Category: Compassion & Social Justice



Beaver Creek flows into the Saskatchewan River

Remembering my Relations

Everything has Spirit.  Everything is connected to everything else. I came to these understandings late in life—at the same time recognizing that in some reduced form, I had always known it. The strongest knowing of interconnection in my childhood was that my family members could hurt each other. This included me. I thought more about how we could avoid hurting each other’s feelings than I did about how we could affect each other’s happiness.

I have carried with me since childhood this understanding of how feelings are connected. This brought with it a sense of responsibility and attempts not to emotionally wound others. It was a very imperfect response to connectedness. I remember with regret that I could get drawn into the behaviours of friends and make fun of other children, not directly, but behind their back. I chose some friends and left others out–again, not directly, but the result was just that.  I don’t remember ever saying, “you can’t play with me.” I did understand that my actions could wound others and remorse was part of it too.

Just down the street from us was the Cowan family – a warm and jolly bunch that my sisters and I really liked. My parents also liked. But I had a slight sense of superiority over them and I intuited that my mother did too. It was something to do with the smells inside there house. And what seemed like their lesser intelligence. This due to them not doing too well at school. Yet, they were loyal and trustworthy friends. I think my reservations about the value of their friendship is really sad. They moved away before I started high school but I feel certain, if one of them had been my age, I wouldn’t have continued with her as a close friend.

After the challenges of childhood and the teenage years, I became more dedicated to not hurting others and more consistent in acting from the understanding of how we all share the same needs. My focus on injustice still causes me to feel great anger when people in positions of power disregard the well being of others and the environment.

My sense of connection to the Earth and all other living beings was not very strong in those years, yet I did like to walk to school by myself as a teenager, through a field rather than down the sidewalk. My mom and dad took us on picnics and wiener roasts and swimming in lakes and a small river and we were outdoors all summer playing with neighbour kids but I don’t remember ever thinking that I was part of the natural world and in relationship with other life forms. My daughter gave her daughter a sense of connection to the natural world at a young age and in a natural way — a rare gift. During walks, she drew her attention to birds, bugs, trees, shrubs, and flowers and always said, “Hello birds” or “Hello tree.” Often handing her a leaf or small flower to look at.

hello flower

In the last couple of decades, I have become immersed more frequently and gratefully in the beauties of the Earth. My understanding of interconnection with everything there is, is what I live with now. It brings me moments of deep feeling and moments when guilt or regret surface. More about that later, but first the satisfaction, the gratitude. I am quite an ordinary seeker of the spirit in trees, the herons in flight, the ocean, the people I encounter, and the solid rocks. Yet, growing within me is a new joy in being outside, and a stronger absorption when listening to piano sonatas in the early morning, or watching the light transform the furniture to glow with richer colours. The constriction of my heart is being stretched and smoothed, my feelings loosened and set free, and happiness and quiet more frequently settle upon me.

And, in the last few years I have gradually been able to be more at peace outdoors, less restless when sitting by the river or the ponds we visit. Just to sit and breathe and look is the greatest pleasure. I have an attachment to the birds that twitter away in the trees by the river or the waterfowl and shore birds at the ponds we visit. I have a life time attachment to trees and my spirit never tires of back-lit leaves.

I notice more and am moved in a deeper way by beauty in all its forms. A little more than a week ago, Dennis and I saw a Bittern by the shore of one of the ponds in a conservation area. It was standing still and quiet that first day – all soft brown and tawny as the reeds that enclosed him. And on that second day, the Bittern moved into the light and we were absorbed into the place of pond and bird and light and water and reeds. The Bittern had such certainty of being and of movement, utterly focused, yet easy in its world. These were moments when my spirit felt such a strong sense of being gifted by the sun, the Bittern, the pond waters; and of experiencing my own presence as no longer separate. The sun charged the body of this great bird with light, with fire. Its feathers turned to copper iridescence and the Bittern was given a luminous outline. I was in love.  I had been given a sense of the rightness of the world.

