The Art of Kindness
Parents and students at ArtSpace are being reintroduced this year to an outstanding data-based program called Olweus Bully Prevention. Developed by Dr. Dan Olweus, the program teaches students that feeling safe and respected at school is a basic human right that must be cultivated intentionally and retaught as needed. The program focuses on the involvement of the entire student and adult population at school and explicitly teaches strategies for intervening with students who bully or condone bullying behaviors, as well as instructions for bystanders who are unsure how to react and supports for students who experience bullying behaviors and training for adult responders.
The backbone of Olweus is the following four rules which can be seen posted in classrooms and halls around ArtSpace:
The program aims to reduce incidents of bullying in the first place by creating a culture that does not allow it and to teach students how to verbalize and take action when they witness bullying behavior. During weekly class meetings, students are taught how to discuss situations with honesty and sincerity then practice actively – sometimes through role-play activities – how to shift a bullying encounter so that it unfolds with a more positive outcome. These class meetings help students understand what bullying is and explore the difference between bullying behaviors and mean behaviors or roughhousing behaviors.
Bullying is defined by the Olweus Program as:
- aggressive behavior that involves unwanted, negative actions
- that involves a pattern of behavior repeated over time
- where there is an imbalance of power or strength
Middle School language arts teacher, Ms. Leila, has been very impressed with the focus of her students during their first two class meetings. “It’s tempting for some teens to roll their eyes at the idea of having meetings about bullying behaviors… but [students] have been honest, productive…and have started delving into what really happens when kids exclude, mock and invalidate others.”
When asked, all teachers, not just those at ArtSpace, would say that real learning can only happen if students feel safe in their environment. ArtSpace asks students to experiment with their creativity; to try and fail, learn and then try again – and this requires an even more heightened sense of safety in their learners. By honing in on the components of the Olweus Bully Prevention Program as a whole school, ArtSpace faculty and staff assure students that they are in a space safe to learn, and empowered to help make the space safe for everyone.
Along with our participation in such national initiatives such as No Place for Hate and Pink Shirt Day, the Olweus Bully Prevention Program grounds the school in tolerance, respect, and kindness. The goal is that ArtSpace will always be an oasis where students are respected, embraced, and supported–and moreover a place where all students are empowered to cultivate strategies for standing up for social justice whenever and wherever others are vulnerable.