~ HOW CAN WE STOP THE PAIN?
School, college and the workplace can be hell for children, young people, and older.
Many shall face prejudice based on where they live, what they wear, their family set-up,
and what their parents do for a living. Their family's country of origin or religion can be triggers for bullying.
Spring / Summer 2019
Iseult Catherine O'Brien
Montessori Teacher & Supervisor | Volunteer Tutor with Second Level Students |
Member of The Tutors' Association
WE ALL KNOW IT HAPPENS!
From the beginning of every new school year, from Montessori
/ pre-school age, all the way through to secondary school, college, university to the workplace, many children and young people face prejudice, degradation, and bullying.
The collapse over the last fifteen and more years in many families’ standards of living exacerbates the problem. Homelessness is a national scandal in Ireland, but the necessary steps are not taken as owners of property and land hold huge
sway with the two major political parties.
Children and young people are being subjected to personal insults because of their families' financial circumstances. Many have suffered as a result of the decision to save the pillar banks with tax-payers' money when the
Great Crash happened. There is a lack of follow through on priorities promised but not fulfilled, particularly in the sectors of education and medical cover, made by a series of Governments, of all hues. Almost every family is affected by this retrenchment.
The ever-widening introduction of zero hour contracts means that people in the workforce are faced with keeping their heads down and being picked for
work next week, or complaining and possibly not being picked at all. The room for exploitation and bullying causes a gaping hole in the well-being of families, single people, and our general social interaction.
The wrong trainers, the wrong backpack, the wrong pencil case, the wrong
drink bottle and lunch box. It starts at the beginning of the day, and just goes on.
Some manifestations can be so subtle, it is very difficult to put one's finger on it and say "Yes, that's clearly Prejudice!"
What youngster is going to call out “Teacher, teacher, she said my backpack is cat!” None.
BULLIES know this, and they rely on it not to be caught.
In times of uncertainty, when those who thought 'they had', and now find 'they do not have', some lash out.
People who have just about made it through all their lives, are finding the cuts savage.
times are hard, we should be redoubling our efforts to keep young people in education and support them there by all means necessary. We have to make the option of education attractive, and we have to fund it properly.
College or university are not the only options. There are excellently funded, very well run, apprenticeship schemes available. Some pay the students while they study.
We need a national debate
on what behaviour is acceptable in society and that includes schools, colleges, universities, and the workplace. This definitely includes the behaviour of teachers, principals, and anyone employed by or in connection with a school, as well as
that of the students. Employers cannot be allowed to get away with "we have a HR Department that deals with that type of thing".
I know a personable young man and keen student who kicked a locker in the sports locker room and was seen
to do it by the Sports' Master. True, he shouldn't have kicked it. The young man was facing into his Leaving Certificate Year, the final year for secondary school students, and the Sports' Master insisted on having him 'excluded' with the intention of having
him expelled! I believe the attitude taken by the Sports' Master was an abuse of his position. Calming down efforts were carried out over a prolonged period, and the Sports' Master did not get his expulsion.
The Paris Climate Change Accord discussions had nothing on the efforts of many parties to get that young man back
into school in time to start his final year. Just the week before the start of the new school year he was told he could return. However, nothing can give him back the months of school he missed at a crucial stage in his education. This is not an isolated incident.
few of us get a second chance at the Leaving Certificate, and if one has to fit a two-year syllabus into one year, that is a great disadvantage.
Let us not fall into a habit of presumptions. The bully is not necessarily the young man from the flats: is it the teacher who picks on him daily?
Please see my Post, MY PATH TO EDUCATION (called Education Practice on the Menu), and the Section near the end called Negative School Experiences. I believe that in some schools, with particular teachers,
the relationship between teacher and second levels students is still in the 19th Century. Many teachers are progressive and committed, but one bully can ruin the atmosphere of a whole school.
