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Sticks and Stones

Emma is a Teaching Assistant who works for Protocol Education in Wolverhampton. In today's post Emma talks about how her dissertation around the subject of bullying allowed her to finally see that she, a former victim, was not at fault. She also clarifies exactly what bullying is...

I’d like to share with you a very small excerpt from my very large undergraduate dissertation, recently rediscovered in the cupboard during a slightly late spring clean.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me."

This has been a childhood mantra of many bullied children for generations. Although physical violence does indeed leave clear signs and scars, verbal bullying can leave deeper psychological scars. The damage is not on the outside, but the inside. All bullying is potentially harmful, it is in its nature to be.”

I wrote that back in 2005 as part of a 98 page piece for my first degree. I can tell you, it now makes for a great door stop! But I haven’t forgotten the knowledge I acquired nor the passion I felt about the subject. You see, I was a victim of bullying myself, a very long time ago in school. It takes courage to admit that now and a lot more back then to confide in a teacher, through the blur of tears and sobs. Bullies have a way of making you feel unworthy and deserving of their maltreatment.

The dissertation was an act of catharsis for me, as well as giving me a deeper understanding of why children bully and that despite my years of shame, it was not my fault.

I could go through the theories of why children bully; poor role models, abusive upbringing, fear that they may become victims and then there are the hangers on. They don’t take part, but they don’t actively try to stop it either. But instead I’d like to clarify what bullying actually is. Many a time I’ve heard children band around the term, when actually they aren’t being bullied at all.

Violence. This can be a one off serious physical attack or ongoing intentional infliction of physical pain. In children’s terms “they did it on purpose.” This is different to a playground scrap. With bullying the bully has all the power, the victim does nothing to instigate the act or provoke it.

Name calling. So when does harmless teasing become serious bullying? It’s all in the intent of the bully. With harmless teasing the intent is playful, no one is hurt by it. With bullying the intent is malicious and the victim suffers emotionally. With time this can lead to low self esteem, feelings of isolation and worthlessness. I know, I’ve been there! This was my bullies’ weapon of choice. The scars cannot be seen.

Continuous social isolation. This is different to a child complaining that their friends won’t let them join in with a game. This is deliberate, on going and used as a means of isolating the child from any peers who may help them to stop the bullying. This can be as simple as excluding the child from games (as a repeated act, not one off), but also spreading rumours, cyber bullying, passing malicious notes, asking others to “not be their friend”.

If a child tells you they are being bullied, don’t brush it off as harmless banter before you delve a little deeper. I can tell you from personal experience telling anyone that you are a victim is one of the bravest things you can do.

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Tags: EmmaH, Teaching Assistant, Bullying, Primary Schools, Support Worker, Protocol Education

Category: Australian Teachers

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