Community, it is word we see used so often these days, but for each of us what meaning does it hold? Are we active members or are we along for the ride abdicating responsibility to those experts we elect and hire to manage our affairs?
As I sit preparing for an online chat about bullying and our frustration with its growth and severity, I think back to the idea of community. I am reminded of the popular saying "It takes a village to raise a child", but somehow that village has been reduced to the school and the individual parent/family group. No longer is it acceptable to speak up when we see another acting inappropriately. In some cases it can be downright dangerous.
I am reminded of an incident that happened to me quite a few years back. I was in a meeting with a group of parents (I myself was a parent and an employee of a school division) who had gathered to express their "concerns" about a particular staff member at the school. This staff member was not present. Throughout the evening parents and (inappropriately enough)students continued to berate and cast dispersions upon this staff member. The moment came when a child piped up with the comment " I am sure M is a good teacher, not that we have seen it" and the parents in the room including a colleague erupted in laughter. I spoke out as to how this behaviour was unacceptable and how if parents were unwilling to act appropriately then how were they to expect their children to. for this I received a reprimand.
Have we lost our ability to speak up or have we been conditioned to avoid conflict at all costs? When it comes to bullying and the dire consequences we all need to start speaking up. We need to learn how to appropriately and assertively identify, vocalize and rectify the behaviours that are killing our children. We need to be educated on how to effectively bring about change that is meaningful and permanent. It starts with coming together as communities again, learning the tools and implementing them assertively so that authorities cannot ignore you. No more parents should have to suffer the pain that far too many have already suffered, but without action unfortunately many more will.
Training and workshops for parents and teachers are available from many groups including myself. For more information visit www.backstopadr.ca