Mr Mark Wyer – Preparatory School Deputy Head – Pastoral Care
No matter the amount of laptops, iPads, interactive touch screens or other innovations that are appearing in schools across Australia, there is always one topic that always brings with it strong debate – bullying. Bullying is a frequent topic in the Australian media and I know from speaking with colleagues from inter-state and our international colleagues from the IBSC Conference last year, that bullying is a very real issue for schools.
Before I continue, I need to clarify the difference between inappropriate choices that students engage in and bullying. Children and our boys have always had moments when the choices they make, when interacting with other children, are unkind and hurtful. The odd shove, name calling incident or tussle between two, is how children learn to make better social decisions with careful guidance by adults and teachers alike. It demonstrates that emotional competence to manage impulses, delay gratification, manage emotions and develop empathy take time to grow.
This is a normal childhood development and is very different from bullying where there is deliberate intent to hurt another by using an unacceptable use of power and it is often repeated. Bullies, I believe, are created in the early years of life. The essential brain developments that sculpt the frontal lobe development which will ensure emotional maturity need very particular care and nurturing in the first two years. During this time the nerve pathways that underpin learning and language development, and also for establishing anti-anxiety chemical systems in the brain grow. This young brain is very susceptible to stress and distress. The young brain is largely run by the primitive responses from the lower or reptilian brain and those feelings overwhelm easily our young ones.
As a school, we are very conscious of the need to provide a safe and supportive environment for our boys to come to school everyday. I can honestly put my hand on my heart and say that I firmly believe at the Prep School, we have very little instances of bullying, in the true definition of the word. We do often have times when we need to speak to boys about inappropriate choices and the impact that it has on others but this is not bullying behaviour. With over 600 boys on our campus, it is inevitable that we will, from to time, have to speak with boys about the choices they make and their interactions they have with others. At our Prep School we have a proactive approach with our boys and that can be seen in the daily work we do with the boys in the classroom, in House Meetings, at Chapel and Assemblies and with some of the programs we deliver to the boys.
Our Bounce Back program provides a framework of discussion with our boys in how we interact with one another, to value others and deal with setbacks and provides practical strategies to overcome challenges. This is delivered to boys in class and weekly at our Chapel Services. House Meetings are also a place where boys learn the values of the School, provide opportunities to interact with boys across a spectrum of age groups and provide a support network for our boys. When dealing with our boys, we have a Restorative Justice approach whereby we get the boys involved to discuss the incident and allow them to hear and talk about the different points of view and how this has an impact on them and come to a resolution and a way forward. All this is underpinned by the work that our teachers do daily when working with the boys.
On this National Action Day Against Bullying, we will also be strongly reinforcing the message to our boys that this type of behaviour is unacceptable in our school. As a symbol of our support, our boys will be given an orange ribbon on Friday to remind them of the type of behaviours that we aspire to at TSS. Our older boys in Years 5 and 6 will be coming down to our younger classes and pinning their ribbons on the boys to show their support on the day. We will be addressing this in our classes, House Meetings and assemblies. As a school we will continue to work with, support and educate our boys and help grow them in to the fine young men they will become.
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