I think we have to start by being honest with ourselves. We need to examine how open we are at home to listening to accounts of the day. We need
to put time aside to give our full attention to what going on, and if we get only shrugs, mumbles, and 'dunnos', we have to follow up. Sometimes, telling a story from our own school experiences is an opportunity for a youngster to realise you too actually
had schooldays and they weren't perfect, far from it on some occasions. We have to make space and quiet time at home for real conversation to take place.
USE THE SUMMER BREAK TO BUILD CONNECTIONS
the end of year exams for some students, the Summer holidays await. Might that time not be used to ensure our youngsters are happy in themselves, and if not, try to find out why.
I have three siblings and all of us were beaten mercilessly in junior school. Many years later when we came back for Christmas
or funerals, we'd talk about Sr X or Sr Y and the way one had with a ruler between the knuckles of a clenched fist flat on the desk, or the other with a ballpoint pen smashed very hard and repeatedly into the scalp - a particularly cruel one that - as no bruises
showed through the hair. Our mother used to ask "Why did you never tell me?". It never dawned on us to do so. That was school life.
Might that be the story with your youngster?
Youngsters need to know that their parents / guardians / carers (PGC) are on their side and will face the teacher or the principal
or whomever, when wrong has been done.
Children also need to be told that a bully is a coward, which doesn't mean one should take him or her on in single combat, but that a bully is just another person who, for possibly many reasons, feels pleasure in making other people
miserble. Bullies usually like to have lackeys. They are less vulnerable if they have others they can send to do their dirty work, or to join together to try and rule a whole class, sometimes including the teacher.
From a young age children need to be taught that they are loved,
cherished, and valued. No-one has the right to make them upset deliberately, to hurt their feelings, or to hurt them physically.
PGC cannot be around for every battle. Youngsters need to learn strategies to avoid problem situations, and need to work out for themselves
what is the best plan for their welfare. PGC can help with ideas that worked for them in school and in work. Talking to other PGCs is always a useful exercise.
See Jenny Sherlock's article "Bullying: 'I thought it was just part of being a child',
in the next section.
We need to look at all aspects of school life, at everyone who works there, be it students from the youngest age to the end of second level, and all the teachers, classroom assistants, coaches, principals, and anyone employed by or in connection
with a school.
In some schools, a student who is outstanding on the sports field, is fairly untouchable; able to get away with behaviour lesser gifted schoolmates would never dream
contents of The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) might surprise some people as to the extent of the Rights of the Child, who is anyone under the age of 18 years. Might this not be another
good place to start a conversation in the family on what kinds of society we want, for the welfare of all?
Please see Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, and
Web: www.childrensrights.ie, for further information.
If you put either
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) in Schools
in a search engine, the document can be dowloaded as a PDF.doc, or read on the screen. It is very illuminating and may cause some adults to reconsider
how they treat children.
CAN WE DO?
In my Post, “Teachers
~ Caring for Yourselves, Your Students, and Relieving Stress”, there is a Section near the end called MANAGING CLASSROOM BEHAVIOUR Give Children an Opportunity to Discuss and Plan Behaviour in their Class ~ and to Choose Priorities.
This is based
on announcing at the very start of the School Year that everyone in the class shall be asked what kind of behaviour everyone would like to experience in the classroom,
playground, and anywhere else connected with their School and, equally, what behaviour would be unacceptable. The answers are written up, and added to over a couple of weeks. The “Class Rules” are be distilled from these
ideas. Everyone gives at least one good and one bad example of behaviour for the list.
Very young children are perfectly well able to understand what is fair and unfair; and they know how to say what they do and do not like.
Starting young, and learning, through debate, what behaviour is acceptable and unacceptable to our classmates is a very good foundation for life in general, as well as for a school career.
NOT for a moment am I suggesting that this is the answer to insidious snobbery and degrading treatment of some students by others.
However, it is a place to give a forum to students to express their ideas of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. PLEASE, let us pool our ideas and experiences.
