133 – bullyproofing our kids

If you have read any of my previous rants you may know that I have just finished a Mindfulness course and that I enjoyed it very much. I am really interested in Mindfulness and the theory behind it, and re-routing the neural pathways to form calmer more ‘green brained’ ways of being in the world. The course is just me dipping my toes in really – I have a long way to go – but it supports my pastoral goals for work and is a nice parallel path for me to look at alongside the Restorative justice course I am going to do in June as well as this other thing I was introduced to last year; the ‘Bullyproof’ theory.

You see, the thing I love about my Deaning job is the pastoral side of it. I think I have a knack for communicating with teenagers, and although I know a lot of my colleagues would rather I were more disciplinarian, I simply can’t see the benefits in punitive management of my cohort. I get far better results with my students if they feel like I am personally invested in their success and show them how pleased I am when they do well. When they are having a rough time which is affecting their ability to succeed at school – whether it be academically or managing their inter-personal responsibilities – I think it is my job to be  a safe person for them to come and work stuff out. A sounding board, or a safe place to vent while they process the negative emotions and figure out what to do next.Now – in no way am I an expert at managing this stuff, so my professional goals this year are tied to getting myself an education. Going and speaking to people who ARE experts. Attending seminars and courses, and consulting with my colleagues who are already good at this.

Naturally the pastoral team at school are my first port of call and they are invaluable in what they do for the school. I grew up watching my mother be VERY good at working with children and teenagers as a rape and sexual abuse counselor. I always knew I wanted to do something similar to Mum – I can’t fight it – this apple might as well be the tree in this case – but I know that for my own mental health I can’t do what she did. I want to balance the pastoral side of my expertise with the interest in education.

So, my TAI this year will be somehow linked to Mindfulness in education – but I am still formulating the question and how to implement that. I have two courses coming up – Restorative justice in Schools and Trauma-Sensitive Practice in Schools. Tonight I am sitting down with a paper entitled ‘On the Bus; An action plan for bully-proofing your school and classroom’ by Mark Cleary and Keith Sullivan. In a nutshell – and believe me I am only just attempting to get the shell off this nut – the theory works like this;

If we look at a general classroom situation we can break the group down like this; %5 of the group will be ‘Bully’. %5 will be the ‘Bullied’. %85 will be Bystanders. BUT another %5 will be the Bullyproof kids. Previously as educators/society we have tried to address the Bullied or the Bully when dealing with a difficult situation, we have looked at the reasons why kids bully each-other, what makes a ‘victim’ and how to empower the bystanders to support the victim. But we don’t usually talk about the bullyproof kid.

You know the one – this is the person who, when she sees someone being picked on doesn’t think about/or care about the potential for negative backlash on herself and says something like ‘Hey don’t say that about XXX that’s not cool’ or similar. Crucially this person is usually pretty popular within the group but not a follower and not afraid to go against the pack mentality. You might be a bullyproof peep? Or you might be friends with one. These people usually have a big group of friends and can be a leader – whether they are quietly confident or outwardly going about their business these folks are the key. In identifying the Bullyproof kid we can start to support the bystanders to feel more empowered to speak out against bullying behaviour and change the culture of the classroom or school.

The article I am reading has some great scenarios for teaching this theory and the ways that we can support the bullyproof kids, and to start to teach the Bystanders to be bullyproof too. Because we can’t ‘fix’ the ‘victims’. It is not as simple as telling a terrified kid that they should just ‘stand up for them self and it will stop’ or go and tell a trusted adult. This simply doesn’t work. And we can’t ‘fix’ a bully. Bystanders remain bystanders because they don’t want to draw the negative attention to themselves and risk becoming the victim. But if we show them that it can be done safely then we can empower them and start to change the culture of the situation so that the bully has no audience and gains nothing from picking on someone. Sounds simple huh? Ha ha. But the reading is interesting, and I am keen to get started on the practical.

Part of what the GD and I like about each-other, and also find so goddamned frustrating about each-other, is that we can be pretty bloody sure about what we will go along with and what we won’t. What is ok for our moral compass and what we will speak out about. And we can thank strong role models in our parents for this. I had a pretty great time at school (apart from about a month at intermediate school when this girl totally isolated me from the ALL the girls in nasty grrl pecking order crap shit stuff – but I totally got over that and don’t at all curse her name when I see her commenting on a friend of mines facebook posts – totally over it I promise). But ANYWAY, what I was saying is that I had a pretty great time at school and I have always been ok to say no to stuff I wasn’t interested in.

