Bullying and cyber bullying, self-esteem and resilience, mental health and well-being are all hugely important issues that most parents worry about at one time or another. For this weeks’ blog I spoke to Clare Connor who teaches Grade 5 and is responsible for Student Engagement and Wellbeing at Kew Primary about how the school responds to some of these very difficult issues.
Jacqui: So what exactly is Student Engagement and Wellbeing about?
Clare: Very broadly it’s about looking after the emotional and social health of the children and encouraging and rewarding good behaviour. From my perspective it’s an exciting area to work in as it allows for a great deal of creativity in developing programs and working with different areas of the school. It’s challenging and very rewarding.
Jacqui: Can you tell me about some of the programs we run?
Clare: The most important is probably the CARE Program – Cooperation, Acceptance, Respect and Excellence. The program is planned by the whole staff and is delivered by the Grade 6 students. The CARE groups comprise kids from all grades who work together. The activities range from reading books, role plays, drawings and group discussions.
The activities incorporate elements of the Stop, Think, Do and Bounce Back programs which are designed to help kids develop problem solving skills and resilience.
This year we introduced the CARE tree which is just next to the office. When the kids do something good, they get a leaf with their name on it to put on the tree. It’s a way of rewarding students on an on-going basis.
We also introduced the dance at the end of assembly which the kids love. The students that are awarded a CARE leaf that week stand up and are clapped by the rest of the school. We then play a song for the whole school to dance to.
We’re also looking at the idea of CARE postcards that could be sent home to parents as another way of reinforcing the CARE values.
On Friday 20th September we are having a CARE celebration with tabloid sports (fun PE and drama games) and a BBQ. We’d love parents to come along and help us celebrate. It’ll be organised and run by the Grade 6 Leaders.
Jacqui: Recently the school organised a Reach workshop with the Grade 5s; Corin came home full of it. Can you tell me about that?
Clare: Reach is an independent organisation that was established by Jim Stynes OAM. The organisation runs workshops to help young people build self-esteem and resilience. The workshops help students to understand and develop their social and emotional skills and gives them some practical tools to encourage informed decision-making.
Jacqui: I know bullying is always a concern for parents and it’s a difficult problem to manage. How do we deal with it at KPS?
Clare: Bullying is an issue in all schools unfortunately and preventing bullying at Kew Primary is an integral part of the Student Engagement Policy. The policy outlines prevention and intervention strategies designed to ensure our school is a safe and caring environment.
Examples of our preventative strategies include our CARE program and the teaching of conflict resolution skills. We also have Circle Time where we’ll discuss a problem or issue that’s arisen – maybe a playground incident. We try to work out exactly what happened, who was hurt, how we can best deal with it and stop it happening again. We do this as a preventative measure as well as responding to specific incidents.
This year we’re also running The Resilience Project with Hugh van Cuylenburg (Jacqui: which I am going to blog about very soon).
If parents do have any concerns about incidents of bullying they should talk to their child’s classroom teacher.
Jacqui: And what about cyber bullying? That’s a huge issue these days. How does the school help teach the kids about responsible and safe internet use?
Clare: Cyber bullying is addressed the same way as traditional bullying. We educate the students about what cyber bullying is and how it can cause harm. Students in Grade 3-6 sign an agreement for Responsible Use of Mobile Devices and Technology at the start of the year which includes a section about being cybersafe and cybersmart.
The school has also arranged guest speakers for students, and parent information evenings on bullying. We’ve signed up to be an eSmart School. This process takes up to two years to implement and we are currently in the planning stage. The program is for the whole KPS community and is a proactive program addressing all aspects of bullying.
There are a couple of really good website that provide some great advice and resources on this subject.
Jacqui: Thanks, Clare. I often hear my kids come out with things that they’ve clearly got from the CARE program so I think it’s getting through. Oh, and happy birthday!
I checked out the Beyond Blue website which has an excellent section on bullying and I thought this advice was worth reprinting:
- Ignore the person who is bullying you (including contact with him/her via mobile phone or email) – bullies are looking for a reaction and often lose interest if they don’t get one.
- Stay with others – stick to areas where you feel safe and hang out with people you trust. The person who is bullying you won’t pick on you as much when there are other people around.
- Stay positive and be confident – think of all the things you do well and try not to let the bullying affect your confidence.
- Keep out of the bully’s way – it might be possible for you to avoid the person who is bullying you, for example by travelling a different way to school, or avoiding the places that he/she hangs out.
- Don’t reply to bullying messages – it’ll only get worse if you do. By replying, the bully gets what he or she wants. Often if you don’t reply, the person will leave you alone.
- Ask for help – if the bullying doesn’t stop, you might find it helpful to ask someone else for advice. You should also report it to someone in charge – either at school or at work.
Jacqui Tomlins and Clare Connor