Click here to access Stuart Shanker's guest article: Expanding our Understanding of the Meaning of "Safe."

GUEST POST: Using your WITS – Creating responsive communities for the prevention of peer victimization

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.

WITS Badges are distributed to all new WITS Special Constables during the Swearing-In Ceremony. Photo courtesy of witsprogram.ca

WITS Badges are distributed to all new WITS Special Constables during the Swearing-In Ceremony. Photo courtesy of witsprogram.ca

So how can you get involved with WITS?

COMMUNITY: Join us in helping set a Guinness World Record during Canadian Mental Health Awareness Week!

Safe and Caring Poster- Rough

Become a part of history and take part in the “Largest Online Book Discussion in 24 hours” with Miriam Laundry, author of the best-selling children’s book ‘I CAN Believe in Myself’

On May 6 & 7, 2014, Safe and Caring is partnering with Laundry Books to attempt to set the new Guinness World Record and we would love to have Alberta schools participate!

Letting go of the word “I CAN’T” is the basis of the story and something both Laundry and Safe and Caring wishes will be discussed in homes, libraries, and schools across the country and around the world.

“I want to help make a difference in people’s lives and thought that the best way to engage the most people possible was with a Guinness World Record attempt,” says Laundry. “Understanding the power of our thoughts is so important for a healthy mind.”

The book teaches children to make decisions that promote confidence, happiness and responsibility. The goal of the Guinness World Record attempt will be to encourage more than 100,000 children to believe in themselves and to have discussions with their families and their classrooms about self-esteem and empowerment.

All are welcome to participate. Safe and Caring wants to know what your new “I CAN” statement is after reading the book.

You Can Participate in 4 Easy Steps!

  1. Pre-Register to let us know your commitment to empower children and your desire to set a Guinness World Record!
  2. Read a copy of “I CAN Believe in Myself” before or on May 6th, 2014.
  3. Leave a comment on our blog by going to http://www.laundrybooks.com/RecordBlog between 12pm MST on May 6th and 12 pm MST on May 7th, 2014.
  4. Wait and see if together we help set a Guinness World Record!

For more information on registering your group or classroom please click here to visit the Laundry Books website!

It’s that simple!  Together we can empower children everywhere to believe they CAN!

COMMUNITY: Recapping #albertapink

No doubt about it – on Wednesday, February 26th, Albertans proudly painted the province pink!

Pink Shirt Day began in Nova Scotia and has since spread across the country and beyond.

Safe and Caring joined together with the Government of Alberta and the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services to encourage people to “get their pink on!” – and did you ever take us up on the challenge! #albertapink reached over 1 million Twitter accounts and generated over 3 million impressions on those accounts!

There were also a number of events taking place across the province – in homes, schools, hockey rinks, businesses and other places where people live and congregate – supporting positive action against bullying and promoting healthy, respectful relationships.

Enjoy some of our #albertapink photos!

Safe and Caring would like to acknowledge Travis Price and David Shepherd, the two Nova Scotia students who  started this movement… like them we recognize that we all have a role to play in stopping bullying and supporting safe, caring, healthy and respectful relationships for each and every one of us!

So thank you Travis and David –  and all of you who wore pink on Wednesday – for reminding us about the importance and power of kindness.

COMMUNITY: Pink Shirt Day Activities

Pink Shirt Day is a way for your community to stand together against bullying.  With Pink Shirt Day quickly approaching on February 26th, we felt is was only appropriate to share some of the Pink Shirt Day activities taking place in communities across Alberta!

Don’t forget to share your Pink Shirt Day photos with us on Facebook and Twitter by using the hashtag #albertapink

Calgary:

Edmonton:

  • Safe and Caring will be taking part in some fun lunch-time activities with the students from Jasper Place High School. Of course, Niska will be on scene and from what we hear, some tasty goodies will be shared as well!
  • Thanks to Scotiabank, Safe and Caring will be attending the Oil Kings game with MLA Matt Jeneroux and 17 youth from G.H. Dawe School!  Watch for us on the big screen!
  • Safe and Caring HEROES Award recipients The Command Sisters will be hosting a free concert at the West Edmonton Mall Newcap Radio Stage (by HMV) from 4:30PM to 6:30PM.
  • University of Alberta students can attend the Mental Health Centre drop-in workshop in CAB 357 from 5:00PM to 6:30PM about ‘Witnessing Bullying: How to Cope and Respond’. This workshop is designed for students who are indirectly affected by bullying – via knowing someone who is being bullied or through witnessing bullying done to others.
  • University of Alberta students are encouraged to wear their pink shirts and join forces at 12:00PM in the TELUS Atrium to take a group photo.  This shows that you support bullying prevention efforts and help the Ualberta community kick off Pride Week.
  • “Pink It Forward” with TD Insurance and wear pink on Pink Shirt Day!

