From time to time small conflicts arise between children in the playground. Conflict is a normal part of life and learning to deal with it helps kids master the social skills they will need as adults. Bullying is not normal. In fact, there are some distinct differences between bullying and peer conflict. Being able to identify these differences helps us know how to respond.
There are a number of ways to identify peer conflict. First, when a conflict occurs, both people involved have equal power in the relationship. And while both people are emotional and upset neither one is seeking power or attention. They just happen to disagree. Also, when people experience conflict they likely will feel remorse and take responsibility for what they did wrong. They just want to solve the problem so that they can start having fun again. Lastly, conflict happens occasionally and is usually not serious or emotionally damaging to either person.
There are a number of ways that kids can be hurtful to one another but not all of it is bullying. Sometimes it is simply unkind behaviour. The best way to identify bullying is to realise that it is a deliberate act with the intention to hurt, insult or threaten another person.
There’s also an imbalance of power in the situation. Bullies usually exert control over other people either by intimidating them, insulting them or threatening them. Bullying also is repeated and purposeful and poses a threat of serious emotional or physical harm.
Typically, when bullying occurs, there is very little emotional reaction from the bully but the target is usually visibly upset. Additionally, bullies may even get satisfaction from hurting people because it gains attention. Lastly, there is usually no remorse from the bully and no attempt to resolve anything. Bullies are not interested in having a relationship with the intended target.
How do we deal with this at our school?
At Our Lady of the Assumption school our behaviour management procedures are based around Restorative Justice principles. We manage inappropriate behaviour, based on Gospel values and discipline processes that are just, reasonable, respectful and consistent.
Restorative justice demands that we think about what happens to the victim, and how the victim’s needs might be met. It also requires us to consider the other stakeholders in the event and what their needs might be.
Our Year 7/8 children have all been trained as peer mediators and this is the first step (and often the last step) for our children when things go wrong in the playground. Our peer mediators wear Hi Viz jackets and wander around the playground during the breaks – making themselves available to the children who need help sorting small issues. The mediators facilitate a discussion and usually all parties agree to move forward positively.
Occasionally the children need adult help to restore the relationships that have been broken – in this case the peer mediators would find the duty teacher who would then take over facilitating the discussion.
When a teacher is helping facilitate the discussion we call this a mini-chat. The teacher will ensure that both sides of the story are listened to and will then ask both parties what needs to be done to restore the relationship. If this is a one off, this will possibly be all that needs to happen, the teacher on duty will ensure that the classroom teacher knows there has been a chat but we ensure that every day is a new day and that the issue is not dragged into another day.
If the problem is recurring we will inform you and involve you in a restorative chat with your child so that you can support us from home – please be assured we will contact you when it is necessary.
We encourage students to take responsibility for their own behaviour by making appropriate choices and learning from their mistakes and reconciliation is the aim of all conflict resolution.
Why use Restorative Practices at OLA?
- It is based on gospel values and has reconciliation at its core
- It creates better relationships with young people.
- It promotes greater engagement in learning.
- It creates greater development of important social and emotional competence in learners.
A good Catholic school, over and above all, should help all its students to become saints. -Pope Benedict XV1