The biggest antidote for bullying is a good relationship with a teacher.
I heard this from my daughter who had just listened to Colin Pettit, Western Australia’s
Commissioner for young people and seeing that I thought that after the week that was politics in
Australia, I thought I would do a blog on Bullies.
Australian politicians from all sides of Parliament need some education, a mentor and behaviour
management plan that gets them focused on the job they were elected for, making as many people on planet safe, happy and healthy.
The US Master Teacher’s Association details the variables involved in student bullying.
They are a terrifying mixture…
The primary causes of bullying are attention, power and a lack of self-confidence.
The primary basic needs being revealed are problems with sexuality and physical relationships and a primal escape from pain by inflicting it on others.
The secondary needs being revealed are the psychological need for gregariousness or sociability by creating a negative group in the absence of a positive one; the inner desire to hold power over
others and need to find autonomy in a negative defiant way.
These are behaviours which are built up over time and are nurtured by environments that let the
little stuff slip!
Like in political parties and parliamentary question time.
If students behaved in the classroom the way that our lawmakers behave in the parliament we
would suspend them for weeks, get their parents in and get them psychologically tested!
The reasons for this are embedded in understanding how Mindsets are formed…
(If you hang out with SMILE teachers long enough you will end up in a deep discussion about
Mindsets sooner or later!)
Here’s a brief description of the four different types of Mindsets you need to be a leader in this world… these can be learned in depth in our Mindset Manoeuvre Workshop.
First understand that no one individual mindset is superior to the others, they all have value and a
necessary for us to survive and thrive.
Fixed Mindset folks are people who are everyday experts who seek perfection, focus on reproducing what they know and believe are. They believe that their strengths are innate gifts that can’t be stretched beyond the boundaries of their talent and so they focus on perfecting their abilities instead. They are extremely competent in their areas of strength but refuse to entertain anything that is outside of their range.
Growth Mindset operators are daily learners who seek growth and development. They are focused
on improving what they do and believe that their strengths can be developed with effort and focus
on reaching higher levels of achievement. They love goals and adore personal bests they find failure hard to tolerate and can be highly competitive.
Benefit Mindset people are routine contributors who seek to be well and do good. They focus
purposefully on why they do what they do and believe in developing their strengths and
meaningfully contributing to a future of greater possibility. They are highly empathetic and strive to
follow causes that are of worth and make a global difference.
Universal Mind-setters are commonplace leaders who seek to develop sound judgement, focus
purposefully on when they do what they do and believe in developing their strengths by elegantly
contributing to the world through using their wisdom to make the right contribution at the right
time. They seek agility and the ability to be adaptable to the situations that regularly and irregularly.
They aspire to be someone who is brilliant in a crisis.
These Mindsets tend to grow sequentially from the Fixed which works well when you are beginning new things with a mentor who helps you get your needs met.
It works really well for babies.
Then comes the Growth Mindset which is the one that Carol Dweck has made world famous. This is the one that develops between the ages of 2 to 4 years old and it is all about becoming your best and gritty, persisting until you meet your goals.
This is where politicians dwell.
Then if you have psychological safety and a great education, you learn the Benefit Mindset, where you do great things for the benefit of all.
With experience education and leadership you learn that the world is an imperfect place and is full
of many conflicts, problems and issues that you cannot control. So you develop the Universal Mindset which enables you to manoeuvre your responses to solve the problems that beset you.
This needs grace, ego restraint, good judgement and wisdom.
Here’s the great John McCain and Barack Obama showing you how it could be done even across
Which brings us back to bullying and politicians! Instead of moving to a higher Benefit Mindset when they have power over others, poor politicians get stuck in the 2 to 4 year old measurement games and temper tantrums that make us all frustrated.
When you choose the wrong mindset at the wrong time you become a disgraceful, egomaniac, with really poor judgment who is stupid! (Which is what John McCain did when he chose the wrong mindset and Sarah Palin as his running mate!)
So how do we change this?
In the next year SMILE will develop a school based anti-bullying program called “Safe School
Superheroes” (SSSH!) as part of the Mindset Manoeuvre that will teach students, teachers and
parents the skills of graceful relationships and the mindset manoeuvres needed to make schools
We will be offering it to all political candidates and who knows we may even tell you who you should vote for irrespective of their political party based on their mindset agility.
This is because the mindset needed to win an election is a totally different mindset to run a country.
Campaigning against another person tends to become name calling and my side is better than yours and it does no one proud. I personally am thoroughly sick of political parties who seem to have no policies at all except we are better than another political party who look and sound exactly the same as them.
The moments in politics that are the most memorable are those where people give up the ridicule
and unite to enable others to be seen and embraced. Like the apology to the stolen generation, and the same sex marriage bill.
Be warned an acquaintance of mine who comes in contact regularly with schools thanks to his role in entertainment and corporate training says the biggest bullying he has ever seen in his life is in
between teachers in school staffrooms!
Dealing with bullying is highly complex, but to me it starts with a school staff from principal and
administrators, classroom teachers, through to cleaners, gardeners and support staff being willing
and committed role models who know bullying when they see it, know how to deal with it and
follow through consistently to ensure that the behaviour does not escape detection.
Eradicating bullying requires the setting of clear social rules which are known, practiced and
evaluated by everyone. These rules need to be nonnegotiable statements of basic human rights.