This was an experience that erased the sorrow of what we have done to our world. To live, to feel, to see, and join in the sacredness of being was enough for that time. The pull, the undertow of knowing that my connection to everything else brings responsibilities was absent. Yet being within the beauty, the pleasures of the day, is often where that ancient question of, “What then must I do?” arises.

Indigenous Elders and Wisdom Keepers use the phrase, “all my relations” to talk about the central understanding that we are connected in spirit with all other living things and with the Earth as a truth and a reminder that we have obligations to the living world of which we are a part.

Grasslands National Park

In the writing of William Mussell, an educator with the Sal’i’shan Institute, another expression of this central understanding. He describes what it means to be interrelated to all of life as understanding that we must be responsible to the impact of our behavior on all the others and emphasizes that each party in a relationship is equal in worth.

“In relationship, one must be willing to take responsibility for the impact of one’s behavior toward the other, as well as responsibility for managing and learning from one’s responses to the other’s behavior. Each party in the relationship is equal in worth to the other, regardless of difference in age, knowledge levels, insight or personal authority.” (Mussell, W., 2008)

How best to meet this responsibility is a constant question. When asked by environmental activists  what they could do to save the Earth, Vietnamese Zen teacher and peace activist, Thich Nhat Hahn, after a long pause responded by saying that they needed to,

“place their hands on the earth and listen to the cries of the world.”

This was not the answer they expected. He wanted them to “reconnect with their original motivation: love for the earth.”  I think he wanted them to feel why they were doing the work they did first, as the foundation for thinking and action – feel their gratitude for the beauty and diversity and mystery of being.

To only feel guilt and pressure to do more for those who suffer, more for the burdened earth, is a disservice, to beauty, to life. A happy appreciation for diversity, for beauty, for being alive, must be there too. In the end, I feel there the best way I can respond to gifts of beauty, freshness, goodness is first with pleasure and gratitude, then with knowing that the only thing you can do is to show up; to be present as your singular, unrepeatable, self. Look, listen, quieten, be still, know that you are unique, that we are all extraordinary and enough. And that is our role always, to do what is our piece. Guard yourself from those who want us to be other than we are, stop your ears to any message that you are not enough, insufficient as you are, and go out into the world complete. Yes, we must do what we can. But I feel strongly that doing everything you can means most profoundly, what you can. That of course means knowing who you are – a life’s work in itself.

If we are fortunate, the work life we choose will be the life closest to our gifts and abilities. I felt becoming a compassionate and creative teacher was a way of giving back to the world – my way. Teaching and parenting were demanding and satisfying. When the contributions you make through your work life seem to end, they don’t really. You take what you have learned and it is part of you and can continue to heal others in perhaps, less direct but equally important ways. Our presence, the way we smile at a clerk or another person out walking can add to the store of good feelings in the world and perhaps make the other person feel good about  who they are in an almost imperceptible but nourishing way. I enjoy those encounters with the spirit of another. I am grateful for them. They contribute to feeling fresh and happy to be alive and here in this place – here with all the other people, the other living beings.

present, awake, alive

Gratitude that is felt through every bone, muscle, cell, will be compelling enough to remain with what your spirit tells you, and your soul compels you to be, yourself. Yourself to care for, love, and not overburden. Your responses then will be the ones only you can do –the ones you were always meant to do. Perhaps you are meant to be an appreciator. When accepted as your role, particularly later in life when energy starts to ebb, appreciating, enjoying, entering in, may be exactly what to do next, and ever.

“It is love that fuels us to make constructive change in our care for the natural world and of our fellow human beings.” (Coleman, M., p.11)

The Dark and the Whole

The Dark and the Whole

On Darkness and Oneness

the light within the storm  Photograph © Colleen Watson-Turner

There is so much we don’t know, and to write truthfully about a life, your own or your mother’s, or a celebrated figure’s, an event, a crisis, another culture is to engage repeatedly with those patches of darkness, those nights of history, those places of unknowing. Solnit, R. (2014), p.

