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A vital lesson for all

  • We only want a quick fix to the school bullying malady without bothering to take time to contemplate the nature of the problem.

By CHONG LIP TECK
Sin Chew Daily

Our schools are a microcosm of the society at large, where students hailing from different family backgrounds and at different levels of learning capacities come together to learn, live and mingle around.

What they need to learn are not just lessons from textbooks but also interpersonal skills!

Lessons from textbooks at various levels are basically easier to pick up then proper management of interpersonal relationships. While skills and knowhow may not change too much over time, different individuals may think differently and handle things in very different manners, whereas their reactions to things may also vary from time to time.

Indeed, interpersonal relationship is a very important lesson for us all.

Based on the outcome of studies by educators from several countries, a healthy interpersonal relationship at schools is pivotal to the prevention of bullying. Many tend to have the wrong impression that bullying at schools could be put under control or fully eradicated if "bad students" are sternly penalized, and that the police should step in in the face of rising gangsterism at schools.

These studies nevertheless reveal that such measures will only complicate things further.

I remember a number of my primary schoolmates with a strong inclination for verbally and physically abusing their fellow students. They often came out with totally unexpected behaviors that give the teachers some real headaches.

We were all very young at that time, and having been heavily influenced by the movies and TV, we naturally hoped to see justice done on the villains. We wanted to see punishments handed down to the big bullies. However, outward manifestation of such thinking could render a student more susceptible to bullying.

When we got older, we acquired more knowledge and would look at things in a more thorough fashion. Looking back at what those students did, we would find that their behaviors had been influenced by a melange of physiological as well as psychological factors, along with their respective family backgrounds and living environments.

If the school had abandoned them, and had failed to go into their worlds in a bid to help them tackle their problems, such problems would invariably be pushed towards the broader society, and in time spawning even bigger problems!

Conflicts are inevitable among individuals, some appearing more dominant than the others. If a teacher is too obsessed with finding out who is right and who is wrong, and is impatient to mete out punishments on the "erring" students, often the root problems will escape unnoticed. The conflicts will not get resolved and may even be enlarged as some of the students are enraged.

If the society and school authorities are willing to ponder over the behaviors of school bullies and factors causing them, they should realize that there is something outsiders don't quite know about each of these students. Many of these bullying incidents may only be a consequence of mismanagement in interpersonal relationships.

We need to identify the root cause of the problems and the nature of such phenomenon in order to get a deeper insight into the interactions between a student and another, or even between a teacher or a school administration personnel and a student, instead of insistently picking the "black sheep" and criminalizing bullying incidents through drastic measures.

We should strive to create a healthy school environment that encourages positive and interactive relationships, which will in turn have a positive impact on interpersonal relationships in our society.

As a matter of fact, where school bullying is concerned, I have a strong feeling for the reality that the actions of some teachers may have contributed to school bullying. Some scholars are of the view that school bullying could be triggered by the perception of "inequality" in schools. The punishments handed down and verbal insults by some teachers may very well lead to incidents of bullying among students.

Due to their own weaknesses in gestating the punishments, coupled with their mental and on-job stress, these teachers will likely do things that could hurt the students, either physically or mentally. Students yet to reach a certain level of mental and intellectual maturity will tend to imitate what their teachers do, and inflict similar punishments on their weaker classmates.

From being a student to a father of student myself, I have been observing the dramatic changes taking place in the school environment, the burden of teachers, students' homework pressure, design of school curriculum as well as how the society in general looks at education. Such changes, be they positive or retrogressive, will mould the interpersonal skills of students and even teachers and parents.

We only want a quick fix to the school bullying malady without bothering to take time to contemplate the nature of the problem. Such an approach will only bog us down and not take us any further in resolving the issue.

 

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