Hi, my name's Rachel McKenna, I'm one of the co-founders of the anti-bullying programme, 'Stand Up and Act Out'. Welcome to our brand new blog! If you're here, it's because you know the importance of anti-bias, anti-bullying programmes for our young people and, I hope, because you're interested in how drama can deliver 100% of your RSE curriculum. There's plenty more on that in later posts, and of course, throughout our website - I hope you enjoy exploring what it means to become a 'Stand Up School' and as a first point of call, I'd suggest you watch the short explainer video on the homepage: https://uk.standupactout.com/
But for our first blog, I thought I'd share something a little more personal...
I am lucky to be able to say I was never bullied as a child, lucky that when I was bullied, I was an adult who had developed at least some coping mechanisms. The bullying I experienced was by my Head of Department in the school where I was working as an art teacher. It was my second teaching job. Anyone who knew me would have described me as confident and capable. I know I was a 'good' teacher. The professional observations I received told me I was an 'outstanding' one. I worked hard, I loved my job, had friends at school, and yet as soon as the chance arose, I decided to quit teaching for good.
Did I report the bully? Yes. Did I feel supported by the school leadership team? Yes. Was I the first member of staff to make an official complaint about her? No. Did she lose her job? No.
On paper, I stood up to this person - but I did so only by using the formal procedure in place. In reality, when I look back, I think the outcome could have been different had I had the confidence and tools to be able to stand up for myself at the point of bullying. Put it this way, if I was being bullied at work now, I would do a much better job of dealing with it. But the problem with needing to stand up to someone, is that you often have no experience of standing up to anyone until the need arises. It's one of those pesky catch-22 situations. Had I done this, could the outcome have been different - would I still be a teacher? Quite possibly.
The work I'm now involved in with my sister and Pyjama Drama founder, Sarah Owen, having created an anti-bullying programme for primary schools, I hope goes at least some way to giving young people the tools they need (should they ever need them) to stand up to bullies not only as children, but as adults too.
In 'Stand Up and Act Out', children meet a range of fictional characters who are experiencing bullying, or pre-bullying. Through drama, they explore the dilemma by taking on roles (of both upstanders and bystanders) and PRACTISING standing up for one another. It's this practising that is key to the programme. Showing children how to stand up for one another, to respectfully confront a classmate who is teasing or bullying someone, is the first step in enabling them to stand up for themselves.
And it's drama that is at the root of its success. Trailing situations before they happen, experiencing what it feels like to speak certain words and look someone in the eye as you say them, is what helps build the confidence our young people need to be able to deal with similar situations should they happen in real life.
I know our programme will help many children who are being bullied right now, but I also hope it will lay the foundations to help them in the future too - because bullies are bullies no matter how old they are, and the feelings you experience as the victim are often just as painful and debilitating.
Get in touch if you'd like to chat about becoming a Stand Up School - and let's work together to put a stop to bullying.
Pyjama Drama - proud to be an Anti-Bullying Alliance Core Member.