Every school has a culture within it’s walls. Something that creates the character and the quality of life among the students and teachers. Each educator brings a part of who they are into their classroom and displays that through their organization, their teaching and learning habits, as well as their values and relationships. Students not only take in what the teachers offer, but also bring their own pieces of life that contribute to the character of their school.
In recent years, bullying has become a big part of many school cultures. Students and teachers alike have brought aggressive behavior that can cause harm or distress to others. Some may be the actual bullies while others take part by not helping those being bullied.
There are so many stories of bullying in schools and the huge impact it can have on our younger generation. I knew a very happy and outgoing young girl. She had a lot of friends in her early years of school, but as she got older, kids started bullying and teasing her. All of her friends from the past few years abandoned her because they didn’t want to be seen with her. An older boy started harassing her, calling her names, taking her things and spreading false rumors about her. He and his friends even beat her up on the school bus, but nothing was done about it. As time went by, some girls began acting like they were her friends in order to spread more made up rumors. People began telling her she was bad, ugly, and that she should kill herself. They followed her around and took inappropriate photos of her to send to the entire school. Her grades began dropping and her teachers spoke to her parents, telling them she was lazy and refused to participate in class, but they never mentioning the bullying.
This is all too common in our schools today. Children are being bullied while teachers and friends turn away. Those being bullied are more likely to drop out of school, suffer from anxiety and depression, or even attempt to take their own lives, especially when those around them refuse to stand up with them against the bullying.
This has to change! But how do we change this? How do we begin to build a culture within our schools that promotes kindness and empathy rather than aggression and bullying?
We can start by creating and encouraging positive relationships while forming and supporting negative attitudes toward inappropriate behavior, such as bullying. Teachers and other school personnel need to model empathy, caring and other positive behaviors toward students, teachers and parents.
To cultivate a wide spread attitude against bullying, teachers, parents and other students need to take the reports of any bullying seriously and intervene consistently. Too many have ignored or minimized these incidents and left children to fight for themselves or to seek comfort in addiction or suicide.
As adults begin to stand up and change their own behavior towards bullying, they open up the opportunity to promote knowledge and awareness, and encourage others to stand along side them.
Adult behavior is crucial. A foundation for a healthy school climate relies on adults refraining from bullying students and other adults at school, while standing up for those that are experiencing aggressive treatment from others.
Teachers and parents need to be aware of and use teachable moments to discuss bullying and other negative behaviors that effect their student’s life at school. Our students need to learn that things such as bullying, power struggles and social ostracism are a part of their world and it is up to them to change it.
This lesson can show our kids we have the confidence in them, as they grow up, to not only change their school culture, but to change the world.