School assemblies are a great way to introduce an idea, lesson, or philosophy to a group of students. Over the past few years, principals and school districts have been using school-wide assemblies to tackle issues such as bullying, violence, and relational aggression (gossip, exclusion, rumors). The problem with this strategy is that it often FAILS! Bulldog Solution conducted some interviews with principals and school officials and found out that most assemblies on bullying have a negative impact on schools. Here is what typically happens after a school assembly:
- A spike in bullying incident reports occurs.
- Students and staff start using the presenter’s advice or words as sarcastic “tag lines”.
- Bullying becomes yet another common word and students quickly forget the lessons from the assembly.
Although the intentions of assemblies are good, the message gets distorted from the receivers (students and staff). Assemblies are a one-side conversation, where students have no power to share their own thoughts on the topics. Often the speaker talks to a specific group of students, but does not address the group as a whole. A speaker may also share stories or ways people have bullied them, but may neglect to follow up with strategies to stop that behavior. By only creating awareness, assemblies are opening a door to more incidents. Students want solutions and ideas, but they also need buy-in. Regardless of how great the speakers are, when they leave…it is over. There is rarely any follow up and it is up to the school to work on keeping the message alive. School admins don’t have the time to implement strategies; they need the follow up to be easy and be applied immediately. I have worked with schools that had a spike in bullying reports after an assembly, and it is mainly due to the fact that youth does not process information like adults. Youth need to feel, touch, talk, and see for themselves. They are technologically wired and have a need to be connected. An assembly can’t do that in an hour!
As adults, we understand bullying differently. We often put conflict, drama, bullying, relational aggression, cyberbullying, and harassment under one big umbrella. Then we label students as victims, bullies, sidekicks, and bystanders. Labeling youth does not help solve the problem. Moreover, putting conflict, bullying, and harassment in one buckets gives principals a headache. So here are some suggestions for principals when looking to address these topics in their schools:
- Look into interactive presentations where the students can speak up and share their perspectives.
- Find a program versus a presenter. Students often learn more effectively when interacting with others and practicing strategies versus sitting in an hour long presentation.
- The program needs to fit your school culture. If you are a PBIS school, you need a program that will reflect the goals of the framework you put in place. If you have cyberbullying problems, then you need a program that addresses Internet usage and social media. Every school is unique so find a program that will fit your school needs and culture.
- Hire a company that has a curriculum designed and is focused on tackling the issues in your school. You want to focus on structure, repetition, and consistency.
- Regardless of what program you use, you need follow up tools and ready to use strategies. School admins can use these to support the desired change in your school.
- Teacher training is the first step in addressing bullying, violence, and relational aggression (gossip, exclusion, rumors).
- Parent information will help create more buy-in. Think about webinars or handouts to support the desired change.
Assemblies are a great way to share a message, but they will never solve the problem!
Until Next Time…
Be Brave*Be Strong*Be a Bulldog
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