Erin Seils | Science and Technology Editor
Aidan McCall | Reporter
As this week is Anti-Bullying week, Aidan and I decided to interview Mrs Higgins, who has played a big part in raising awareness about anti-bullying within the school as well as beginning to create an anti-bullying committee.
Erin: When did you start to create the committee?
I’m not even sure that there is an official committee yet, I think that’s the next step is to get a kind of proper committee. I know last year I wanted to do something about bullying, I was kind of looking in to things because there were situations I was aware of and I became aware that there is a thing called anti-bullying week. So, I kind of started things off last year and we brought it into the making rights real. So I suppose the people involved in the making rights real are sort of part of that initial committee but I think we want to get a committee involving pupils as well and I think that would be really good to take it forward.
Aidan: What do you think being part of the committee would involve?
I think we would want to be looking at, you know, exploring what the issues are first of all and where the hotspots like where the main problems within the school are for bullying. We want to also be thinking about strategies of what we can do to flag up, perhaps, places that people can go to for support. Obviously we know the guidance staff and teachers as well but it would be nice if we had a wee committee of 6th years who were willing to be seen as somebody that you could go to because sometimes maybe for some pupils it might be easier to think of approaching a 6th year.
Erin: The 6th year leadership team spoke at the start of the year about having a drop in session with two memebers of the team each Thursday lunchtime every week. Do you think this would be useful in helping those who have problems with bullying?
That would be really good if we can get something that is kind of set up for almost like every day. And also, I would really love it if we had badges that were identifiers as well. You know, like SASB Strong or something like that – something that would signal to anybody in distress or concerned about something that that’s somebody who is actively involved in stamping out bullying that I can go to. I think that would be really nice if we could have that as well. And also just be thinking up other ideas. We’re having a workshop this year, whether we do something like that next year but also just to be thinking for the future what else can we be doing to raise awareness, to perhaps raise funds even to get visiting speakers or things like that would be really good if we could do.
Erin: Where is the workshop?
The workshop that we’re doing is round in the F Wing but that’s just kind of a wee homemade workshop. It would be nice if we could get maybe people who work in this all the time in to do something as well, that would be really good.
Erin: Are there any other teachers involved apart from yourself in trying to start a committee?
There have been so many people who have been helping. I mean, because I went on about this I feel as if it was something I really cared about but I would say so many teachers have helped and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the help of not just teachers. The 6th years have been amazing, the janitors have been brilliant, the cleaners have been great, the head teacher has been really supportive, the ladies in the office – I feel as if everybody in this school has got behind this. So many different departments have given me things and lent a hand and things so it’s actually been a really positive experience because people care about the issue.
Aidan: What is the aim of anti-bullying in our school?
So one of the big aims we want to do is to is to give out a clear message that it is not acceptable and we want people to really think about what they are saying and what they are doing because sometimes people can say things without really thinking that what they are doing is bullying. They might just be thinking “I’m being funny” and “this is just a laugh that I’m having with my friends” and not really thinking about the effects. So we do want people to stop and think a wee bit about what they are doing. We also really, really want people who perhaps are feeling bullied to know that we care about this, we do take it seriously, it’s a really difficult problem to solve.
When you look at the adult world and you see that there is still bullying happening in government. There’s bullying happening in Hollywood – in the adult world bullying goes on. So, it’s something we have to learn how to deal with, as in we have to get into the habit of taking a strong stand against it because this won’t be the last time you come across it. We really want people to start think “right, what I do makes a difference” but also to know even if the problem isn’t solved instantly it’s not because we don’t care – because we really do care but it’s really hard. So one of the purposes of setting up the anti-bullying workshop the way we have, we’ve tried to make it as nice an experience as possible because that’s part of us showing that we really care about you and we want you to have a really nice experience here.
We also really want you all to feel good about yourselves because we think if you feel good about yourself then you’re not going to just allow yourself to accept people treating you badly and you also won’t allow your friends to be treated badly and also if you feel good about yourself then you’re less likely to bully people as well, so that was the kind of main aims.
Aidan: What does your role involve? Being in charge?
