We’d all like to believe that if we were the one encountering the badly beaten man on the side of the road, we would be the Good Samaritan in the story and not one of those who would pass by on the other side. And yet, many of us can recall a time when we were witnesses to others being bullied in some manner where we felt powerless or afraid to help, and we chose to look the other way.
Teaching students to be “alongside standers” rather than bystanders in situations where bullying is occurring is not an easy task, but it is one that Keith Cameron, principal of Immanuel Christian School (ICS) in Aylmer, believes is very important, especially in the Christian school setting.
“Jesus didn’t demonstrate to us that we should ignore mistreatment as it happens around us. When we do that we are, in effect, supporting those who are hurting others,” shares Mr. Cameron.
Educating students and giving them a common language to respond in these situations is important, and in order for that language to stay current at ICS, the students participate yearly in a program called The Protectors–Freedom from Bullying.
The seven lesson program centers on the parable of the Good Samaritan, with the goal of diminishing bullying through changing the culture of the school. The curriculum package focuses on a number of scripture passages, discussion questions and activities that students can work through together in their classrooms. It also includes skits that students perform at weekly chapels.
“It’s important to me that the discussions start in the classrooms, where sharing can be done with their immediate peer group,” says Mr. Cameron. “From there the discussion moves into a larger group setting at our weekly chapels, where skits are performed and students can explore scenarios of right and wrong courses of action in various circumstances.
“I don’t want students to interpret the message as ‘I have to do this because the principal says so’.”
This is the fourth year that Immanuel Christian School has incorporated the Protectors program into their calendar. It’s one way that they have committed to deal with the issue of bullying in a proactive way.
Bullying can present itself with many different faces, and it is important to educators at Immanuel Christian School in Aylmer that students become aware of the different ways bullying occurs. The program points out that bullying is not only demonstrated through physical actions against one another but that it can also be verbal; it can occur face-to-face, but it can also be happening through various forms of social media.
Rachel, a student in grade one at ICS, shared some of the faces of bullying that she learned from the skits performed by older students during one of their chapels:
“One time there were boys that called each other bad names and they were mean to each other. We learned that if people call you bad names you shouldn’t call them names back. In another skit there were two girls who were sending text messages and they were not being nice to each other.”
Recognizing the many forms of bullying became one of the key things students discussed in their classrooms.
“It’s important for us to talk about this in our classrooms because it helps us to know how to recognize when people are actually being bullied, “shares grade 7 student Kaylynn. “Sometimes it looks like others are just teasing or not being serious, or like the other person isn’t really getting hurt. And it also gives us ways to know how to stop it when it’s happening.”
Finding ways to help stop mistreatment is not always an easy or comfortable thing for students to do. However, it is a language that Mr. Cameron hopes will become more familiar to students of all ages at ICS.
Poncho, student in grade one, shared, “We learned that you should just say ‘stop it’, and then walk away.”
Grace, a student in grade eight at Immanuel Christian School, agrees that taking action is often harder than it seems. “If we didn’t go over this together, it would be much harder to know what to do when we see bullying happening. We might not know that we can say ‘stop’. And we might be too afraid to do it.”
She goes on to admit, “Well, we’ll probably be afraid anyways…but at least we are learning about having courage.”
Courage is another strong component to the Protectors program. It takes courage to stand up for ourselves and not allow others to mistreat us, and it also takes courage not to want to take revenge on those people who hurt us. Having the tools to know how to respond in situations where bullying is occurring builds courage for students, especially when they are using a language that is common to everyone around them.
Creating that common language is the main reason Mr. Cameron has chosen to incorporate the Protectors program into the school year once again. “It’s the language, not which program you use to bring it into your school, that’s the important part of this discussion. When students and teachers have a common language to use, it takes a great deal of the fear and the unknown away. The language is a tool for students to use when responding to mistreatment, but it is also a tool that can be used by teachers to come alongside students and ask how they’re doing when it seems they might be struggling.”
Mr. Cameron is happy with the program they are using, but he quickly adds that sharing ideas and resources among educators is always something he is open to. “I’m happy to share what we’re doing here that’s working for us, but I always love hearing from others about the things they’re doing as well. I’d love to keep the conversation going!
“In the end, we are all responsible for the ways that we live out the parable of the Good Samaritan in our schools and in our communities.”