Rebecca Solnit* is commenting on something that Virginia Woolf wrote in her journal on Jan. 18, 1915 as the First World War was leading to such affliction, suffering and heartbreak. She wrote, “The future is dark, which is the best thing the future can be, I think.” Solnit understands Woolf’s darkness as uncertainty of not being able to see what is ahead—a good thing to hold as fundamental to persons as well as futures. She says,

[Woolf] is calling for circumstances that do not compel the unity of identity that is a limitation or even repression. It’s often noted that she does this for her characters in her novels. Less often than, in her essays, she exemplifies it in the investigative, critical voice that celebrates and expands, and demands it in her insistence on multiplicity, on irreducibility, and maybe on mystery, if mystery is the capacity of something to keep becoming, to go beyond, to be uncircumscribable, to contain more.  (pp. 99-100).

Not knowing for sure, there are still possibilities–perhaps that something better is still achievable. The dark story may still hold moments of compassion or generosity; it may end in a different place. The horizon may shift. More will be seen.

Even when a life has been completed, the story of who the person was is not completed and never will be, and perhaps, never should be. My father was in the trenches in France during that First World War at the age of 17. He had a dark side. Perhaps as a result of his war experiences, perhaps as a result of the way these experiences affected who he was and his personhood as a whole. The suffering and scars went deep for him and affected those closest to him. He had an unpredictable temper, black moods, and a fatal flaw in his need for power, love, and admiration that no one could fulfill. While this was true for how we knew him, there was much more. He had great warmth, humour, and creativity. You could say his darkness was darker and his brightness brighter than most people.

Yet at the heart of his life was a passion for social justice, and a belief that we are indeed our brother’s keeper (he felt this as deeply as any Christian yet he was an agnostic and no lover of organized religions). He came to deplore wars and nationalistic pride and was a pacifist. My father accepted the responsibilities these convictions brought with them and fought for the rights of workers throughout the 1950’s and 60’s. He helped to organize unions and walked picket lines with striking workers. I remember one occasion where he stood with the women from Woolworth’s (a five and dime type of department store) in a strike he helped organize because he believed forming a union would bring them a living wage and job security—something few women had.

He loved the outdoors, creating family rituals, and teaching all the neighbourhood kids games we could play with a few cans or a ball. He was a sentimental man who cried at weddings on television and a storyteller with a tendency to exaggeration and holding the floor for what could seem like forever. How I remember him and how I feel about him as a father and as a human being has continued to change as I change. I will never capture all of who he was and like Woolf, feel that is a good thing.

We can look at persons as wholes, as embodying singularity and a oneness that contains a world. Or as so inextricably connected to everyone, every event, and everything else that we are confounded in our attempts to know who they are with any certainty. How much we can bear is perhaps how much we can see or understand of a person close to us or of what it means to be human. It is not easy to recognize or accept all that is below the surface of someone you feel close to.

I find I need vision to see the good within all humans; a lot of moral courage to face what history tells of human destructiveness; and greater sensitivity to see the compassion of others as their beauty. To understand that the seemingly ordinary people I see on the street all have whole lives and hidden depths, unrealized talents and dreams takes heart, and willingness to forego judgements. It seems like a crucial understanding. I often fall short. I have found models of this openness and kindness in my life and in my reading and I continue to feel this is an essential life task for all of us.

In describing the nature of the world, naturalist Sigurd Olson talks of an attitude of facing, seeing all that life contains, it’s joys and sorrows, and being able to feel in accord with it, a part of that world.