I am kind of, and I didn’t really mean to be – I didn’t set off with that as a target, I just wanted something to happen. So, with a lot of support I have probably been left to kind of organise it. I visited other schools to find out things that they had done. I went to courses that were to do with global citizenship and pupil voice. Some of these things came up and I thought that sounded quite good so I went to visit other schools to find out how they’d organised things. I looked up lots of things. I asked pupils in school what kind of things they heard when bullying (was a problem), if they’ve known of any… So, you know, I did ask lots of other people for their opinion and their input as well and then I’ve tried to pull that together.
I’ve done lots of asking for favours, so people are starting to run away when they see me coming! They know I’m going to ask them for something! Science gave us a brain, Tech gave us wooden bricks and Modern Languages gave us headphones. The janitor painted the tree for me. Mrs Brownlie donated a branch from her garden. So many people did things to help – giving us bean bags, shoe boxes and things like that. Loads of people helped but I was the one who was asking for all the favours.
Aidan: What do you hope for the future of anti-bullying week?
I hope it’s something that people remember. I hope that perhaps it has challenged people’s thinking a wee bit, that maybe they think “uhhh.. I might’ve said that kind of thing in the past and that’s maybe not such a good idea”. I really hope that people think a wee bit about the consequences of what they’re doing but I also hope that it’s something that becomes more firmly imprinted in people’s minds – that they remember anti-bullying week. So, they’re more likely to take that forward and think about their behaviour and think about what they’re doing in the future and that we start to see a difference in people’s behaviour.
Who has had the chance to experience the workshop?
S1 to S3 and S6 are helping to man it in F009.
Erin: You’ve mentioned the anti-bullying workshop that we have in the school this week, for those that might not be aware of this could you explain what the workshop involves?
There’s six stations to go round. In each station we were trying to just tackle a slighlty different thing.
One of the stations is about tongues so we took a verse from the bible as our stimulus for that. It talks about “apples of gold in silver carvings is a word at the right time”, so something nice can just be so precious. But, there is another verse in the bible that talks about the tongue being the smallest part of your body almost, but you can start a fire with it. So you were to divide up different sayings and obviously we want people to think about “well, why would that not be a good thing to say?” or “when is the last time I said something nice to somebody?
Then, we had a station about building bridges to challenge stereotypes that we might put people in to: male and female. We also wanted to challenge what we think of as “normal”, the other side of the bridge was “normal” or “other”. Sometimes we kind of think that we’re normal and other people are different but actually there is no such real thing as “normal”.
There was also the reflection station. This was the part that I wanted people to look at themselves and think “What’s good about me?” and write that up on the wall and say why. So there were mirrors to look into and they were to write why they were valuable. Then next to that was a wall where they were to say “Respect me because..” We really want people to feel good about themselves and to know that they count, we care about them.
The next part was “Footsteps” where you were asked to stand in somebody else’s footsteps and think what their life is like. So we had two interviews. One was Kerry, a child psychologist, who is blind and so you were to listen to her experience of going to high school as a blind person. The other interview was Sanjeev Kohli from Still Game. He talked about growing up and people being racist towards him and dealing with casual racism. As his parents moved to the UK from elsewhere, “how do you think of your own nationality?”.
There was somebody’s lovely family album, well it’s not lovely in the sense that it’s upsetting, about the life that they’d like to have but the life that they really have not being good, using a foreign language or having a difficulty with reading. Really wanting people to appreciate that not everybody is coming here with the same baggage as you, some people have got very different circumstances but we’re actually all in the same boat.
Then there was the shoebox activity. There’s five different shoe boxes each has a sort of character. It’s basically the story of somebody in some way connected with bullying – either the victim or the friend or perhaps the perpetrator. This helped us to think about how it would feel to be in that situation, what would you do or when could you reach out to that person.
Lastly there was the tree with the rights of the child because we wanted to also highlight that it’s your rights that are affected. If somebody is bullying you they are taking away some of your rights. So they’d to look at some of the rights of the child and think about which ones they think are important and think about what it would be like if we didn’t have those rights respected. Then they had to write a wish for themself, a wish for the school and a wish for the world and tie it onto the tree.
It’s certainly refreshing to see just how much our school is contributing to the issue of bullying and Mrs Higgins’ commitment to tackling this encourages us to perhaps reconsider the way we treat other people.