This week I was fortunate to be told that Lee Hirsch, director of the film Bully and The Bully Project social campaign was going to speak at St. Clement’s School as apart of their LincWell program. My motivation to go and see him speak was a combination of two interests; storytelling and education. I wanted to know how he was able to capture such a sensitive story with the permission of both the bullies, administration of the school and the victims. As an educator I wanted to see and hear his perspective of what the school and administration both thought they were doing to combat bullying and what they were actually accomplishing. I walked away from the evening with two take away thoughts.
- To have bullying both be addressed and stopped in schools, everyone needs to identify that they are not doing enough and that they can improve. This idea was shown in the movie in a variety of ways. The administration of the school being filmed, after watching the footage came out to say that they were not reaching their goals properly, but that they were looking for support to move forward. The parents of the child being bullied had to come out and say that they have a kid that needs their support to move forward and they may not know what that support looks like. The bystanders, both adults and students, needed to come forward and say that they don’t know how to support and help. And also the bully and parents of the bully needed to say that they were not doing enough to teach their child the appropriate way that they should treat and respect others. All of these people needed to take responsibility to create a community goal and work together. By blaming one group or individual a sense of community is not formed and the buy-in from all groups may not be enough to cause change.
- Bullies are intrinsic winners, and until bullying is seen as loosing there is no motivation to change. This is what I walked out of the building thinking of and reflected on the rainy walk home. Mr. Hirsch described that while he was in the school $15 was stolen from a teachers purse. Within the hour police and administration were pulling kids out of classrooms and interviewing them until the thief was found. This large scale show of strength would indicate to the students that stealing is not wanted here, you will not be a winner if you steal. However, in the same school when a student was hit and called names by a bully, a simple handshake in the hall was the conclusion. The administration did not put direct discipline on to the offender or make it very obvious that if you bully someone, you are loosing something. If this is not shown through a consequence to the bully they come out as the winner of many things; confidence, fear from others, a sense of leadership.
Mr. Hirsch did state that he is not the one with the answers, but just trying to get others to have a conversation about it. His site for Project Bully has many resources, both free and available online for parents, students and educators to go through. He did indicate that he feels there is no magic combination that will improve everyone and every school, but as a community you need to first identify it as a problem and create a solution that is unique and reflects the needs and wants of the community.
Looking ahead I know that I will be thinking of how to make my students feel acknowledged and give them the space to acknowledge the positive actions they are having on each other. Perhaps by giving them the time to show what it means to win in our community, those that are bullied or the bully may start to understand how to positively affect themselves and others. .