Oneness is a sense of communion vital to a [hu]man’s mental well-being and to his [or her] survival. It does not come just by being called upon; far more than a point of view, a permanent attitude that colours all we do. . . . Oneness recognizes all things, the harsh with the benevolent, the cruel with the kind, violence with peace—all of it belonging to those who know it. Oneness can be felt anywhere on a city street, in a quiet pool, at home, or on some raging ocean coast. It does away with fear. (Sigurd Olson (1976/1997) Reflections from the North Country, Alfred A. Knopf: New York, p. 79)

Oh, to be able to feel and keep that sense of communion, to see the beggar and know he is also me. A soul that is part of the world’s soul. A sorrow that is part of the beauty and the anguish of the world, a part of the all that is in me and beyond me. Oneness, darkness, and light.

*In Solnit, ((2014), “Woolf;s Darkness: Embracing the Inexplicable.” pp. 85-106.




Sometimes Beauty is Simply Waiting to be Understood

Sometimes Beauty is Simply Waiting to be Understood

cultivated rose in rose garden – photograph courtesy of M. McCreath

I have been thinking about the concept of beauty for many years.

A friend took this picture of a cultivated rose in a Portland rose garden. I appreciate everything about this image, — its shapes, colours, the meanings it carries for me. I am grateful for wild roses as well, with their more modest beauty and their distinctive yet gentle scent.

I find I turn to the natural world for the beauty I crave in my life more often than any artifact, human face or body, architecture, or film although all of these can give me pleasure or heighten my day as well. There are a few constants for me in the natural world that feed my soul—sunlight on water, back-lit leaves on deciduous trees, and the shapes of tree limbs in all their particularities.

wild roses on the prairie – Photograph © Colleen Watson-Turner

I like looking at rocks, stones, shells, wild flowers, tree roots, and barks. My mother loved clouds and the skies in her paintings were often wonderful. She used to say that sometimes skies are so beautiful that if she painted them, people would think she was embellishing scenes that were actually less dramatic or less beautiful than what her paintings revealed. Recently, I have taken to cloud watching as a kind of morning meditation. I miss having our acreage, and former yards and all the hours spent looking at the changing light and the affect of back lighting. Now that we live in a downtown condo, I feed my soul by sky- gazing from our floor to ceiling windows and walking the river trails close to our home.

Only music can come close to equaling the natural world for its place in my days. I used to listen to a CBC classical music show first thing every morning—one hosted by Eric Friesen and later others. And Dennis and I had a classical music program we loved that was part of our dinner hour.  Music for Awhile aired classical pieces rarely played on other shows. It introduced us to new music. Other CBC and American Public Radio programming, both jazz and classical, also shape our music tastes. They sharpen my listening abilities, teach me new things, and generally play a central role in both our lives. For me, this is another quality of the beautiful – it can draw me in and help me to grow as a human, expanding my ideas of the beautiful, the sublime, and their relationship to the contradictory and sharp edges of life.

Perhaps, I could say that sometimes an image or set of sounds is beautiful because it is arresting or startling—shaking me out of living in my head. I think beauty also has a role in destroying stereotypes.

Sometimes my feelings seem to have a certain kind of beauty. This experience might be because a documentary tells a story of human courage, endurance and compassion. I listen to the voice and watch the face of the speaker and feel moved to respond with some courage and compassion of my own, even in if it is fleeting, it reminds me of what is of real worth in life.

snake pit, Grasslands National Park- Photograph © Colleen Watson-Turner

I’m glad that not everyone finds the same things beautiful. We need beauty in our lives and we need to expand our sense of what is beautiful lest we are drawn to judgments that diminish and destroy our care for each other and the planet. I read a chapter about vultures recently and really appreciated this paragraph for its suggestion that there are other points of view in relation to the beautiful.

“The vultures of Asia have all but disappeared while few people were paying attention and the vultures of Africa are in trouble as well. The fate of these birds, and the fate of the ecosystem they are essential to, and which is in turn essential to many people, still hangs in the balance. It is a teachable moment in how we need to understand the world around us: not only those things that are beautiful and give us pleasure, but even those that seem, as Charles Darwin said of the vulture, disgusting. Sometimes beauty is simply waiting to be understood.(from, The Wonder of Birds, by Jim Robbins, 2017).

