Lyn Mikel Brown, co-founder of a nonprofit that provides a safe space for young girls to learn and grow, offered the educational community10 ways to improve our bully intervention and education efforts. These 10 points are the focus of the blog for the next several weeks.
Point #3 - Move beyond the individual. Children’s behaviors are greatly affected by their life histories and social contexts. To understand why a child uses aggression toward others, it’s important to understand what impact race, ethnicity, social class, gender, religion, and ability has on his or her daily experiences in school—that is, how do these realities affect the kinds of attention and resources the child receives, where he fits in, whether she feels marginal or privileged in the school. Such differences in social capital, cultural capital, and power relations deeply affect a child’s psychological and relational experiences in school.
This goes to the heart of the most important aspect of education which is the educator’s ability to form a personal relationship with each student that supersedes the material being taught. Those in our care need to know that we care about them as individuals first before any transfer of learning can take place.
We don’t have to know everything about a child in order to develop more effective ways to help them and keep our schools safe. But, if we know nothing about the child and haven’t developed the kind of relationship with them that allows us some insight into their behavior, we don’t have a chance of helping or protecting.
Another important aspect of this level of relationship is the ability to discern what system of consequences and rewards will most likely bring about the desired behavioral change. If a child comes from a home with little adult supervision, suspensions aren’t effective. If the parents are emotionally or physically impaired, the idea that we’re going to get support & follow up is baseless. If a child is in danger of being abused by their parent because of a transgression, that must play a role in how we handle the situation.
As we get to know our students better and take the time to find out more about their histories, we’re also better prepared to understand what their triggers are and be able to intervene before things get out of hand. A child who comes from a large family where older siblings rule the roost can removed from situations involving older kids that often cause a reaction related more to life experiences than to the present obstacle.
As with any problem, the more information that we have the better we’re able to deduce the best possible solution. This reminds me of an old saying when computers where still run with punch cards; “Garbage in, garbage out”. The quality of the relationship between the individual and caretaker, as well as the information that we have, will determine the quality of our intervention and educational efforts. The more we know, the more we can help.