Face to Face: ‘Culture shift’ needed to curb bullying
While The Beach Boys sang the virtues of staying true to your school, Delta Secondary School teacher Dana Huff is actually doing it.
Huff graduated from DSS in 1993 and after completing her university studies, she jumped at the chance to teach at her alma mater. Huff is now in her 15th year teaching at the Ladner high school, where she is among many former graduates.
“I love this school, I’m a Pacer at heart,” she says. “And that so many people have come back to teach here speaks to positive influence the school has had on their life.”
But for some students at DSS, and at schools everywhere for that matter, high school can be a difficult time, fraught with drama and depression.
Huff wants to change that, by making the school unwelcome to bullies and bullying behaviour.
“Any form of bullying makes people feel bad, so they question themselves, and that wears down their self esteem,” she says. “It makes classrooms difficult places to be for students who are being bullied, and difficult places to learn.
“It can be all consuming.”
A student who is being bullied will put off homework and studying. It can affect their sleep patterns and their ability to concentrate.
She teaches an academic leadership class at Delta Secondary, and after the suicide of Port Coquitlam teen Amanda Todd in October, the class chose to tackle the problem of bullying for their class project this year. The class has organized for an anti-bullying expert to hold an assembly for the school, as well as organizing a poster campaign, and a flash mob to raise awareness about the problem.
The class is also receiving leadership training so the 28 high school students can go to elementary schools in the district to talk to younger students about the problem of bullying.
One of the major challenges facing educators is the prevalence of online bullying, which Huff says is much more difficult to for teachers and parents to track.
“Online, people have anonymity, and because they’re not face to face, they do and say things they would normally never do,” she says. “And then they see the “Likes” [on Facebook], and it just encourages them further.”
Huff says there needs to be a “culture shift” before we start seeing progress with the problem of bullying, and that starts with adults.
“Adults bully each other all the time in the workplace. Coaches do it, so do parents,” she says. “A lot of kids are bullied by their parents, or see one of their parents bully the other,” she says. “Some kids haven’t been taught to show respect and kindness to people.”
Reaching kids at a younger age is also important, says Huff.
“We need to promote behaviour and attitudes that are more respectful at a younger age, so we don’t see these problems in high school,” she says. “Making sure everybody is valued, it really is a culture shift.”