"I Am Not Scared" Project
Grandma takes care of me
• When and how did the bullying start – the students are in 7th grade during the present school year 2011-2012
• Main participants - girl А (bully) and boy B (victim)
• Acts of bullying
The girl A was born by a single mother, who has been working abroad for the last 4 years. The grandmother of the girl takes care of A. the grandmother also lives alone. A has been student in charge for her class and a representative in the student council at school – she was active, initiative, participating in a number of various extracurricular activities. This year however the student in charge is changed. The results of A are lower and her behavior during breaks is worse. She is often found to be unable to stand some of her classmates and particularly boy B, with whom she actually grew up. The negative attitude is manifested through remarks and insults, which evolve into threats for physical punishment. Verbal harassment on the side of A includes insults for B’s father (“semi blind”), while the boy insults A’s mother (says that she is a “whore”).
Boy B has had bad behavior since 5th grade – he is intemperate, with low motivation for studying, unstable attention and unacceptable behavior during the periods and during breaks, systematic discipline and order obstruction. Parental control is low there – both the mother and father worked abroad until this year, and B’s grandmother took care of him. The grandmother manages with her grandson’s problematic behavior to a certain extent. He finished 6th grade without exams and with one punishment “remark”. From the beginning of this school year however his parents return permanently in the country and, while searching for new employment, have decided to take care about their son’s upbringing themselves. The change in the family situation, the age changes and the changed relationships influence the boy’s behavior, which often goes beyond any limits and turns into harassment towards classmates, relates and friends. Only within two months B receives in the class-register 11 remarks and 4 unexcused absences – a few times more than those registered within the last two years.
B’s mother and father are informed about these changes with a letter form the form tutor. They are invited for a conversation. At the same time B complains to his parents that his classmate A is insulting him and that because of her, he is punished to sweep the floors. Actually no such punishment has been imposed yet, but the student is reprimanded by the form tutor with a remark due to “systematic disruption of the discipline during periods and insulting behavior towards teachers”.
B’s parents decided that a negative attitude has been formed towards their son and after a threatening mobile phone conversation with the form tutor, they appeared for a meeting with the headmaster with a very aggressive and offensive attitude. A meeting with the participation of the headmasters, the form tutor, students A and B, pedagogic advisor, representatives of the school council and B’s parents takes place. The situation is actually clarifies successfully and the possible solutions are discussed. Peace is regained. The following weeks prove that the harassment has ended.
• Time period – two months.
When they find out their son’s side of the story about the problem and on the basis of the letter received from the form tutor, B’s parents decided that a certain negative attitude towards their son has been formed and initially they are quite aggressive and offensive. Nevertheless the go to the meeting with the headmaster, the form tutor, A, B, the pedagogic advisor and the representatives of the school council. Thanks to this meeting the situation is clarified, the possible solutions are discussed and peace is regained. The following weeks prove that the bullying has ended, i.e. the measures, which were undertaken have been effective.
Effect of the bullying on:
1. The educational process: tension has appeared, because the victim and the bully are in a constant psychological conflict; there is a lack of concentration, especially in the case of the direct participants in the conflict; their thoughts are focused only towards what is happening and the possible consequences form it; there is no motivation or desire for studying. Particularly for the boy, the conflict represents a major obstacle to normal studying; he goes to fewer classes and gets many new remarks. Becoming a bully also affects A’s studying; she is no longer a responsible student in the class.
2. Students’ motivation: the desire for achieving results – for both bully and victim – is in recess; they see no point in diligent studies, but focus their attention towards thinking up new insults, attacks and counter-attacks. Violence is counter-motivating for the direct participants in the bullying. They feel restless and uneasy. The witnesses are not influenced much. They distance themselves from this case and isolate the two participants in this conflict.
3. Students’ achievements: they become worse, because the interest for studying is lower. Both bully and victim find themselves in a problematic situation, which endangers their results. From psychological point of view they are facing the danger of having to make large development steps without the attention, care and support of their closest people (especially in the case of the girl and her mother, working abroad) or to adjust to a new social status (this is the boy, whose parents return from abroad and take the responsibility to take care of him).
4. A feeling of security and safety: both victim and bully feel unsafe – in the righteousness of their actions and attacks/counterattacks as well as in the actions of the adults (parents, form tutors, headmaster). The boy has been bullied by an old friend actually. In her actions we can recognize jealousy and envy due to the fact that his parents are back and supporting him. She misses the care of her mother in such an important period of personal growth and development. Their social equality is not present anymore and a conflict appears – the girl attacks in order to make the presence of B’s parents meaningless and unimportant, he responds in order to protect them and him and not to allow a girl to make fun of him and insult him.