WOULD IT NOT be marvellous to start a new School Year with a plan to spike bullying, prejudice, degrading treatment, and the undermining of students’ self-confidence?
Given that we all have a duty to those who are more vulnerable, please
let us give consideration to what worked in the past, perhaps when we were at school, or things that worked in a child’s class, or in any circles where groups of young people gather.
Perhaps, many, many, years ago, some of us were bullies. Those insight and ideas would be useful.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR CHILD IS THE BULLY
The following comes from 'Child Crisis Arizona'.
No parent wants to get that call from their child’s school about their child being
bullied. But what happens when the bully the school is calling about is your child? Although it might come as a shock to you, and you may want to deny it, bullying is a serious issue that no parent should ignore. Instead, take a deep breath
and use these tips to help your bully understand what he / she did wrong and which behaviours need to change.
KEEP YOUR COOL
that your child has been involved in bullying can be a shock, but don’t panic. Remember, this doesn’t mean that you are a failure as a parent or that you have a bad child! And, just because your child acted like a bully this time, doesn’t
mean he / she will be a bully for life! Children choose to bully others for a variety of reasons, so it’s important to avoid getting caught up in your own feelings, and investigate thoroughly the situation before talking with your child.
DON'T PLAY THE BLAME GAME
Once you’ve got all the available facts from your child’s teacher or principal, make time to talk with your child. Review the incident as calmly as possible with your child and be careful not to play the blame game. Instead, keep the conversation focused on the choices and behaviour of your child, rather than
on the actions of the other children involved.
child has had a chance to tell you his / her side of the story, ask him / her to imagine him / herself in the victim’s shoes. How would he / she feel if he had been treated this way? Asking your child to think critically about the situation,
rather than telling him / her how he / she should feel, will help him / her develop a sense of empathy and could prevent the child from engaging in bully behaviour in the future. [This can only happen if the child is old enough to understand
that actions have consequences. The idea that a child is encouraged to say ‘Sorry’, even if he or she doesn’t mean it, or doesn’t understand fully the concept of apologising, is flawed, and is a bad idea, fraught with probable negative consequences. If all a child learns / realizes from the experience is that saying ‘Sorry’ is a way to get out of trouble, one is setting up a situation where
the child thinks lying, saying ‘Sorry’ when it’s not meant, but has been shown to be the route out of trouble, will lead to a good deal more trouble for both the child and parent.]
Once your child has admitted to doing something wrong, it’s time to talk about how he / she can try and make amends. Brainstorm with your
child and figure out a few different things your child can do to help make things right again. Does he / she need to just say ‘Sorry’? Take down an offensive social media comment? Replace another child’s property? Help
him / her figure out what needs to be done, and encourage him / her to make up with the other child as soon as possible. [This too has to depend on the level of understanding of the bullying child. If he or she doesn’t feel sorry, but sees
apologising / replacing a child’s property is the way to make a problem go away, then the child has learnt nothing helpful to his or her understanding of right and wrong actions, or taking responsibility for one’s actions. He or she has learnt
a strategy to help get oneself out of trouble, even if it means telling a lie to make the problem go away. A child should not be made to apologize if he or she does not understand the concept of contrition, of feeling bad about what he or she did, and
has not understood truly what it means to hurt another person.]
TALK ABOUT CONSEQUENCES
Be firm with
your child. Let him / her know in no uncertain terms that, although you will always love him / her, this type of behaviour is unacceptable and comes with consequences.
Then, let your child know what the punishment will be for bullying, whether it means taking a time out, losing internet privileges, or making him / her pay for breaking something
with his / her own allowance. [Without an age range or an indication of the level of understanding of the bullying child, no-one can judge if talking about consequences would be a useful exercise. A child may understand the consequences at home
if he or she throws his / her dinner plate on the floor. This will have happened at least a couple of times, and if the parents have been consistent, the reaction of the parents will have been the same for each incident, and the child will know, therefore,
what to expect by way of reaction. That does not mean that the child understands the concept of consequences, or that consequences follow on from an action.]
