I wrote an article recently for The Huffington Post about bullying, since children that appear different or fragile in some way, usually are the ones who fall victim to this nasty experience. I wrote about this issue that lies close to my heart, having unfortunately been bullied when I was at school, although this now seems a hundred years ago. When a child is chronically ill, or even has the smallest of disability, other children will spot these differences a mile off, so I see education as a powerful tool. I was therefore delighted to come across a remarkable woman who is on a mission, much like myself. I would like to share with you some of Sharon Fialco's thoughts, a fellow author and the President of Fialco Productions, Inc., committed to put an end to bullying through educating communities and in the school classroom.
"School should be a place where children go to learn in an environment where they feel safe both physically and emotionally. All children bring differences to their classrooms that include different ethnicities, family composition, home languages, sexual orientation, dis/abilities, socio-economic status, religions, physical appearance, attitudes, beliefs, goals and dreams. Children fear what they perceive as 'different.'
Teachers should use 'differences' as an opportunity for discussion, inviting ALL children to tell about themselves in order to bring understanding into the classroom. In the case of someone having an 'extra' challenge, this could be seen as a chance to describe a disability or condition and gain empathy and respect from others as they learn how a classmate copes and still strives to do their best. The majority of children (and adults) usually are caring once they understand. As for the bullies that can not be brought around, bad behaviour on their part would be viewed with disdain rather that prompting others to join in.
Our family came together through the Starabella books to teach children rather than excluding, fearing, and bullying those who appear different, to recognize what makes themselves and each other special. They are encouraged to "listen to the good voice inside themselves rather than following the loudest, most threatening voice."
It should be a priority for schools to teach social sensitivity and social conflict resolution to prepare children to grow into responsible adults in democratic societies. It serves everyone well to live in a compassionate, accommodating society since each person might be the next one needing help and understanding."