Wisdom about bullying from a former target

There’s probably no better testimony to the power of social-emotional learning than this UK student’s poem about what happens to the “bully” when victimizing someone else (don’t miss this 1:25 min. video of Garrett reading his poem). Garrett was a student at New Line Learning Academy in Maidstone, Kent, UK, when he read this poem in 2011 (he may still be, since it’s a school for students aged 11-18). His poem reflects the healing that comes from the awareness and resilience that social-literacy training develops.

Garret reading his poemHis school adopted school-wide social-emotional learning guided by an SEL program called The Ruler Approach based at Yale University’s Center for Emotional Intelligence. Staff there posted this video on YouTube, reporting that, “after reading this poem in public, [Garrett] received a standing ovation from his class, and the bullying ceased.” If educators are considering showing video for class discussion on bullying or peer victimization, consider this one rather than any video purely about victimization, which can be demoralizing and can suggest to students that social cruelty is “normal.” Social norms research shows that when people understand that negative behaviors aren’t actually something that most people or “members of our school community” engage in, whatever negative behaviors there are decrease even more.

For a quick explanation of SEL as a whole, here’s a 3:30 min. video snippet from PBS about it. In it, Yale psychologist Marc Brackett, who created RULER, explains the protective properties of SEL, which leads me to believe that it’s absolutely key to online as well as offline safety and wellbeing. The video shows how powerful it is to learn emotion detection, acknowledgment and management together – how key whole-community buy-in and support are to individual members’ social-emotional well-being, whether they’re children or adults. But about 30 seconds into this video, an elementary-school student explains better than anybody how it works.

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