Sunday 26 May 2013

A Hard Look at Bullying...

Bully by trix0r, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  trix0r 

The following TED Talk is without doubt one of the best statements about bullying that I have come across. It made me think about how we define bullying at Glendale Sciences and Technology School...

What is bullying? Is it in the eye of the beholder? Perhaps it is. If one feels bullied, are they actually being bullied? Teachers and school administrators struggle with the question. Is there a delineation between bullying and plain old conflict? Are we using the word "bully" in a somewhat haphazard way? At Glendale Sciences and Technology School we're reflecting on these questions.

Shane Koyczan paints a picture of bullying that is pretty clear. He describes how the effects haunt those of us who have been victimized for years, and how perhaps we can overcome the effects of bullying, however difficult, over those years... but how we define bullying is so important if we're to effectively deal with the problem.

At our school defining bullying has become an inquiry process. We ask three important questions when investigating reports of bullying:
  • Was it an act of aggression or exclusion?
  • Was it a premeditated act of aggression or exclusion?
  • Has the premeditated act of aggression or exclusion sustained beyond one incident?
We have determined that if the answer to all three questions is"yes," then we can confidently say that we're dealing with an act of bullying.

We have learned that this is a hard determination to make when emotions are running high and people's feelings have been hurt. Whether in a case of less complicated conflict, or an authentic case of bullying as defined, few have the ability to be completely objective about their negative interactions with others... the bullies, the victims or simply two or more people in conflict. Heightened emotions and hurt feelings are common in most forms of aggression, exclusion, conflict and controversy... we are passionate and emotional beings.

We have also learned over time that behind every bully is a story that needs to be learned if we have any chance at all of helping that person overcome the tendency to bully others. Almost, if not always, behind every bully there was first a victim. Hurt people, hurt people.
“Hurt people hurt people. We are not being judgmental by separating ourselves from such people. But we should do so with compassion. Compassion is defined as a "keen awareness of the suffering of another coupled with a desire to see it relieved." People hurt others as a result of their own inner strife and pain. Avoid the reactive response of believing they are bad; they already think so and are acting that way. They aren't bad; they are damaged and they deserve compassion. Note that compassion is an internal process, an understanding of the painful and troubled road trod by another. It is not trying to change or fix that person.” Will Bowen, Complaint Free Relationships: Transforming Your Life One Relationship at a Time
No. We won't try to fix anyone... but we will try to help them by being empathetic to the stories behind their stories helping us accept them as they are; hurting people who need to feel appreciated for the good things they bring to potential relationships. When we deal with the reasons bullies do what they do we objectify them so we can see past their negative actions and perceive the person they perhaps truly are, or at least the potentially good things they have to share with us.

We're not in the punishment business; we're in the problem solving business. Behind every bully there is a lagging skill or unresolved problem that needs to be addressed if things are going to change for them. At Glendale School, we make investigating these lagging skills and unresolved problems our business so we can help bullies become the interesting and relevant people we believe they really are.

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