This has been quite frustrating to a few people as I was growing up. (I actually have a theory that that’s why she was so mean to me – I wasn’t interested in silly popular girl shit and had always kept the same friends so I had to be taught a lesson – all it did was confirm for me that I was right to avoid the drama ha ha). I wasn’t overly confident – don’t get me wrong – I would describe myself as wallpaper at school – just kind of in the background and going through all the same self-loathing stuff that all teens do. I just ticked along in the background doing my thing.

The GD is the same – he can be abrupt in his disagreement with you. He can be downright rude in fact, but he balances it with twinkly blue eyes and an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things long and boring so you forget you were offended in the first place and just try to hold on to your initial point. This makes for some pretty fiery arguments in our house – especially when we flat out disagree about stuff. But I wouldn’t respect him if he didn’t have a spine and vice versa.

Something I think about for us at home in doing this research for school; How to raise confident, bullyproof kids?

How to ensure that our boys not only are not bullied themselves BUT also stand up for those they see being treated badly as well? How to embed empathy in to our children whilst fostering backbone and mindfulness at the same time? To teach them about consent in all aspects of their lives – that it is theirs to give and their responsibility to ask for? That as long as their actions and interactions come from a place of kindness and without judgement – they will be doing ok? So, for now we have conversations with them. We point out unfair situations and talk about why it isn’t ok. We answer every question they ask us as honestly as we can – staying true to our values but explaining every time that other people think different stuff. I am on a personal mission to teach them about consent in direct relation to the kitten. It’s a work in progress. ‘Miaow means NO! Put the kitten down! He has a right to not want to be cuddled!’.

It’s a work in progress. And we fuck up all the time. But I am really enjoying using my brain again and getting in to the theory behind it all. I don’t think I could have done this last year with the brain fog I was suffering from – but the fog is lifting.

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127 – Last night of the mindfulness course

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Tonight we spent a happy twenty minutes sitting on the floor, ripping images out of magazines with a view to making a picture out of them. I figured out pretty early on that the picture was meant to be an image of our mental state – like a ‘real life’ pinterest board. A mood board before the interwebs. It was harmless fun.

This is my picture. I tore out WAY more pictures but then went with minimalism. I tore out way more photos of pies. But in the end went with outdoor views and life goals. We were required to find words, and that bit felt awkward. But it was ok in the end. I brought it home and the GD promptly made fun of it. Predictable.

So, in a nutshell;

  • Outdoor scenes – I want to own a house on the coast. So I can spend my downtime time on the beach no matter what time of the day or the season.
  • Sunrise – because that’s the best time of the day.
  • Stolen Girlfriends club ring – jewellery goals.
  • Sweet sound – my car stereo is working sort of. It is still slightly too loud, but I can play my phone through it again – yay!
  • The young woman – Hair and Skin goals. Yes…. I know it’s photoshopped…
  • The accidental rebel girl – not me, I like rules – but the rock and roll girls that I always wanted to grow up to be. Joan Jett, Courtney Love, Frida Kahlo you get the picture.

And that was it. We held up our pictures and talked about them – everyone had very noble stuff on theirs (mine was the only one who mentioned shopping or physical appearance because clearly I am the most shallow in the group) we filled out our feedback sheets and we moved on! It is very late, I am going to bed so I can get up for my sunrise run. Fitness goals.

120 – Mindfulness tonight

Did you know that I have been awake from 5am until now (and it’s currently 10.30pm). I know this is not a big deal for ‘normals’ but jebus it’s a big deal for me. 4 months ago I would have been asleep at 9 tonight and I would have been exhausted. I would never have been contemplating getting up at 5.30 tomorrow morning to go for a run (only thinking about it mind you). I would never have signed up for a course that started at 7 fucking 30 at night! That’s way late au!

But I’m doing it. And I feel good motherfuckers. This is the thing that I can say when people say ‘SO do you feel any better? Like, it is even WORTH it to not eat food all the time?’ Instead of punching them in the face. Because you know, I’m not violent. Use your words Kathleen. I was talking to a friend over coffee (and, ahem, our TAI’s) this morning. She is currently severely low in iron due to a couple of things and is working on turning it around – but she, like me previously, has always had low iron. I don’t anymore. This is weird for me because I have ALWAYS had low iron. Like, under 10 low. Like ‘How are you even getting out of bed in the morning?!’ low. And the only thing I can attribute my energy levels and new ability to stay up past 5 in the evening is my iron levels – they MUST be up! Yay!

