What is bullying? At Waldorf School of New Orleans, we define bullying as: Repeated unkindness that’s targeted at an individual.
It may seem like Waldorf schools would be immune to bullying altogether. The truth is, even in our school's intentional culture of kindness, we still grapple with this devastating topic. That's because all children face intense challenges that crop up along the path of childhood development. Typically these challenges begin to surface in the tween years.
"Developmentally what’s happening is that [children] are starting to develop an identity - getting to know themselves as a person, and entering into adolescence at the same time," explains Upper Grades Chair Rebecca Nelson. "There’s a big internal shift that’s happening at this time. That can lead to a lot of questioning. For some students this can be a very painful and scary time."
Sometimes those intense feelings may lead to lashing out. So how do we as a school address bullying? Our Family Handbook outlines our policies, but there is so much more to our approach that you won't see in writing.
“We want to empower the students to create a community of mutual respect, safety, and acceptance," says Ms. Nelson. "A lot of what we do is already integrated into the classroom."
We work to cultivate a culture in our school that makes students feel safe in reporting bullying behavior. Some of the ways we are addressing bullying in our school include:
Not In Our School Program: Instead of being a Bystander, being an Upstander. Students are encouraged to speak up when they see bullying behavior.
Kim John Payne's Social Inclusion and conflict resolution models are employed to resolve problems.
Class Code of Conduct: Each class makes its own, which is posted in the classroom. The students, with discussion and guidance from teacher, create a list of expectations. There is a once-a-month review. If something comes up, this list is used to reference.
Class meetings with older students that foster discussion and empower students to take ownership in a mutually respectful community.
As in so many areas of Waldorf education, pedagogical stories are used in the classroom to create a sense of empathy and understanding in students.
When name calling or bullying behavior happens, we encourage students to talk with their class teacher so the issue can be addressed immediately. However, our biggest allies against bullying are each other, both at school and at home. When we stand together, we build a community that fosters the safe haven we strive for our Waldorf school to be.