I love that. Once again we are reminded that everything is connected to everything else and everything is needed for its unique self.

  • What seems beautiful to you?
  • What role does beauty have in your life?
  • Have you been damaged by other people’s notions of beauty and ugliness?
  • Do any of your own notions of beauty diminish you or your relationships to other living things?
  • Can you find beauty everywhere?
Inside the Practice of Hope

Inside the Practice of Hope

solstice sunrise – Photograph © Colleen Watson-Turner

“The hopeful spirit transcends limitations.”

The life I want to live is a life in which I care for myself, I care for others, I care for the Earth. For this, I need to retain the hope that it is possible. A vision of the good. Having big questions is part of it. Always loving the mystery. Feeding my curiosity – freeing my imagination. Laughing and crying.

And here is the hard part. Pain, discouragement, despair are real. So hopefulness is a life’s work. The large hill to climb before the picnic , and then the next hill appears. And sometimes I feel I might not make it to the place where the water is –the place where of the full life resides and the day that Thoreau says will dawn to the soul that is awake. And that is a funny thing. I am too often awake, but in that other sense of not being asleep.

Hopefulness begins with a belief about myself. I learn this over and over. For example, insomnia is a experience that plagues me and many women I know. When the night of short sleeps pile up, I can feel despair. The need to overcome that sense of feeling helpless in the cycle of almost sleepless nights grows in me until finally I can say to myself, “I can handle this.” I know that this is the start of the practice of hopefulness–the belief that I will find a way to live with the experience of tiredness and the feelings that pervade the long, dark hours of the night.

To say, “I can handle this.” shifts the experience for me. My feelings become a little lighter. I am then more prepared to see symbols of hope in my present life. Walking to our biggest windows when I can’t sleep, I see the moon and, for some reason, this cheers me up. Sometimes I turn to the tall sturdy spruces to remember that life endures.

I have learned that my insomnia comes in cycles. I also sleep well for many weeks at a time. The hopeful spirit knows that change is a constant of life. The way things are can shift suddenly and unexpectedly from the outside. These shifts that we didn’t foresee are part of the reality that everything is connected to everything else. They mean that we don’t know what will happen next and that we are not in complete control. I find it heartening to know that change will happen. Sometimes I find out that what I was thinking of as bad turns out to be a good. My labels are most often not helpful.

And less this get too solemn or earnest, a tendency I have, humour brings hope. And feelings of gratitude cannot be forced – it’s hard to feel despair and gratitude at the same time. If someone can make me laugh, I am mightily blessed.If I can make myself laugh, or someone else laugh, I am doubly blessed. A crack in the wall where the light breaks through.

When my sources of meaning dim, I can usually just get outside, go for a walk along the river or around the block, deadhead a few flowers in the bed outside our condo building, and my spirits lighten. Getting outside is my most dependable source of renewal.

To say, “This happened to me” is a way to affirm experiences from my past as a step towards letting them go. To say, “This is happening to me” is a way to acknowledge an experience that is discouraging me.  Accepting my present circumstances — not to give up on them, but accepting them because they already exist, has been for me the first step in viewing my life more positively . Gratitude also grows from this seed. Fighting our present reality saps precious energy. To regain hopefulness, my experience has been that first I have to believe in myself, my strengths, creativity, ability to persevere. I remind myself I overcame challenges in the past. I remember that I have a support network.

I know that everyone on earth does not have the support system that I have.  When I am able to feel grateful for my own strengths , the support I receive, and for all that my life holds my soul feels more grounded and my spirit expands.