FIND THE ROOT CAUSE
When children lash out and do something hurtful, it may be because they’re hurting or have needs that aren’t being met. Most
often, bullies act out because they are looking for acknowledgement, control or attention.
Talking with your child about why he / she felt the need to participate in bad behaviour will help you get to the root of the bullying issues and could help you prevent that behaviour moving forward.
[I think bringing up the idea of ‘bad behaviour’ when trying to get to the reason behind an action will make the child less likely to be open about what he or she was feeling or thinking.
An open-ended question along the lines of “Do you remember what you were thinking or feeling,
or what was happening around you, when you did that thing to X?” is more likely to get an attempt on the part of the child to tell the story of what was going on around him or her, and how he or she was feeling at the time. Other forces could have
been at play which resulted in the child turning and picking on another.
Equally, the child could have been feeling angry about something, anything, and took it out on a random child who was unfortunate to be at hand. The bullying child may remember being
angry, but may well not be able to say what caused the anger. It could have been a reaction to something that happened in the previous few moments, or the result of an anger that was simmering for some time.]
Child Crisis Arizona
Website by Site Mechanix
[I have added colour to the text and highlighted sections, ICOB.]
SOME GENERAL BACKGROUND
I was listening to pleas from parents on the National Broadcaster, RTÉ1, complaining of the ever-increasing cost of preparing children and young people for school. I had also read the Barnardos Ireland Annual School Costs Survey
2017. It all made for depressing listening and reading.
The levels of stress in the voices of the parents is palpable.
Quite a number of schools insist that each pupil has a new uniform, each year, irrespective of last year’s uniform
still fitting, or an older sibling’s uniform fitting. This is nonsense. I believe the Parents’ Councils in these schools should meet and declare
this particular Rule “unfair and discriminatory”. Once that has happened, if the School Management does not delete the Rule, it leaves itself open to litigation. Taking a court case is not necessary, however it would be a constant possibility,
acting as a spur under the saddle of the School Management.
OTHER SITUATIONS FACING MANY FAMILIES
Many families are faced with hugely increased rent bills for their homes. Others are searching for an affordable home, with their children; such
places are not available. Social housing barely exists in the larger cities.
families have gone from paying a mortgage to ending up in temporary accommodation in hotels, fast, having lost their houses. A whole family lives in one room, plus the bathroom. They are not allowed in the public areas
of the hotels, including the dining-room, even though the Government is paying bed and breakfast rates for these families. They are obliged to enter and leave via the service entrance.
They live on take-away food. They have no cooking facilities available to them, and cooking is not
allowed in bedrooms. Take-away food is an unsatisfactory diet, and very expensive.
YOUNG PEOPLE TELLING THEIR STORIES
I have heard anonymous young people describe their lives on the radio in the afternoon, when their parents are in work. It is heart-aching. They talk about living in one room with all the family; the noise of the television; no place to do homework; the noise of the bathroom fan on all night to dry clothes. These young people are not complaining about their
parents. Indeed, they make a point of saying how hard they are trying to make life as normal as possible for the family. They know the stress their parents are under, and do not wish to add to it.
In an attempt to keep continuity in their offsprings’ lives, most parents try to keep
them at their old schools, frequently involving very long journeys. We can be fairly certain these children and young people WOULD NOT tell their parents about bullying and degrading treatment in school.
data given is Irish-based, I believe similar experiences are being felt across Europe, Africa, Asia, the USA, and other places I have not listed. Many peoples' lives are in turmoil. In the old days, it used
to be called “Tuppence-h’penny lookin’ down on tuppence”. It doesn’t matter what the currency is, it is happening everywhere.
