

 

And of course this spills into the staffroom too, where policy to support staff should be just as rigorous to create an in-school community where bullying, in any form, is not condoned. This includes not just inter-staffroom and line-management bullying, but also the hidden spectre of bullying from parents – as NASUWT revealed last year
that one in every three members of teaching staff have been affected by aggression from students’ parents or guardians.

Whilst school management, unions and the police routes of complaint are available to teaching staff who suffer in this way, many do not take these support routes because they fear retribution and embarrassment about being a victim of bullying as an adult, and may feel particularly vulnerable if
they perceive institutional bullying and a lack of support from their management team. See the end of this newsletter for some useful websites and organisations that may help, both in the coping and the dealing with bullying.

 

For individuals concerned, particularly staff in relation to issues they may be experiencing personally, Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl might be a useful resource, both for dealing with professional bullying and for using in class during Anti-Bullying Week. In his discussion of his experiences in the Holocaust, Frankl
identifies two major means for overcoming personal difficulty and not just being able to survive but also being able to thrive in the aftermath of the most terrible of situations:

  • Survivors were those who chose to give positive meaning to events, however terrible. Their mindset was that of “it’s not what happens but how you respond which counts.” Frankl identified that a positive, problem-solving mindset puts an individual in a
    better position to not only overcome negative events, but also to come through them positively, with an eye to a positive future. The contrast, which many of us already see in some individuals, is a mindset of low self-esteem and wounded acceptance that can lead to a ‘victim’ mindset which also, unfortunately, may continue into the future.
  • Frankl also felt that having a sense of purpose or a long-term goal of something to look forward to helps to minimise effects of short-term issues.

Both of these thoughts Frankl summarised with a quote which has a great bearing on both coping, and dealing with bullying:

“When we are no longer able to change a situation –

we are challenged to change ourselves.”

Viktor E. Frankl

As such, and particularly with the 83% of victims experiencing a negative impact on their self-esteem, it’s just as important that as teachers we not only support school policy and deal with the bullies, but that we also support the victims with other practicalities; keeping our students focused on their goals and what comes next, beyond the day-to-day which they are finding so tiresome. As well as supporting students to deal with issues of bullying, revisiting goals might be timely for
students, offering them the motivation to deal with it, as well as a means for coping with it. Such targeted, positive support to focus ahead could also go some way to reducing that 56% of students whose studies are affected by bullying.

Finally, on the topic of revisiting, whilst Movember might just be for the month, Anti-Bullying Week in November is more like a mock exam… it will come around again quicker than you think and the lessons learned from it need revising regularly, as discussion in tutor times, in assemblies or during dedicated PSHE lessons, so that the real learning and practice of dealing with bullying is a part of every school day.

That’s it from Unstoppable Teacher for this month – we’ll be back in December with a little seasonal support and an attitude of gratitude.

Be Unstoppable!

Kevin Mincher

 

Additional Materials

  • A full PDF download of Man’s Search for Meaning is currently available as a free educational resource at worldtracker.org.
  • The Council of Europe offer a hard-hitting Beat Bullying video on YouTube, with lots of statistics embedded into the film – a useful share for the classroom.
  • DVD resources for Anti-bullying Week for secondary and primary schools (cost £18 each, including UK postage and packing) are available from Actionwork info@actionwork.com or www.actionwork.com
  • TES Resources: Many teachers are already signed up to TES for subject-related ideas and resources or to follow professional advice, particularly about CPD. However, TES also run a comprehensive calendar where they post links to all resources relating to a current seasonal topic. So, check out their calendar in time for Anti-Bullying Week for
    links to a whole host of resources and ideas for working with the kids through the topic, including a permanently available animated quiz.
  • TES are currently offering a free Anti-bullying Week 2014 PowerPoint resource, created by the specialist trainers at Kids cape, ideal to run as an assembly or tutor time resource to introduce Anti-bullying Week in your school. There are also some new resources including SMART board resources – Getting on and Falling out – aimed at year 6 but may well be suitable for lower ability students in KS3 or 4.

Sources: UK Annual Bullying Survey 2014

 
 

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