Bullying seems to be more prevalent in schools, and in response, anti-bully and self-esteem workshops are becoming more commonplace as their demand is driven by need.
Bringing to further focus the need for student support and self-esteem recognition in the halls of St Augustine Catholic School, a Young Women of Power assembly workshop was held on Wednesday, Sept. 17 — on an FCSS grant — by youth communications specialist Alison Springer.
“My main topic is, let me make it clear, we’re going to be talking about how to make school a safe place for all people,” said Springer.
Ponoka’s Youth Unlimited program director Jerel Peters was also present to speak with the male students because the school’s guidance councillor Tara Newton wanted a workshop geared for their needs.
Peters’ C4 sessions allowed him to spend time discussing with the boys their core values, commitment, character and conviction.
Diving right in to the subject of self-esteem, Springer told the students that when they look in the mirror, their perception is sometimes warped by their own thoughts and how others acknowledge them. “There are certain things in life that will distort that mirror.”
Doubt often leads to a cycle that only further tarnishes a young person’s image of themselves. “When you lack confidence, do you stand up for yourself?” Springer asked the students.
During her presentation, Springer also mentioned sexual harassment in schools. “Let me make it clear, this is a crime. Anything that makes you uncomfortable is sexual harassment.”
Springer told the students harassment or assault in schools may be something as seemingly minor as grabbing another student’s butt in an intentioned joke.
In order to put an end to sexual harassment, Springer urged the students not to stay silent, despite fear or social pressures. “You need to speak up . . . or go to someone who will speak on your behalf.”
“And this isn’t just at school. This is your boss, this is at work,” she added, addressing other areas of a students’ live where loss of self-worth may be stemming from a situation that presents the opportunity for them to be taken advantage of.
In order to demonstrate how an adolescent’s self-worth is often a reflection of their environment, Springer showed the students how people sometimes place a value on someone or something based on appearance rather than worth.
She pulled a crumpled piece of paper out of her pocket and asked the students who wanted it; none raised their hands. When she smoothed it out and revealed $10, hands shot into the air. When she asked why the students wanted it now, even though its value never changed many students answered it was because they would now see its worth.
Springer says students, especially girls, are unlikely to speak up about bullying or harassment because they will be isolated by peers for “tattling” or taking a situation too seriously. Older girls are even less likely to speak because years of insecurity will have built up.
In order to take back a feeling of control young people will put themselves in uncomfortable situations to teach themselves to handle it and when it makes them uncomfortable they will stay silent and blame themselves for being in the situation in the first place, says Springer.
When Springer spoke with just the girls of the school, many that spoke up mentioned other students at school harassing them and the behavior continuing after speaking with an adult. One girl told Springer that in an effort to continually stand up for her friends, she developed anxiety and depression.
Rather than taking negativity from others and letting it affect them, Springer told the students to respond with “ I don’t receive that . . . if it’s not what you want it to be, don’t take it.”