They used to be called “manners” but today they are often seen as the demands of a “nanny state”
and can draw the bully enablers out like crows to fresh road kill.
Being a Safe School Super-Hero is a totally counter cultural activity as it needs to deal with over 80% of taking place without an adult seeing it, however the bullying’s effects are there to be
seen in every classroom that I work in. With more and more students being imprisoned in a fixed
mindset of anxiety, fear of being different and self-damage.
Here is a simple example that I use with classrooms every day I teach.
Each classroom I teach in, I explain what Mutual Respect means.
I believe that Mutual Respect requires that we don’t have friends in school, instead we expect that
we can be friendly to everyone.
This is aimed at eliminating two things
• We methodically prevent cliques, gangs and negative groups from forming.
• We constantly halt territorial bullying that cause endless classroom and playground squabbles.
This means regularly moving students into new seating arrangements where they get to know and
work with new people and regularly doing teambuilding activities so teachers can analytically
observe the interactions both positive and negative in all school groups.
Mutual Respect means we do not use put downs by word, action which means we stop using labels that are derogatory.
I demonstrate teaching positive social practice to hundreds of classes in a year and start each lesson with an explanation of these rules, even though it drives me crazy with repetition, but students cannot learn at anywhere near their full potential, unless they understand and practice these guiding principles.
While I am teaching students the most interesting and exiting information I know, I am totally
pedantic about how children sit (no leaning on elbows, no eye rolling, no sighing, and no laughing at others mistakes). I regularly ask them in a neutral tone to sit with a different partner, share things they don’t want to share, take turns and work as a whole class team.
I quickly jump on anything that looks like being negative. I don’t threaten, apologise or back down
and I don’t let them opt out, but at the same time I am joyously stretching the living day lights out of
their ability and making them laugh a lot.
I would make a fabulous speaker in the House of Representatives but I would need the back up of a good team to re-educate parliamentarians who persistently use put downs.
A year three student gave me the best compliment recently when he said in all seriousness “I can’t
figure out how you are so old and so cool at the same time?”
It’s a wonderful thing when kids learn how to see how school can be cool without having to hurt
other people or yourself.
One of the coolest things to do with students is to elect some student leaders.
I love this strategy because it reveals so many things about a difficult class.
The strategy revolves around asking the class to elect five or so leaders from their members who will
be assisting in the smooth running of the group.
Before the election, get the class to detail what a good leader looks like, sounds like, and their
emotional effect on the people around them.
There are a number of ways you can do this but I have used a “Y” chart to help you build a picture of leadership.
Then do a simple election by getting students to write the names of however many leaders you wish to have, on one sheet of paper. Fold the paper in four and place it in a box, bucket or on your desk.
This process will tell you who the class thinks have status. I am always surprised who they elect
because extremely rarely do they choose the obviously inappropriate students.
Then use your leaders to lead groups, share opinions and do jobs.
Reward students who follow leader’s directions.
For example, if a leader is working with a noisy group and you call for quiet and this group’s leader shushes them and they quieten down, give them double credit and a non-costly reward like free time because they “positively followed their leader!”
If they get their exit ticket done because they worked with their leader, give them an earlier exit and
so forth. Use the leaders to check exit tickets and reward their teams if they do it well without any
This adds another level of responsibility in the classroom and helps breaks down the struggle
between you and the class and gives you some allies.
Have regular elections throughout the term to see if you can increase the talent pool.
Teach kids that leaders are people who remind us of our mindsets and help us choose the right one. And teach them that great leaders do not have to be elected or even popular the just know they have super hero powers and they can use them without others knowing just how cool they are.
Help your students develop the superhero trades we need for them to become great leaders:
Heroes save lives, even of people they dislike. They do this by caring and giving people
without hope the support that they need without taking their dignity away from them. They
try to do this invisibly.
Sense of Enjoyment
Heroes enjoying fighting bad guys, saving people, and doing the things we can only dream of
doing. They do this by continuing to entertain the idea that they really are making a
difference even when they being Captain Underpants in their four year old’s game.
Beliefs that are tested
A real hero knows what they believe in something, have principles and are prepared
challenge and investigate them.
A real hero sticks up for the people they care about, stand by the people they admire and
values the loyalty of others.
A goal or mission
Heroes usually don’t find their mission until they are faced by a villain, a challenge a failure
or a fight. Then you REALLY find out what you believe in.
A line that they won’t cross
This is something that separates the hero from the anti-hero. Great heroes know the
temptation of the stuff that would compromise their soul. Even if it hurts.
A true hero is one who embodies our fantasy of being able to do something extraordinary.
Safe School Super-heroes learn how to transform a school’s culture by learning how to
notice, think, act and follow through when they see bullying happening.
A sidekick or a posse
Hero needs a sidekick or a group of amazing friends like their classmates
Is an Underdog
Even if your hero is the strongest in the universe, they don’t become a hero until they face
and defeat a force that seems stronger than them.
Now who wouldn’t vote for someone with these characteristics?
Joining us for the Mindset Manoeuvre Workshop in Perth on October 5th will help you start to better understand the four mindsets and how embodying these will significantly improve the way you foster student development and your own!
We have an amazing Teachers Retreat in Bali this January that will fortify this program and give you a powerful and adaptable range of tools and strategies to build on the four mindset, plus a whole range of other tools as well as some sun, fun and relaxation.