Talofa lava, Malo e lelei, Kia ora tātou, Greetings
Tomorrow, Friday, is recognised nationally as ‘Pink Shirt Day’, a day in which attention is drawn to standing up against bullying behaviours. Pink Shirt Day began in Canada in 2007 when two students took a stand against homophobic bullying after a new year 10 student was harassed for wearing pink. Over the last decade, it has grown to be a well-supported day in our country. We have a diverse community at Kavanagh College, which is one of its real strengths, and generally, our Kavanagh students are very positive, accepting, and supportive of one another regardless of beliefs, sexuality, culture, gender, physical appearance and the myriad of other often small reasons why people get put down. But even as adults, we sometimes get it wrong – for all sorts of reasons. Some of these are long established belief systems from home environments, other times it can be throw away lines and attitudes when gathering with a group of old friends. Our challenge, the same one that Jesus gave his disciples, is to stand up against what might be accepted for what is right and just.
We spend a lot of time at school doing values education, giving messages and discussing ‘the right thing to do’. We draw on our four gospel values of respect, service, justice and truth, to examine our attitudes and actions. We talk about the definition of bullying – repeated, a power imbalance (numbers, age or position), and actions (physical, verbal or other actions) that make someone feel less than they are. This week, Kaiārahi (pastoral teachers) have been asked to spend time in class revisiting these messages with the help of a resource made by our Guidance Counsellor, Ross MacKinnon. If this learning doesn’t happen early in a child’s life, then as future adults they will continue to ignore workplace harassment, family violence, bias and racism in their communities. But this isn’t only a school’s job. So often the media reports on bullying in schools and social media is usually alive with keyboard warriors keen to blame schools for bullying, cyber issues and every other negative trend in society. We only have children at school for about 30 hours out of 168 hours a week. The rest of the time is influenced by whānau. We need to be sending the same message and having conversations at home about this. We need to be calling out situations we might hear on the news or among conversations with friends. Like all parts of education – we are all in this together.