Author and psychologist Stella O’Malley visited Ardee Community School recently as part of Anti-Bullying week, speaking to first and second years – and parents too – on the theme of ‘Creating Kindness in our School.’
O’Malley, also a public speaker and experienced mental health professional, visited the school to speak to pupils and parents – delivering a very practical talk about issues related to bullying including the bystander effect and young people coming to terms with their personal growth as a person.
The author’s new book ‘Bully Proof-Kids: Practical tools to help kids grow up confident, resilient and strong’ was released back in August, following on from her 2015 bestseller ‘Cotton Wool Kids’. She also contributes to a variety of national newspaper titles and TV and radio programmes on the subject of children and bullying.
During her talk at the Dalton Room at Ardee Community School, she spoke to the pupils about how we all need to have a top dog in any grouping, how teenagers are obsessed with popularity or how in any group of people, there will be 7-8% discovering or knowing that they are gay.
O’Malley encouraged her young audience not to be bystanders but instead be an upstander – standing up against meanness or bullying of any kind.
The second group of first years were very engaged with the talk, interacting and learning about famous events that have come to represent the ‘bystander effect’ such as the Raymonds Act and the atrocities of the Holocaust. Instead of being a bystander, we are encouraged to be an Upstander and stand up against meanness or bullying of any kind. There will always be charismatic leaders and those who are kind have the best impact and that impact is no less when these ring leaders are cruel but impactful in a very different but hurtful way.
The author pointed out that everyone has been party to bullying at some point, in of our four roles: a bully, a victim, a bystander or an upstander. The question she posed was which way do we choose to turn?
She quoted Dietrich Bonhoeffer when he famously said, ‘Silence in the face of evil is evil itself’, the message being simply that kindness is key. Referencing the Dalai Lama, she said, ‘My religion is simple, my religion is kindness’.
O’Malley stayed around to talk to parents in the evening and they too were very impressed with the practical insights which were geared towards their worries and concerns and how to help their children in different ways. Senior students were not present at the talks but will get a chance to see highlights from video footage taken by Ms. Finnegan.
The pupils were given the chance to put their newly learned concepts to work in classroom exercises – writing essays on the Bystander Effect and holding a discussion and debate on becoming the Upstander. In addition, ideas were collected to put together a Code of Kindness which will be inserted in the new Code of Behaviour currently being drawn up at the school.
Other talks to include aspects of bullying and cyber-bullying are planned to coincide with related events later in the school year.