Thinking of your school days, can you remember examples of bullying? Studies show that this is a complex social phenomenon that is a fact of our lives – everyone either have seen or experienced bullying at some point. For some people it has severe long-term consequences like lower self-esteem, anxiety disorders, addictions, depression, in some cases it can become one of the factors leading to suicide.
Some might say that those forms of violence are inevitable in our lives, and it’s better to deal with that. For a long time bullying has been seen as a kind of ,,rite of passage”, not a problem to be solved. Interesting that similar, violent behaviours in adult world take form of mobbing and affect the workplace in same way as bullying in school.
Presence of bullying causes higher stress levels among children, which has a negative impact on learning abilities and in the end it might affect further achievement. Some children will avoid school or will not be able to focus on learning only for this reason. Leaving any children behind is just a waste of their potential. We all need to belong, feeling of being excluded, ignored or hated is heartbreaking.
,,No man is an island” John Donne
One of interesting discoveries is that bullying does not involve only a person using violence and a victim. In fact, it is a dynamic process, which includes everyone in a group. Roles and strategies are changing, students can support, assist, defend, observe, pretend to not see any incidents. By educating ,,bystanders” – those who watch, it is possible to prevent bullying on some level. These people are able to transform a group dynamic. Probably, the bully and the victim has less power to change their situation out of different reasons, but it is possible.
Children who happen to be victims are forced to think a lot about every detail of appearance and behaviour, in this situation it is not safe to express feelings and opinions, there is no space for learning, developing interests or making friends, and they are not the one to blame. Someone who suffers from bullying needs to know that it has not started, just because of his/her qualities. Aynone can be victim. If we focus on them, cycle of bullying will continue.
A child who needs more help and attention is ,,the bully”. Here again, they are not evil ones. Sometimes they suffer from violence in another place, for example family, another group or previous school.
We can see the tip of the iceberg
While working with young people it is important to keep in mind that very often there is a huge disconnection between teachers, parents and students. Signs of bullying may be not so visible and obvious, especially nowadays, when social media play such a big role in our communication. Receiving and sending intimidating or threatening messages, posting embarrasing photos/videos is a common problem among young people. It is important to know where to report this kind of situation.
My experience as a volunteer
I am included in anti-bullying workshops in school. Together with other volunteers we are trying to make it in an interactive, fun way to have a good time and discuss real issues taking place in this school. Perhaps we cannot change the whole situation and eliminate bullying completely, but we are lucky to work in school, where students, teachers and parents care about friendly atmosphere.
Before EVS, I have been involved in other projects regarding this topic and we asked in what way this kind of non-formal education can help in long-term perspective. Students told us that since they have learnt about mechanism of bullying they stopped feeling so lonely, as they are not the only ones going through hard times.
During reflection we discovered that we were not aware that we also bullied others and it was hard to admit…