WHAT DO WE DO?
School bullying is a painful experience and inevitably affects the complete development of young people. School bullying compromises the very nature of the academic process and negatively affects the learning abilities of children, which is the core goal of the school as an institution. Depending on their capacity to deal with these problems, children will shape their future relationships with people, how they will grow as individuals, and whether they feel good about themselves or whether they keep a painful wound inside that might affect their self-esteem, relationships, behavior and emotions. After all, school plays a major role in the everyday life of children. We created the project, because as professionals and parents ourselves, we care about the future of children and believe that violence at school can be eliminated in order for our children to grow emotionally healthy and confident. After all, the school is largely crucial for the mental, emotional health and the cognitive development of children. The project is our attempt to stand closer to children, first as teachers, than as parents, to try to understand their emotions and fears – spoken and unspoken. Communicating with children, parents, teachers and all other adults concerned with the wellbeing and safety of school children, showed us out the necessity for an in-depth look at the problems that children face at school, specifically seen from their point of view. This is why we developed an approach based on the experiences of children to assist teachers and other adults to understand the concerns that children have in relation to violence at school. We hope that adults will learn to be supportive and respond without reproach towards the children. We hope that teachers and other adults will learn to identify and manage to stop aggression in the classroom at a very early stage.
The child perspective on bullying is at the core of our project. Our overall goal is to involve children in the prevention of bullying and in creating a safe environment at school in a participatory and empowering way. The first step is to approach the children from different European countries and ask them to share their views, what they feel and think; what are their fears and expectations about safety at school. Then we will meet with the teachers and discuss the opinions and ideas of the children. Through a series of seminars and workshops we try to step in the children’s shoes together with the teachers, in order to gain experience that will motivate us to look at the children’s problems. The next step is to empower both children and teachers to participate together in creating a safer school environment. Each school is free to apply everything learned from the program in a flexible way and to create a unique program and approach against school bullying in their specific school context. We noticed certain differences, but there are also recurring general solutions – we already noticed them in the drawings of children coming from different countries, diverse origin and cultural background, and from different education systems. Together with the children and with the help of their teachers, we aimed to create a sustainable approach, applicable in the everyday work against school violence or, as children themselves said, “to have tools that we can fix with”.
We believe that adults are responsible for creating a safe and protective environment for children and many of our activities are targeted at the adults. In order to tackle this responsibility, adults have to be brave enough and open towards the children’s point of view. It is important that the adults are not afraid to get close to the children, to understand and be supportive of them in moments of conflicts, difficulties and suffering. When adults understand the children’s point of view and apply their life experience and professional knowledge, they can really help children to feel safe, protected, strong and empowered. Between 7-18 years of age, when children are highly sensitive and many changes take place, the adults closest to them are their parents and teachers, as well as additional professionals involved with their development and protection. It is these adults that we aim to address with our activities. As part of the project, school staff is to be sensitized and trained in early identification of bullying as well as in intervention, referral and interdisciplinary cooperation with other professionals, child-protection systems, the family, etc., using the views expressed by children as the starting point for their actions. Children at school expressed their opinions and shared their emotions, associated with school bullying in order to help adults understand them better. Later in the project children are to take part in interactive activities (school bullying preventive workshops). Special attention will be drawn to victims and perpetrators of bullying, who together with their parents will have access to psychological counselling programs provided by two of the organizations – Animus Association Foundation and Save the Children Romania. For the parents we have prepared a leaflet that provides information on early signs of bullying and how to protect their children. Policy makers are to be approached with messages raised by children. Within the project we will disseminate everything we have learnt to a broader audience of specialists responsible for children’s well-being – head teachers, teachers, social workers, police officers, other key stakeholders. We believe that this is an effective way of increasing the awareness among professionals about the emotional needs of children.
Here are some of the presentations from the Final International Conference presenting EU Experience in Applying a Child-centered Approach for Early Identification and Prevention of Bullying in School Setting; The International Conference was held in Sofia, Bulgaria, November 18th 2016