Lac La Biche:

Red Deer:

To see more Pink Shirt Day events taking place in communities across Alberta, please click here to visit the Alberta Human Services website.

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GUEST POST: Supporting the Social and Emotional Development of Young People!

Guest Post by: Lana Wells, Brenda Strafford Chair & Safe and Caring Special Advisor

As defined by CASEL, Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) “involves the processes through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” SEL programming is based on the understanding that the best learning emerges in the context of caring relationships that take place in supportive environments that focus on making learning challenging, engaging, meaningful, and most importantly, create opportunities for the development of the skills that support healthy relationships. There are five core competencies that can be taught – and we know that parents, educators, school authorities and policy makers have a key role in supporting and building these competencies with children and youth. For an overview of SEL please click here. 

Image Source: Carthy Foundation

Image Source: Carthy Foundation

So how can teachers help build children’s SEL competencies? CASEL suggests students be given opportunities to:

  • Prompt, model and teach conflict-resolution skills;
  • Practice group decision-making and setting classroom rules;
  • Deepen their understanding of a current or historical event by applying it to a set of questions based on a problem-solving mode; and
  • Engage in cross-age mentoring, in which a younger student is paired with an older one – to help build self-confidence, a sense of belonging, and enhanced academic skills.

Research shows that if we can implement practices and policies that foster children’s positive behaviors and beliefs, along with creating healthy classrooms and schools by providing opportunities for children and youth to practice these skills, we can reduce rates of peer aggression and victimization. Teachers and schools have a critical role to play in teaching children the skills to engage in healthy relationships – and this is an important strategy for preventing dating violence and ultimately, family violence.

To learn more about SEL and what teachers and schools can do to integrate this  into their classroom and school settings, please click here.

About the author:

Lana Wells holds the position of The Brenda Strafford Chair in the Prevention of Domestic Violence at the Faculty of Social Work, University of Calgary. The Brenda Strafford Foundation and the Government of Alberta provided funding to establish The Brenda Strafford Chair in the Prevention of Domestic Violence at the Faculty of Social Work. The chair provides leadership in research related to the prevention of all facets of domestic violence—emotional and psychological, physical and sexual, and economic abuses.  Lana also serves as a special advisor to the Society for Safe and Caring Schools & Communities.

COMMUNITY: Pink Shirt Day – February 26, 2014

Pink Shirt Day began in Nova Scotia when a Grade 9 student was bullied because he wore a pink shirt to school.  The Globe & Mail wrote this about the event:

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“David Shepherd, Travis Price and their teenage friends organized a high-school protest to wear pink in sympathy with a Grade 9 boy who was being bullied [for wearing a pink shirt]…[They] took a stand against bullying when they protested against the harassment of a new Grade 9 student by distributing pink T-shirts to all the boys in their school.

‘I learned that two people can come up with an idea, run with it, and it can do wonders,’ says Mr. Price, 17, who organized the pink protest. ‘Finally, someone stood up for a weaker kid.’

So Mr. Shepherd and some other headed off to a discount store and bought 50 pink tank tops. They sent out message to schoolmates that night, and the next morning they hauled the shirts to school in a plastic bag.

As they stood in the foyer handing out the shirts, the bullied boy walked in. His face spoke volumes. ‘It looked like a huge weight was lifted off his shoulders,’ Mr. Price recalled.

The bullies were never heard from again.”

Since that time, a number of schools, communities and organizations have participated in Pink Shirt Day by encouraging people to wear something pink as both a proactive message of support for youth who have experienced bullying and as a way for people to show their commitment to refrain from bullying behaviours.

We all want to stop bullying in Alberta’s schools and communities.  We can do it—if we work together.  Participation in Pink Shirt Day is one way to raise awareness that everyone has a role to play in preventing bullying and creating safe and caring spaces for all children and youth.

Will you stand out, stand up and stand together with us by wearing pink on February 26th?  Click here to download a copy of this #albertapink poster to display in your school or community.

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