All Different, All Equal
Anti-Bullying Week runs from 13 to 17 November
by Brian Radcliffe
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To encourage us to consider the effects of bullying and strategies to stop it (SEAL theme: Social Skills).
Preparation and materials
You will need a small, leafy tree branch, a large flowerpot and a selection of Christmas tree decorations.
Leader (displaying a tree branch): I wish I could have found a branch from a yew tree, because that’s what this branch represents: YOU. You look puzzled! Let me explain. Imagine this branch is you. Yes, I know it’s a branch from a (name type of tree) tree, but that’s not the point. It’s a symbol, an image, a picture to make a point. This branch is YOU.
How might we describe this branch? It looks very healthy, quite strong, brimming with leaves. Would it matter if I removed one of the leaves?
Remove a leaf.
As you say the following words, gradually strip all of the leaves from the branch until it is bare.
How about one more, and then another one, and a few more, and a handful and another handful?
Oh, dear! That doesn’t look very good. You don’t look at all healthy now. In fact, you appear rather weak and there are no leaves left.
Pause to allow time for thought.
This week is Anti-Bullying Week. The branch is to help us think about the effect that bullying can have on any of us. I’m not talking about big, dramatic actions; I’m talking about the little things. And it’s all a question of maths.
Bullying can begin innocuously. It might be a sly dig, a knowing glance, a sarcastic remark or an inappropriate laugh. Often, bullying involves words and actions that are unnoticed by anyone apart from the one person they’re aimed at. However, each time such an interchange takes place, it’s rather like removing a leaf from the branch. It subtracts something from the person who’s the target. It makes that person a little less, sows the seed of doubt and robs him or her of a small measure of self-confidence. On its own, each interchange might not seem like much, but the consequences grow. One leaf at a time can have a cumulative effect. As the bullying increases - involving others, becoming more public and maybe even violent - it’s like tearing off a whole bunch of leaves. That’s what bullying can do to someone.
Hold up the bare branch.
Finally, it can end up like this. It’s all a question of maths. When people are bullied, their confidence and self-esteem are taken away, so in the end, there’s nothing left.
Time for reflection
Leader: It’s easy to say that bullying is wrong, but I’d like us to be a little more constructive. Don’t worry, I’m not going to start sticking the leaves back on the branch. Life doesn’t work like that. I’d like us to try another way.
Bring out the Christmas tree decorations and put the bare branch into the pot.
I’m going to need some help here.
Select three or four students and ask them to come forward.
I’d like you to decorate the branch. Be as creative as you like. I want the result to be really attractive.
The students should decorate the branch while the leader continues talking, breaking off occasionally to comment on the developing result.
How often do we give each other a compliment or praise someone else’s achievements? How often do we thank someone for what they have done or said, or perform a simple act of kindness for another person?
Words and actions like these are like the decorations that are being added to the bare branch. It all comes back to the maths again. When we are positive, encouraging and committed to building one another up, we are adding to someone’s life rather than taking away. We are helping to increase self-confidence, we are emphasizing the good, we are helping each other to think more of ourselves, we are overriding the damage done by any bullying and we are asserting all that’s worth celebrating.
It works with the bullies, too. Most bullies engage in bullying because of a feeling of inadequacy, a desire to show some power over others. Possibly, we all do it at some point. However, if we had the experience of being empowered by one another’s praise and of feeling valued for who we are, the motivation to bully, even in the slightest way, would probably decrease.
Examine the finished, decorated branch.
What I’m saying is this: let’s concentrate on saying and doing things that help to change one another for the best. Then, maybe the result will match this glorious artistic creation!
Thank you for opportunities to restore one another’s self-confidence.
Remind us of this whenever we spot an instance of bullying.
May we seek to be people full of love and care for others.
May we seek to build others up, rather than tear them down.
‘Beautiful’ by Christina Aguilera