I was told, when I got my Coeliacs diagnosis, that going gluten-free would mean all that stuff that was bothering me (or not in my case because remember I am a ‘silent coeliac’ meaning I have little to no outward symptoms) would disappear. In fact, of course this turned out to be the opposite and I had two years of discomfort, weight gain, really scarily low iron levels and general disappointment in my ‘recovery’. Going gluten-free wasn’t enough for my system to start healing and allowing my ‘villi’ to do their job and absorb all the iron and other shit from my food. But guess what bitches? It seems to be working now!

SO, in some ways it sucks because it backs up the theory that I should keep all the yummy delicious stuff out of my diet for a while – because it’s clearly working BUT it is cool because it reminds me that the suffering (ha ha can you hear the tiny violin?) is worth it. And that maybe I am on the up.

Tres motivating.

And you know what else? The mindfulness course is really interesting too! It is right up my alley. I feel like a lot of what we talk about is what I would be trying to do instinctively in my every day life but the course is giving me much more elegant and articulate ways to do so. I am a big fan. Mindfulness is very rock and roll.

And on that note, I’m off to practice my power poses.

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Day 71 – Another book for my side table

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I got my confirmation email today for the Mindfulness course. I am to buy a book for writing in specifically for the course and the directive was to find something I love because it will be used to hold my inner thoughts blah blah. Ok – I LOVE buying stationary! As a young girl my pocket-money was spent in an even split on stationary and aniseed wheels. These days I’d say shoes win out mostly but I do love an excuse to go buy a beautiful blank book, positively vibrating with potential.

Of course that thing will probably happen where I open the first page ready to be profound and super articulate and my mind will go blank.

Also, I bought a book online called ‘The life-changing magic of Cleaning Up. The Japanese art of decluttering and Organising.’ by Marie Kondo. I keep buying books that I then don’t have time to read. I have quite a large pile next to the bed now. I am reminded of my students who when I ask if they have done their homework they’ll say ‘I’ve got the book!’ all indignantly but then admit that no, they haven’t actually read it. It’s like buying the book and keeping it by the bed shows willing, and actually that’s all I have the energy for right now.

But doesn’t that sound nice? ‘The life-changing magic of Cleaning up’. I wonder if I can get the children to read it.

Day 69 – Only 296 days to go…

That doesn’t seem like too many…… eek.

I  am trying to compose a post with the very cute distraction of an 8 week old kitten trying to attack my feet every few seconds. He is SUCH a cutie and very bold. Last night when the human children joined us in bed at 3am so did the fur children. Molly came in, purred her head off, saw Grey (we changed his name by the way) HISSED at the top of her lungs and bolted. Grey, satisfied his job was done, settled down to sleep on my face. As you do. Couple this with the four year olds knees in my back, his older brother spread-eagled in the middle and the swearing of the grumpy Dutchman as he struggled for space and I’ll say we had an average nights sleep.

I am shattered. Completely and utterly farked. And with this organisation goes out of the window, stuff like having leftovers for lunch for work because you thought about it the night before. Of course I didn’t so I had heat-and-eat brown rice, some frozen peas and smoked salmon for lunch – all mixed up and heated together in the microwave. Not great but still ticked my boxes.

Because I am so tired, and it is that ‘special time’ my cravings are through the roof. I seriously thought about caving and getting a small chocolate bar or similar – but I don’t want my ‘relaxation’ over the weekend away to turn in to something longer and more out of control. I am conscious that I don’t want to get obsessive and start to think of food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ so I’m sticking to ‘good for my gut’ for now. So instead of eating chocolate or lollies I ate half a kilo of plums and a significant portion of pineapple. I have been suffering since with a very sore tummy, I look 6 months pregnant and I am grumpy with me for being so dumb. What a dick.

What I actually need to do is sleep. Lots and lots of sleep. Food is not the answer I am looking for.

I also signed up for a mindfulness course today. It starts next week and goes for 6 weeks, one night a week, and I am hoping it won’t be all crystal wearing, chakra rubbing hippies. (Disclaimer; I wear crystals and tie-dye myself occasionally and I know some lovely hippies but I don’t want to pay one to tell me my stress is all tied in to my aura). I am hoping it will be more like a ‘brain-gym’, giving me exercises to practice to stay focused on the present. To be mindful of the space and place I am in, and to achieve some balance between work thinking and everything else thinking. I feel hopeful and have some friends who might be coming to do it with me so at least I’ll have someone to pass notes to if we do start chanting…..

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