Guest Post by: Paweena Sukhawathanakul, University of Victoria
It takes a community to prevent bullying and promote healthy relationships. The WITS Programs unites schools, families, and communities to create responsive environments that help elementary school children deal with bullying and peer victimization. The WITS acronym stands for “Walk away, Ignore, Talk it out, and Seek help.” The program provides younger children with developmentally appropriate, interpersonal negotiation strategies for handling peer conflicts. ‘Using your WITS’ also becomes a common language that can be used by both children and adults within the school, home, and community. By targeting multiple support systems in the child’s context, the goal of WITS is to create safe environments that speak with a uniform voice to promote positive conflict resolution strategies among children.
The WITS Programs are literacy-based and include a list of children’s books accompanied by lesson plans. Classroom and school activities integrate WITS messages with curricula in language arts, social studies, health, and personal planning. Curricula and activities encourage discussions with children about peer victimization and WITS strategies. The program is also highly accessible and low cost. Teachers and community leaders (e.g., RCMP officers, emergency services personnel, elders, athletes, and other community role models) can access program materials and complete an accredited, 90-minute training module online at no cost. The program also has additional resources that reach out to community leaders, parents, and children.
The WITS Programs have been evaluated in two longitudinal studies and findings provide evidence for the effectiveness of the programs in reducing peer victimization and enhancing social responsibility among elementary school children. Over 500 schools across Canada have adopted WITS and a nationwide evaluation of the program is currently underway.
So how can you get involved with WITS?
- Start a dialogue with your school, other families, and community members about the prevention of peer victimization and determine if WITS is an appropriate program to reach your goals and objectives. Visit us online, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us toll-free at 1-855-858-8766 for more information.
- Become an accredited WITS teacher or community leader by completing our training module online and encourage others to join the training.
- Obtain WITS books and resources and share them with your school.
- Volunteer as a WITS community leader or encourage other members in your community to promote WITS in your schools.
- Work with your community leader and school administrators to conduct special WITS assemblies to kick off the program at the beginning of the school year. Learn more about the Swearing-in and Tug-of-help ceremonies.
- Integrate WITS strategies into your school’s daily classroom life, talk about WITS at home and spread WITS around the community. Check out how other schools and communities are using their WITS in innovative ways.
- Encourage your students to participate in the WITS Poster Contest or the WITS Video Contest.