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It's OK to be Different

“You must stand for something!
It does not have to be grand, but it must be a positive
that brings light to someone else’s darkness.” Anthony Carmona

There are a number of quotes that give an insight to the importance of taking a stand and standing up for what you believe in. Here at ATC we have been intentional in the key values that we believe in. Certainly the dignity of each individual is a clear priority we articulate with our students. This dignity that we talk about is the right for every individual to feel safe and be respected no matter what the perceived difference or diversity. It is ok to be different. It is ok to be yourself.

Like many schools across Australia, this Friday we highlight the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence. The school has a very strong position towards bullying and we strongly believe that every boy has a right to feel safe at school and everyone has a role to play and that this fundamental right is lived in our community. In our own College Anti-Bullying Policy, which is accessible to all parents though our SEQTA portal, we define Bullying as “repeated oppression, psychological or physical, of a less powerful person by a more powerful person and it occurs when someone or a group of people, upset or create a risk to another person’s health and safety, or their property, reputation or social acceptance.” While this is our official definition as David Farrington describes, in simple terms bullying is repeated intimidation of a person using actions or words.

Our strong stance on bullying is predicated on the basic beliefs that:
• Every individual has value in our community
• Every individual has the right to feel safe from bullying or harassment in all forms
• Every conflict can be resolved. Victims and aggressors both need help to resolve conflict
• Every individual in a community is responsible for the safety of other individuals in our community
• Every individual in our community is responsible for ensuring that other individuals in that community can reach their potential in a supportive and non-threatening environment.

Here at the College we have decided to take on the analogy of bystanders and upstanders in the way we urge everyone to be part of the solution in challenging bullying. For you as parents to be able to engage your sons in any discussion around bullying I would like to share with you some of the messages your son might hear when we are talking about bullying and in particular the messages about being a bystander and an upstander. Our language conveys that bystanders contribute to the problem whilst upstanders contribute to the solution and work to stop the problem of bullying. Research shows that others speaking out or taking action stops bullying behaviour over half the time within seconds!

We talk about the fact that there are different types of bystanders:
• Some participate in starting the bullying
• Some laugh or give attention to the bullying thereby encouraging it
• Some join in the bullying once it is started
• Some are silent – this silence is most often misinterpreted by the bully as support for the bullying and interpreted by the victim as betrayal and support for the bully

We also hope that our students hear us say that it takes courage to be an upstander. Upstanders are people who do something that prevents or reduces the bullying they see, or people who come to the aid of another person who is being bullied by showing them kindness.

Being an upstander is based around action and we hope that the students are hearing the message that an upstander can:
• Take action by telling the bully to stop
• Take action by getting others to stand up with them to the bully
• Take action by helping the victim
• Take action by shifting the focus and redirecting the bully away from the victim
• Take action by telling an adult who can help

Ultimately becoming an upstander takes courage, it requires us to physically do something (to take action!). It requires us to be assertive, it requires us to be compassionate in that we can see the hurt and pain in other people and ultimately it takes leadership. As one of our key pillars, we say that all our students are called to be leaders, and that all students have the capacity to be leaders. This is not about having a badge or a position, it is about understanding the values we as a community aspire to live and seeing when there are examples of behaviour that works in opposition to this. By its nature, bullying very rarely happens when teachers or adults are present, so our success in dealing with any instances of bullying is dependent on the actions of those present to allow us as a community to address it.

Research, both in Australia and overseas, has identified the following combination of broad strategies as most likely to prevent and reduce bullying:
• a universal whole-school approach over a long duration that takes a multi-faceted approach rather than focusing on one single component
• an increased awareness of bullying in the school community through assemblies and focus days and student-owned plans and activities
• a whole-school detailed policy that addresses bullying
• effective classroom management and classroom rules
• the promotion of a positive school environment that provides safety, security and support for students and promotes positive relationships and student wellbeing
• effective methods of behaviour management that are consistently used, are non-hostile and non-punitive
• encouragement and skill development for all students (and especially bystanders) to respond negatively to bullying behaviour and support students who are bullied.

I would encourage all parents to be become more familiar with our Anti-Bullying Policy as we work together to provide an environment that is safe for everyone and a community that positively acts to address instances of bullying. I would encourage all parents to adopt a proactive stance in preparing students for what they can do when they see and/or experience things that are wrong.

As a parent you can:
• Talk about what bullying is before it happens so children can recognise it and know what to do.
• Tell children that bullying can happen to anyone but it is never okay.
• Most importantly, let children know how to get help if bullying happens.
• Talk with students about how they might handle other challenging social situations as well.
• When you talk about bullying, try to also focus on more appropriate ways to act with others and positive ways to get on with other people.
• Check in with your children often. Listen to them. Know their friends, ask about school, and understand their concerns.
• Ask them about issues they tell you about, but don’t jump in to solve their problems. Ask them what they think they can do about it.

Whilst I would hope that the instances of bullying at the College are low, I am realistic to believe that we are not immune to instances of bullying; any school community who claims that bullying doesn’t exist in their school has either their heads in the sand or a culture where students are afraid to speak up. My philosophy is not one of doom and gloom rather it is based around us wanting to be a community that faces up to an issue and tries to empower all in the community to be a part of the solution rather than being part of the problem. In my eyes a good school is not one that says that there is no bullying at the school rather a good school is prepared and willing to do something when actions like bullying rear their ugly heads.

This Friday all students are encourage to wear something orange if possible to both raise awareness about bullying and to signal our unified position to stand up against instances of bullying.

ATC says NO to bullying.

Prayers
I would ask the community to please keep Henry Lucas (9 Lynch) and his family in your thoughts and prayers following the recent passing of his grandfather. We hope that the passage of time will help heal the pain of his passing. Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, may perpetual light shine upon him, may he rest in peace Amen

A Nice Email
It was nice to receive an email from one of our mothers following the initiative of some of our year 8 students. Off their own initiative a couple of our students decided to seek permission to make a number of paper roses in their own time and to hand them out last Wednesday morning on International Women’s’ Day. Their simple message that they wanted to share was that we respect you and we hope you can have a wonderful day. Nothing complicated, just a sincere thought. Whilst I did hear an overwhelming positivity around this small initiative this email certainly brought a smile to my face: “This morning when I arrived at school to drop off my son, I had had a very ordinary morning. Just the usual chaos of getting children ready for school, and myself ready for work, and the thousand-and-one tasks that involves. I felt frazzled, to say the least! But then when I pulled up, a group of your boys immediately approached my car and handed me a crepe-paper flower they had made, and wished me a wonderful day, for International Women’s Day. It was so unexpected and so lovely! I just wanted to say thank you, to the person who organised the boys to do that, and to the boys – please let them know how such a small gesture can really make someone’s day.” Who says that we can’t make a difference in our world!!

High School Information Evening
I would remind our Year 4 parents that we will conduct a meeting on Thursday evening 16 March for any parent who would like more information to assist with their decision regarding high school. We have requested that all Year 4 parents advise the College of their intentions regarding high school by next Monday March 20. The meeting will be held in the Chapel of St Joseph commencing 6.30pm. I would ask any parent intending to come along on Thursday evening to respond by sending an email to RSVP@ATC.

With best wishes,
Michael Senior