Bullying is a word we hear or see often in the media, in podcasts, on socials and in conversations. We are right to be concerned about bullying but the word is often used as an umbrella term to describe all kinds of mean behaviour – from a rude comment to not being invited to an event.
What is bullying?
Bullying is when all three of the following components are in place:
- Repeated actions or threats.
- A power imbalance.
- Intention to cause harm – physical or emotional
Bullying is not being called a name or having someone be rude to you as a one-off. These behaviours are not acceptable but they are not bullying. That is why we concentrate on the behaviours at GCC, rather than just incidents of bullying.
Being mean, physically or verbally abusive or deliberately hurtful is not acceptable behaviour regardless of whether it is part of a larger ‘bullying’ behaviour or a one-off.
National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence
On Friday 19 March we participated in the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence. This is something we have done for many years and it is a valuable part of building a safe culture at GCC.
Students and staff dressed or accessorised in orange (the recognised theme colour of the event), put up orange banners at the College entrance, decorated classrooms and adorned the campus with orange posters and bunting.
The outward symbolism is good but it is what happens in the classrooms that is really important. Our Anti-bullying Policy and our procedures to respond to bullying are in place all year and Friday’s event opens the discussion even further.
The National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence is when we run our annual survey with the students. This not only allows us to ‘take the temperature’ of how we are doing but overtly invites students to express themselves, their feelings and concerns. Some of the questions include:
- Do you feel safe at school?
- Please describe any incidents of physical bullying or persistent name-calling and verbal bullying over the last month?
- Where do you feel the most unsafe at school?
- Any other information the students may want to give related to making the College a “bullying free zone”
We value our students and understand how vital it is that they have a ‘voice’ that is heard and acted upon.
What can you do at home?
If your primary-aged child tells you they are being bullied, ask them questions to find out more. This not only validates the child’s concerns but shows that you are always there to listen. If it does seem like your child is being treated badly by a particular group or individual, set up a time to talk to the teacher about it. You may be surprised to learn that he or she has already noticed the behaviour and taken steps to deal with it.
Of course, it is just as important to listen to your secondary-aged child about concerning incidents but sometimes they can be less likely to open up so we have an anonymous online reporting form on Gateway for students to use. Students are also encouraged to talk to their teachers, Year Level Coordinator or one of the College Pastors at any time if they feel bullied or if others are causing them harm.
Are you raising a bully?
Back in March 2018, I wrote ‘Four ways to raise a bully’. It was a tongue-in-cheek title designed to raise awareness of how bullies are created. Bullying is a learned behaviour and it is important that we, as parents, don’t unwillingly contribute to our children developing bullying behaviours. It was alarming to note that many of the behaviours some consider normal like encouraging ruthless competition, can turn our child into a bully.
The reality is that we are all flawed people and sometimes students (and adults) may not even perceive their behaviour as bullying. That is why it is important to raise awareness of what bullying is and address all unacceptable behaviour even when it falls outside the usual definition of bullying.
At Glasshouse Christian College, we use a multifaceted approach to maintaining a safe and nurturing campus and have an advantage over many other schools. Anti Bullying programs work best when character and values are incorporated into the curriculum and that is something that is fundamental to GCC.
Report the problem
Sometimes students feel that reporting the situation will just make things worse but this is not borne out by the data which shows the success rate of adult intervention at the College is very high. It can be scary to report problems but it is a risk worth taking. Even just talking the problem through with a teacher, YLC, Pastor or even Head of School can be extremely helpful.
Please don’t suffer in silence. We would like to help.
Core values are the key
Embracing our core values of Godliness, Respect, Excellence, Attitude and Teachability is a great (wordplay intended) way of dealing with and responding to all behaviour, including those that may lead to bullying. As a College, we are dedicated to continually creating a positive learning environment where students care for each other and where unkindness in all of its forms is not tolerated.
Mike Curtis, Principal