5.School integration: there is rejection from the others and establishing of a distance between the victim, the bully and the witnesses. The witnesses deny integration. The conflict triggers forces of separation between children who have grown up together and have been good friends until then. They are having problems being accepted into the class group, which is otherwise really close and unanimous, particularly in relation to communication and problem resolution issues. The two – victim and bully – will face integration difficulties because of inadequate communication with their peers and making trouble at school. From psychological point of view it is obvious that the girl is facing real hardships – she is no longer a leader in the class and she is losing a friend, because she is unable to forgive him for the fact that he now can rely on his parents and therefore needs her less. She undertakes a behavior, which is untypical for her – i.e. the processes of development, which she is going through are really tough. The fact that she feels remorse shows that she is aware of the inadequacy of her behavior.
Reasons for the aggression:
• The change of the situation in the family: the parents have returned and boy B feels more protected, but also uneasy (how is his daily routine going to change and what consequence will occur because of all the remarks and absences). After all, the grandmother was indeed covering up certain details about his problematic behavior at school.
• The change of attitude of A towards him and the insults she is saying are due to the looks of B’s father (he has one eye and she is calling him “semi blind”), which B shared with no one until the meeting.
• What help he needs and from whom? Individual work with the pedagogic advisor and joining a group for interests.
o Motivation: To express her influence and importance in the group (the class) and her dominance over the boy B at any cost.
• Why/how did she choose the victim? She knows him well (“they grew up together”), and he has promiscuous behavior, low self-control (no restraints).
• Remorse – yes, she does feel remorse for how she has behaved.
• Understanding of what is happening: all students witness what is happening and do not justify the two students.
• Possible reasons for the aggression according to them: the students form the class consider that the reasons are connected to the uncontrollable behavior of the boy and the fact that the girl has been raised by a single parent.
• What did they do and why: in general the class is quite united and with very high grades. Whenever a conflict situation appears they discuss it openly among each other, they share their opinions and thus extinguish the rising aggression.
• In this particular situation the teacher were informed about what was happening by the headmaster and the pedagogic advisor and were aware of the conflict between the two children.
• They did not undertake specific actions, because the headmaster, the form tutor and the pedagogic advisor, thanks also to the readiness for collaboration, which B’s parents show in the end, lead to a calm and successful resolution of the situation.
• Support from the other teachers and the school headmaster – being in fact the “other teachers” they are ready to provide all their support to the persons directly involved with the two children, as well as to the headmaster herself.
• Awareness of the events. The headmaster calmly investigates all sides and all information about the case.
• In response to what has happened, she conducts a meeting with all participants and all affected by the events.
• What is necessary to be done for improving the situation – in general, the situation in this class and in the school as a whole is quite calm and the children discuss their problems and find reasonable solutions. The reaction of the headmaster to gather all affected sides and all participants and to conduct a discussion, as well as to direct the children towards individual work with the school pedagogic advisor is consider appropriate and sufficient. The participation of the school in this project in itself speaks of readiness and willingness for adoption in the school practice of successful models for intervention and prevention.
• Whether they noticed what was happening? No, they did not have enough information and overview before the meeting. They consider that regular consultations are necessary.
• If someone informed them and who was that: the parents were informed by the form tutor in accordance with the procedure described in the school activity regulations.
• Whether they were able to change the situation and how: After becoming informed about the events, the parents appear for the meeting and discussion at the school and thus help the positive resolution of the situation of tension between the two students.
• The pedagogic advisor was not aware about these events prior to the meeting. From the previous year however she has had information about the manifestations of improper behavior on behalf of the boy.
• How could she improve the communication and interaction – communication and interaction can be only via regular meetings between the parents, the form tutor, the pedagogic advisor and the students.
In this particular case, the responsible persons, who take decisions for the purpose of improving the situation of the two children, are the parents of the boy and the school headmaster.
The actions of the boy’s parents are based on their belief that their child is the victim of the aggressive behavior of the student A and the inadequate reactions of the form tutor and the school headmaster. They go to the meeting at the school with this understanding of the situation and with an aggressive attitude.
The school headmaster reacted very professionally and tolerantly, considering all points of view and hearing out the boy’s parents very carefully. We must point out as a major disadvantage the inadequate and untimely actions of the teachers of the two children, who had been aware of the situation. Another substantial deficiency comes from the fact that the pedagogic advisor was not aware of the problem until the meeting, which took place.
Finally, the meeting between the parents, the headmaster, the two children, the form tutor and the pedagogic advisor proved to be of great use and solved the problem. The conclusions drawn that more frequent meetings between the parents or the people who take care of them and help them grow and develop as human beings is very useful considering prevention of violence at school and timely actions from all interested parties in such cases.
The situation in the country, the high levels of unemployment, the lack of adequate job offerings on behalf of the local labor offices are the reason due to which young families leave the care for their children to old grandmothers and grandfathers and leave to search employment abroad. The children are at a fragile age, easily susceptible to different influences and the grandmothers are not able to control them successfully. Life is hard and in a region such as North-Western Bulgaria it is even harder. We, the teachers are not a sufficient factor for resolution of such cases.
In our case however, we managed successfully with the situation with the help of the parents and the quick reaction and adequate activities of the headmaster of the school, the pedagogic advisor and the form tutor.
Our recommendation all schools that find themselves in a similar situation is to seek the help of the parents – they are the fixed element in the process of education and upbringing of the children.
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