It helps me to be aware that any personal difficulties I face are part of a much larger source of pain which I call World Sorrow and Earth Lament. To find hopefulness in the midst of the cruelty and destructiveness of humans is the most difficult of all for me and I want to turn away from it. But I can’t. It seems to be there always as an almost imperceptible weight on my chest or in my heart. It is at the times when I feel like I can’t watch or listen to the news that I try to remember the courage of millions of people the world over.

the place of prayer beads – photograph, Jane Thurgood Sagal

I find hope in other people’s stories.  The ways that people under the most discouraging, dangerous, or pain-filled situations carry on with their lives moves me deeply.  The ways people maintain their sense of humour within a painful moment or repetitive days of struggle inspires me. The moral and physical courage of others can be a source of renewed hopefulness about the state of our world and an inspiration for my own actions when grayness descends. I have learned to remember the stories or the faces of courageous and compassionate others but not to use them to compare and criticize myself.

Hope comes from believing that small actions matter. John Tarrant wrote of this with tenderness.

The movements of compassion can be big enough to save rain forests, but intimacy also appears in the small acts that open infinitely large doors. Modest act of courage reverse evils before they grow great; small generosities welcome children to the world. Those who recognize their connection with others serve quietly, like members of a secret order. Then the small acts and the large coalesce (pp 139-140)

Throughout my teaching life I was inspired by the children I taught. I think of Laurie, a bright-eyed little girl in my grade one class who told me she was so happy that she was going to learn to tell time and understand clocks because then she could get herself to school on time. Laurie often come to school later in the morning when her struggling, single-parent mother did not wake up. Laurie told me that she would be able to get her little sisters up too and feed them before she came to school. All this, she said with a beaming face. Imagine.

Hope is real and necessary and for me it is foundational to creating a better life and a better world.

Hope at the Center of Education

Hope at the Center of Education

Photograph © Colleen Watson-Turner

Hope at the Center: Voices of Indigenous and non Indigenous Educators

(See Gratitudes for full references for all authors quoted)

“Teaching is the psychology of hope, and hope is a cause and a consequence of action. It prefers participation to observation, and it believes that vast problems can yield to several small solutions. Teaching creates the infrastructure of the art of the impossible.” -Marie Battiste, (2013, p.175)

This post is largely dedicated to teachers who work with indigenous students and is written with gratitude for the educators and scholars whose books have illuminated the practice of hope in indigenous communities and urban schools. I commend their work to all teachers.

I have also explored the concept of hope in other writing and feel strongly that teaching doesn’t make any sense if, as teachers, we don’t believe that every one of our students is capable of learning and growing (Finney, 2013). With this conviction, at the heart of our teaching, we don’t give up on any student. We reject deficit beliefs about any cultural group or set of economic circumstances. No matter how difficult the challenges we face, we act. We find ways to support our students to see their own gifts, inner strengths, and the knowledge they already possess. We use our hearts to understand our students’ unique needs and to reach out to their communities; we use the resources within and around us to strengthen their learning, and our imaginations to create other resources. We see our students as always more than they reveal in the present moment. This is a practice of hope.

Hope as a belief in the capabilities and gifts of students is also an openness to being inspired by them. I feel moved by the passion of Cheryl Morin, a Cree teacher at Pelican Narrows when she describes her beliefs about her students in these words:

 I hold a number of positive beliefs in my heart, spirit, and mind that keep me focused and intent on moving forward. First and foremost is my belief that the large number of youth in our community are an untapped asset, full of potential.Youngsters are open and willing to try new ideas and alternative practices if they have guidance and receive assurances that they won’t be left defenceless ( in Goulet & Goulet, p.184).

Marie Battiste’s compassion and wisdom makes this belief in students clear when she says that education is the belief in possibilities. Her words express this idea powerfully and directly:

We as educators must refuse to believe that anything in human nature and in various situations condemns humans to poverty, dependency, weakness, and ignorance. We must reject the idea the youth are confined to situations of fate, such as being born into a particular class, gender, or race. We must believe that teachers and students can confront and defeat the forces that prevent students from living more fully and more freely (175).

We grow our courage and compassion through understanding the contextual and historical dimensions of indigenous education in our country, and work with others on overcoming present injustices. And so we begin with hope, and our first responsibility is to keep it alive, within ourselves, and within our students. This could be likened to tending the fire and not letting it die.

