On Friday, 15 March, the College acknowledged the National Day of Action Against Bullying. In the Junior School, our focus remains on identifying the differences between rude, mean and bullying, alongside equipping our students with the skills to respond to such behaviours appropriately. This is covered in weekly lessons of the Pastoral Care program for every year level at the beginning of each year. In response to this national day, our Junior School students made posters to explain the differences between these three behaviours.
There are few types of behaviour that are more disturbing than bullying. However, the term “bullying” is often misused, and it is not uncommon to see the word “bullying” used inappropriately or out of context. Within the school setting, there is a need to draw a distinction between behaviour that is rude, behaviour that is mean and behaviour that is characteristic of bullying.
Rude = inadvertently saying or doing something that hurts someone else.
Rude behaviour may look like something along the lines of poking your tongue out, jumping ahead in the line, bragging about achieving a higher grade than someone else, showing off, or maybe even throwing a handful of crushed up leaves in someone’s face. On their own, any of these behaviours could appear as elements of bullying, but when looked at in context, incidents of rude behaviour are usually spontaneous, unplanned inconsideration, based on thoughtlessness, poor manners or self-absorption. These behaviours are not meant to hurt someone.
Mean = purposefully saying or doing something to hurt someone once.
The main difference between “rude” and “mean” behaviour has to do with intentions. While rude behaviour is often unintentional, mean behaviour aims to hurt or denigrate someone else. Children are mean to each other when they criticise clothing, appearance, intelligence, social status, or anything else that they can find to disparage. Words spoken in anger can also fall under this category. Often, mean behaviour in children is motivated by anger and/or the misguided goal of making themselves look better in comparison to the person they are putting down. Commonly, mean behaviour in children sounds like:
Make no mistake, mean behaviours can wound deeply and it is important that children are kept accountable for being mean. However, mean behaviour is different to bullying in important ways that should be understood and differentiated between before children are labelled as bullies.
Bullying = intentionally aggressive behaviour, repeated over time, that involves an imbalance of power.
Experts agree that bullying entails three elements: an intent to harm, a power imbalance and repeated acts of aggressive behaviour. Children who bully do or say something hurtful to others and keep doing it, with no sense of regret or remorse, even when the targets of the bullying show or express their hurt or tell the aggressor to stop.
Bullying can be physical, verbal, relational or carried out via technology:
Through media and social media platforms, our awareness of bullying in both schools and society in general has increased and incidents of “bullying”, and the reporting of these, have become more prevalent than ever before. Australians have paid attention to the issue of bullying and around the country, millions of children have been given a voice through anti-bullying programs, anti-bullying policies and anti-bullying campaigns. Workplaces have bullying and harassment policies and governments have passed legislation to prevent bullying. These are significant achievements.
However, it is very important that as teachers and parents, we are able to distinguish between rude, mean and bullying behaviour so we know what to pay attention to and when to intervene. It is easy to jump to the conclusion that a child is being bullied when they come home from school upset about events that have occurred during the day. But it is important that we do not label incidents as bullying if, in fact, they are not. This not only affects the reputation of the child who is being labelled as the bully but can also create a victim mentality in the child being “bullied”.
When responding to unwanted behaviour, whether it be classified as rude, mean or bullying, it is important that our students know how to respond appropriately. In the Junior School, we teach children to use the High Five strategy. This empowers children to become active in preventing the problem from continuing, rather than passively allowing the behaviour to occur through inaction. The steps to this strategy are as follows:
As children learn to develop the social skills required to interact appropriately with their peers, there will be times in every child’s social development when they exhibit rude or mean behaviours towards other children. However, there are generally two sides to every story. When issues arise, they are investigated fully, consequences are applied if necessary and records of behaviour are kept. If you are concerned about an incident that has occurred during your child’s school day, refer to the descriptors of rude, mean and bullying behaviours above and have a conversation with your child surround the strategies they have used to put a stop to the behaviour. This will help you to support your child in managing a range of behaviours that they will encounter throughout their childhood. If you are still concerned, please contact your child’s teacher who will be more than willing to discuss any concerns with you.
The College continues to use the ‘Stymie’ program, which allows children to anonymously make reports about themselves and/or other children who are experiencing bullying. Teachers spend time at the beginning of the school year, showing students in Years 4 - 6 how to use this program appropriately. When children enter a Stymie report, this is forwarded to relevant staff in the College who can then follow up on the issues raised. Children across the Junior School are encouraged to report incidents to their classroom teacher as the first port of call. Classroom teachers can then decide the appropriate course of action. In the case of more serious matters, Mr Steve Clacher (Deputy Head of Junior School: 4 - 6) or Miss Rebecca Taylor (Acting Deputy Head of Junior School: Prep - 3). The reporting process is critical in the eradication of bullying and it is through the above methods that we work with our students to do so.
Steve Clacher (Deputy Head of Junior School: 4 - 6)
Rebecca Taylor (Acting Deputy Head of Junior School: Prep - 3)