I refer you back two blog posts, here, for the beginning of our story of trying to create a community of kindness in our schools and synagogue and here for the second installment of that story. For other headlines and current events, of which there are many, you are welcome to look here. For a bit of an update as to how we did this year in applying a “Purim Prescription for Pediatric Judaism”, you are welcome to click here (but be warned – you may never look at me the same way again!). Next week’s blog post will discuss this upcoming week’s FCIS Re-Accreditation. I can neither blog weekly on our “Community of Kindness” initiatives nor cease blogging about it altogether. It is important enough to garner regular attention, but is not the sole initiative of the school. So, this week, I will enter a third installment of a trilogy of opening conversations on how we can begin to live up to our highest Jewish values. But just because I may not refer back to it (in this blog at least) for a little while, surely does not mean it will fall onto the back-burnder.
I want to offer one update, one additional example from a student blogfolio, and a request for next steps.
Here is the update. We finally (!) scored the bullying surveys we issued to students in both the Day School and the Center’s Religious School in Grades 5-8. As with the prior two surveys, there may well be issues in how they were proctored and we cannot distinguish between students in either school. BUT, we still do need some baseline data to build from and this is certainly better than the “no data” we had prior. As with the Grades 2-4 survey, I would like to share some of the results with you and suggest what it might mean.
This was, like the other two surveys, more positive than not, but instructive. Here is a chart which provides students a chance to describe how things are at school:
Now…we don’t know entirely if the Religious School students are indicating their experiences in Religious School (as was intended) or not. But let’s assume, for the creation of this baseline that they have. The chart indicates, somewhat similarly to the results from Grades 2-4, that physical bullying is not so much the issue. However, unlike the results from Grades 2-4, by Grades 5-8 the primary cause for concern is not as much exclusion as it is teasing. This is vital information as we plan programming to address our needs. Bullying, in our setting, seems to take on different forms at different developmental levels.
On a happier note, students in these grades assessing their teachers, have indicated a fair degree of confidence in their willingness to help out:
Looking closer, we see that although the confidence level is high, the place it is less-high is in dealing with students teasing behind the teacher’s back. This is very similar to what we saw in the last survey. When teachers are aware and confronted with bad behavior…they act and act appropriately. The issue is being sure that teachers are aware – and create an environment (say a community of kindness?) where students are comfortable being sure that they are aware.
Let’s hear from another student…this time Zoe M in Grade Four:
“Bullying is a huge problem. It happens all around the world. It makes people afraid to go to school. It makes people afraid to go out of their house. Bullying is when people make fun of others, threaten others, physically hurt others, and type mean things about others. Nobody likes to get bullied. However, people do it anyway. Most of the time a person bullies someone else is because there is a problem at the bully’s house. It is usually something personal, so the bully takes it out on others weaker than he or she is. Bullies are usually cowards. They almost always have a gang that backs them up. Otherwise, they would be too afraid.
There are a few types of bullying. Cyber-bullying is one type. Cyber-bullying is when people threaten you behind a computer or they hack into your e-mail. Cyber-bullying is cowardly , because they are hiding their identity behind a computer so no-one will know it is them. People should not share passwords. That is usually how cyber-bullying starts. Cyber-bullying is very common.
Another type of bullying is threatening or physically hurting others. People threaten others when they want something, or when they just want to scare others. Some people physically hurt others for fun, just to see others cry. That is what makes people afraid to go out of their house. Once there was a boy who got bullied a lot. One day, he just couldn’t stand it so he committed suicide. That is one example of why people shouldn’t bully.
Bullying is very bad. People have to stop bullying. We can prevent it by sticking up for others and ignoring bullies. I can help prevent bullies by sticking up for others.
Image Credits: Microsoft Clip Art”
Zoe identifies a crucial component to creating a community of kindness: the willingness to stand up for the victim and the realization that bystander-ism is sometimes as harmful as the bullying itself.
So…we have students blogging about bullying prevention. We have clergy and teachers blogging and talking about bullying prevention. We have students preparing their own 2-minute “Creating a Community of Kindness” videos that I look forward to sharing soon. We have begun an important conversation. But where do we go from here? Here are just a few starting points:
- Revise our Student & Family Handbooks to reflect both sides of our coin: swift and decisive discipline AND incentivizing caring and kind behaviors.
- Professional Development
- Parent Seminars
- Peer-led activities & programs
- Create a developmentally appropriate approach to bullying at each age and stage
Parents, students, teachers, community members, foundations, agencies – here or anywhere – whoever is passionate about this issue, please reach out to us with your ideas, your volunteerism, and your support. In the spirit of transparency, we will continue to share our experiences here as we look forward to each day being better than the one before by creating a community of kindness one act at a time.
Finally…in light of this week’s local tragedy, I wanted to share with you the blog post written by Dr. Barbara Hodges, Executive Director of the Florida Council of Independent Schools (FCIS) in honor of our fallen college Dale Regan:
TRIBUTE TO DALE REGAN
It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to one of our own, Dale Regan, who was the Head of School of Episcopal School of Jacksonville (ESJ) and the President of the Board of Directors of the Florida Council of Independent Schools (FCIS). As reported by the media, Dale was fatally wounded yesterday by a teacher, who had been dismissed; the teacher then turned the gun on himself. No other adults or students were involved or hurt.
So what do we do when someone we love and admire is so senselessly taken because of choices of another? I know what Dale would have done if she were in our position. She would have done what she always did; she would have reached out to comfort, to support, to lift up, and to unify the community. Dale was not only an exceptional educator and a courageous leader, but she also had a unique talent for connecting with others and meeting people where they were. So what are we going to do? We are going to follow the model that Dale beautifully unfolded for us.
We would like to invite all 157 FCIS schools to find a way in the next few days to remember Dale, realizing that our schools will respond to this tragedy in different ways. A suggestion from one of our heads was for all of us to join together at a set time for a moment of silence and remembrance. For those of you who would like to participate, we are setting aside Friday at 11 AM for a moment of silence and reflection as the Memorial Service will be starting on the ESJ campus in the Campion Courtyard in Jacksonville. As a matter of note, the memorial service is open to the public. In the days and weeks ahead, FCIS will continue to support the ESJ community and Dale’s family.
As I close this tribute to a special and dear friend, I want to share with you an Irish saying sent to me this morning by Joe McTighe, the Executive Director of the Council for American Private Education (CAPE); the saying was left to Joe and his family by his mother who died in 1996. Reminding me of Dale, it brought me great comfort, as I hope it will bring to you.
“Grieve not, nor speak of me with tears, but laugh and talk of me as though I were beside you. I loved you so; ‘twas Heaven here with you’.”
So, we are now called, as Dale would do – to comfort, to support, to lift up, and to unify our community. We hold Dale’s family, ESJ, and our FCIS family in our thoughts and prayers.
With great love,