While this is a central principle of indigenous education after colonialism, it is not surprising that it is a shared conviction with all compassionate educators. Sandra Deane, a Canadian educator who worked with low income children in troubled neighbourhoods, ends her book, Hearts and Minds with this same message. In describing the universal themes of education that are central to her work, she writes,

Hope is the most valuable universal theme of all. With hope, children embrace a vision of better things for themselves, and realize they do not have to settle for the same conditions into which they were born (p. 242).

When I reflect on what hope looks like in action in the classroom, what comes to mind first is an attitude, belief, and responsibility to see every day as a new day – letting go of what happened yesterday or last week in terms of patterns in students’ learning or behaviours and my own. A new beginning, a new opportunity is upon us and we don’t know what it will bring but we know it will hold challenges, achievements, surprises, possibly setbacks, but we are prepared in our heart-mind to see what we haven’t seen before.

Hope can also look like humour, liveliness, patience, kindness, perseverance, listening, and appreciating. It grows through a practice of collaboration between students and with families and other community members. Linda & Keith Goulet (2014) in their book, which is rich in case studies of contemporary teachers, conclude with these words,

Above all, as the teachers in this book have shown, we need education for hope – hope that we and our students and community members are capable people who, through our individual and collaborative efforts, can create innovations for positive change in Indigenous education as we enact kee-chee-giskinaumatowin, the striving for excellence in our teaching and learning, with and for each other (217).


“The rainbow is a circle that is completed within the spirits of learners.”

What is your concept of hope? What does hope in the classroom look and feel like to you?

Anti Bullying: From Zero Tolerance to 100% Support for Kindness

Anti Bullying: From Zero Tolerance to 100% Support for Kindness

5 Reasons why Zero Tolerance Doesn’t Work

  1. It emphasizes the behaviour you don’t want instead of what you do.
  2. It can be interpreted so many different ways from the ordinary disagreements that are a part of life, to hitting and name calling that are harmful. Many instances of over reacting and punishing innocent behaviours have been the result of this policy.
  3. It doesn’t teach students better ways to interact with others.
  4. It focuses on punishing the perceived offender but usually not on seeking restitution and teaching “offenders” the importance of making amends. The needs of the person that was harmed are often not considered.
  5. It overlooks the necessity of understanding the roots of hurtful behaviours and doesn’t develop ways to prevent bullying.

5 Ways to Reduce Bullying and Increase Genuinely Kind Behaviours

  1. Start with teachers. Teachers have a lot of power to influence children and teenagers to be kind and respectful to their peers by modeling these behaviours in all that they do –treating their students with care and concern for their overall well-being and not just for their academic progress.
  2. Treat teachers well –valuing their work for the importance it has to future generations. Parents, principals and other administrators, politicians and the general public all have a role to play in seeing that teachers are valued, well paid, and have good work environments.
  3. Teach what kindness and fairness look like and sound like through lessons that include an emphasis on critical thinking and dialogue. It is important to get below the surface kinds of ideas and slogans to supporting students to think critically about all forms of discrimination and disrespect. You want students to be genuine about their feelings and truly understand what it feels like to be bullied. An important place to start is involving students of in discussions related to the social and emotional needs of all people such as for emotional safety and the need to speak and be listened to with respect.
  4. Know what is happening in school hallways and playgrounds, and to and from school. Even in classrooms when teachers are present, hurtful behaviours happen and making knowing what’s really happening a priority takes a real commitment. Ensure that students all know that kind and respectful behaviours are a genuine priority at school. At the same time it is important to be clear that disagreements are a part of life. It is not eliminate the right to disagree, but to teach ways to do this respectfully and non violently.
  5. Develop and use a restorative justice model that shows concern for all students who might be involved in some way in bullying –those who harm, those who are harmed, and those who witness hurtful behaviours. Teach students ways to stand up for the fair and kind treatment of others and how important it is to make amends and restore harmony as much as is possible given the situation.