Conflict versus Bullying

Principal Perspectives (December 2013 Condit Connection Article)

One of the core values of our district is Safety Above All Else; we all must strive to create a safe environment for students, teachers, and parents.  I accept this as an axiom, there is just no way we can go about the business of school without ensuring a safe place for our learners.  Having said this, I don’t believe that a safe environment is one that is always free of conflict.  Conflict should be seen as a normal part of growing up, and while some may see conflict as something that detracts from a learning environment, I see it as an opportunity to help our students develop a social skill set that they will need later in life.  The world is filled with people that don’t see things the same way, and part of our job as educators is to help students to learn ways so settle disagreements and differences of opinion in a way that establishes stronger peer relationships.  

Bullying is NOT conflict.  Where conflict is generally between peers, bullying often involves an imbalance of power.  Where conflict can be accidental, intermittent, and well intentioned, bullying is repetitive, intentional, and specifically meant to be damaging.  A colleague passed along a very child friendly definition of bullying:

Bullying is when you keep picking on someone because you think you’re cooler, smarter, stronger or better than them.

The strength of this definition is it includes the key attributes of bullying and it puts it in a way most children can relate to.  My goal isn’t to find a good definition for bullying, it is to find a way to eliminate it at Condit Elementary and we have made deliberate efforts to address these behaviors.

  • The Leader in Me focuses on building student leaders that respect others and seek to find win-win outcomes when conflict arises.  Our advisory classes have had a strong focus on the 7 habits of highly effective people all year.
  • Cyberbullying awareness and internet safety is taught to all of our students during computer ancillary rotation.  In our technology connected world bullying can work it’s way into virtual social spaces and we want to make sure our students can spot it and avoid it.
  • Once again Condit Elementary is a No Place For Hate campus, and as such all of our students sign a resolution of respect and we participate in activities throughout the year that discuss how to respond if someone is being bullied.
  • The Bully Show came to our campus, a dramatic performance that asked students to reconsider their assumptions about bullies and bullying.
  • Our safety patrols will participate in the Become an Ally Training in December which will help them work effectively in cases of bullying and provide them a skill set to deal with it when they see it happening on campus.

We will continually look for ways to eradicate bullying on our campus and grow our student leaders.  In additional to our efforts at school, your help is invaluable.  When you have the chance, visit with your child and discuss what it means to be a bully and how to respond appropriately if they see it happening.  Together we can ensure we have a Condit community that practices safety above all else.