SCHOOL UNIFORMS, Costs, Autism / ADHD / Extremely Sensitive Skin
None of the conversation around generic or specific school uniforms I have heard deals with the serious and widespread problem of children and young people on the Autistic Spectrum, with ADHD, or with extremely
sensitive skin, each having the greatest difficulty tolerating the itchy, scratchy, uniforms of any kind, with their labels and seams, and very uncomfortable fabrics. I have looked into this matter, and have found a business started by a woman whose
daughter has autism, and not being able to find school uniforms her daughter could tolerate, she has developed her own range. This can be found at https://spectrasensoryclothing.com/.
I know the owner, Meta, is growing her range all the time, and she has some ingenious ideas. Trying to concentrate in school with a learning disability, while wearing a uniform which
is continual torture, and is giving these children and young people little chance of benefiting fully from school.
clarity’s sake, I have no financial or other interest in this Company.
While basic, generic, school uniforms
can be bought inexpensively in supermarkets and department stores, how do families with special needs children get help to buy the special uniforms that their children can tolerate?
EXCERPTS FROM THE BARNARDOS
The full Survey
Report is available at https://www.barnardos.ie/media-centre/news/latest-news/school-costs-2017-infographic.html.
With thanks to Barnardos Ireland for their great work, I quote liberally from their “School Costs 2017
– Infographic”. All the statistics quoted below are from the Survey Report. 1,834 parents responded to their Survey on the cost of sending their offspring to school. The results are fascinating, and can be found in full
Cost of Starting the School Year in Ireland
* The average cost of getting a first year secondary student ready for school is €800.
* 7 per cent of parents are forced to go into debt to cover the cost of school, with some having no choice but to resort
to high interest credit card and money lender loans.
* 6 per cent of
primary school parents are asked to pay voluntary contributions to help fund schools - and many are pressured and chased for this money.
* 45 per cent of parents had to forgo other bills or cut back on daily expenses.
While, the Survey results indicate a 10 per cent drop in requests for voluntary contributions at both primary and secondary
level compared to 2016, significantly, more parents are being asked to pay the mandatory classroom resources fees. What a former English teacher of mine would have called “a complete cod!”.
The Survey Found
* Parents of primary school pupils pay on average between €50 and €100 on books.
* One-fifth (20%) of parents of secondary school pupils pay in excess of €300.
* Generic school uniforms are more common at primary level than secondary level.
* Parents spend on average €95 on school specific uniforms at primary level,
between €150 and €200 at secondary level.
“There remains a constant expectation that parents will prop up the educational system by having to buy the essentials required for their children to complete the curriculum ie, books, classroom resources, stationery and voluntary contributions.
Head of Advocacy, Barnardos said, “This year over 1,800 parents took the Barnardos’ School Costs Survey. Parents are yet again stressed and over-burdened by back to school costs. It affects so many families, not just those on low incomes.
The impact of these mounting costs mean many parents are forgoing other bills, cutting back on daily expenses or ending up in debt in order to ensure their children have all they need for the new school year.”
were aware of the Minister’s circular (issued in April 2017) to schools to take a more proactive approach in reducing the burden of costs on parents” … “again some schools were more proactive than others and subsequently this variation
across schools is a major source of frustration for parents. The inaction by schools was often seen as a result of lack of funding by the Government to adequately resource the running of the school and thereby passing on some of the savings to the parents.
should be provided free to students, and there should be no examination fees. Schools expect too much support from parents through fundraising etc, many parents are already hard pressed.
The State should be providing all that is needed in order for a school to function successfully instead of making the school go to the parents.”
Ms. Tinsley, concluded, “Education unlocks potential but the State is denying many children the
key because it is failing to see its fundamental role in ensuring the education system is adequately funded to ensure all children have what they need to learn the curriculum. No other public service has to subsidise their funding to keep the
show on the road, so why should the Department of Education expect schools to have to undertake extensive fundraising activities from parents and staff to fund necessities? Budget 2018 must take the first step towards making
education free for all children by providing free books for all pupils in primary school.”
Please read the Results when you get a chance. They are very interesting in relation to education and deprivation in general,
as is much of the work done by Barnardos Ireland.