By WillowWood's Steve Taylor
Bullying is a major problem in our schools, our workplaces, our homes, and online. Pink Shirt Day aims to bring awareness to this issue and encourages us to speak up against it. In a year in which social distancing has become the norm and connection with others that much harder, recognizing when bullying occurs and supporting its victims is more vital than ever.
According to pinkshirtday.ca, the focus of this year's Pink Shirt Day is “working together and treating others with dignity and respect. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected us all and shown the importance of helping one another and advocating for those who need it. The aim is to lift each other up and encourage healthy self-esteem, empathy, compassion, and kindness.”
How It Started
Pink Shirt Day began nearly a decade ago at Central Kings High School in Cambridge, Nova Scotia when grade 12 students Travis Price and David Sheppard heard about a grade 9 student being bullied for wearing a pink shirt to school. Instead of idly standing by the movement’s co-founders decided to mobilize. They did not immediately know how to address the issue but knew that they could somehow make a difference. They decided to try to get the student body involved and to stand in solidarity with the victim.
Travis and David came up with the idea, that if they wore pink clothing to school and got everyone to do the same, their sheer force of numbers would make bullying impossible and show support towards the student that was teased. They went out and bought as many pink T-shirts and tank tops as they could find, distributed them to colleagues, and started campaigning for all students at Central Kings High School to wear pink over the coming days. According to the founders, 850 out of 1,000 learners wore some kind of pink that day and from there Pink Day started. Within days, the trend caught fire and rapidly spread to the rest of Nova Scotia, as schools across the province got involved. Within weeks, schools all over Canada participated and within a month, the world.
What Can Teachers Do?
Set a safe classroom environment. Make it clear that bullying will not be accepted under any circumstances and students who violate this will face serious consequences. Encourage kids to speak up. Most times, bullying continues because students are worried that they will just be picked at when the teacher is not around, or if the students have witnessed it, they themselves will become victimized. As a classroom, create a process of dealing with bullying. Illustrate the things students should do if they experience bullying. Read this out to your classroom and be clear that these are the rules your classroom stands by. Ask students to support one another and discuss why positive language is so important. Promote more group and teamwork; make cooperation the hallmark of success. Reward acts of kindness between students by recognizing it when it occurs and by heaping praise on the givers.
Spot the signs early. Some common forms of bullying are, teasing, name-calling, hitting, kicking, pushing, breaking someone's things, leaving someone out, spreading rumors, texting to threaten, embarrass, or hurt someone's reputation online. Educate yourself and your classroom of the signs, so you all know what to look out for.
Last but not least, don’t forget about the bully. In most cases, the person inflicting shame or harm on others is often suffering themselves. Try to connect with that student. A little love goes a long way.