|How serious is the British Government when,
through its DCSF, it proclaims safety for all children and young people?
The official site of the DCSF – www.dfes.gov.uk
– starts by stating its purpose:
“The Department for Children, Schools and Families leads work across
Government to ensure that all children and young people
Probably, among all the governments of the world, the
British Government, through the DCSF, demonstrates most clearly its
commitment to the safety of children and young people. After reporting
an excellent whole school programme, that resulted in the reduction of physical bullying to 5%, the DCSF
considers that this: “… is still very high”. (Our italics.)
whole-school-programmes reach bullying that is clandestine to teachers?
The usual whole-school-programmes against bullying involve teachers in
the role they have inherited from their own teachers: inculcating good
norms in pupils. New approaches have appeared. Pupils participate in
drama performances about bullying. They are caught up in declarations
condemning discrimination. But as regards know-how for management
of current cases, the directions for these programmes are most often
Research about the results of these whole-school-programmes or
measurement kits demonstrate, indirectly, that bullying remains a
problem. One of the most known producers of these programmes (Olweus)
demonstrates through questionnaires a diminution of 70-50% which means
that 30-50% were not affected by the programme! So it is understandable
that these programmes are made complete with supervision of school
playgrounds. Supervision cameras that are effective for preventing
material damage are certainly useful in diminishing physical bullying. But if they
should appear in so great a number that they reach every corner, the
school would seem like a supervised institution which would be
unbearable, at least for teenagers.
Peer supporters can certainly notice clandestine bullying better than
teachers but not all of it. Discovery and treatment of bullying cannot
be left to selected or chosen young representatives of law and order
(or authorised friendship promoters). Some of them could develop into
top-dogs. They have to be complemented by adult anti-bullying teams.
But how could they become capable of discovering bullying that is not
observed by them or their colleagues?
home-site appeals to the school authorities to reach
out to the school personnel who already have understood that discovery
of bullying behind their backs is, more or less, dependent on the
pupils’ appreciation of the method used for treating tangible cases of
|Why can SCm claim the highest probability
in detecting bullying that is clandestine for teachers?
I suppose that all concerned (school personnel, parents, politicians
and the press) are unanimous that when a teacher sees bullying
here-and-now, his or her duty is to
intervene immediately or to fetch help. No special methods are
needed, just the courage to be spontaneous. Our method-and-motivation
discussion deals with cases where bullying is reported to an
anti-bullying team of adults that has the skill and responsibility to
deal with it. Hopefully, this team is sensitive to the fact that
bullying occurs that is clandestine to adults.
Our guideline is that co-operation with pupils is decisive for
treatment and for discovery as well. The Shared Concern method, SCm, is
a process of treatment that has been developed through feedback from
the pupils involved. How to validate a method is a question of
values of education. If you evaluate principles for participating
democracy you will probably appreciate the following evidence:
The new idea of therapeutic mediation, SCm, is presented in class
discussions about the usual methods of dealing with bullying. It gains
much appreciation and trust from the young people that they write the
names of “those who need help” on a questionnaire. The adult makes
immediate contact with those mentioned, starting with the question
"Which of your classmates would be interesting for me to talk to in a
manner we discussed in the class?".
What is it that gets teenagers to appreciate and trust SCm? Their
answer can be summarised: it is the non-guilt-finding approach of SCm –
concentrating the discussion so strongly on a shared solution that the
question of culpability so peripheral that it practically disappears.
The prerequisite for such an outcome is that SCm is presented by
who knows it thoroughly.
SCm realizes the superior guidelines of the
school without jeopardizing safety for both victims and bullies.
SCm is limited to cases where conflict prevails between identified
parties. Bullying is an asymmetric conflict. (One of the conflict
parties is stronger.) The remedial power of SCm is released in
individual talks.The adult’s constructive ignorance (explained later)
opens the trust of the pupils. A shared concern motive is triggered in
the bullies; they are aware that they themselves can be the target of
violent group dynamics.
In practice, SCm-users – following therapeutic mediation – have so far
succeeded in eliciting shared solutions between the parties that also
coincide with the norms of society. However, if it should happen that
the safety of the victim is not achieved by SCm, the bully therapists
can put an ultimatum indicating the possibility of involvement of
the head teacher. E.g. to move the bullies to other schools (separate
from each other).
It is important to observe that it is not meaningful to say that
the use of SCm is limited to easy cases if implying that the "easiness"
or minor aggressiveness could or should be diagnosed beforehand. I
myself have dealt with young toughs who were classified as very violent
and my collaborators have treated destructive pupils, but we have
gained their confidence that amounted to shared solutions. That does
not exclude that one day we would not meet a case where a friendly
contact cannot be achieved. The decisive thing is that you trust your
own self-confidence emanating from your attentive unprejudiced
listening, something that the violent pupils probably have not
An other thing is that if you are beginner in SCm, you gain your first
experience with cases you, subjectively, perceive as "easy". If you are
satisfied with your results you go on with cases other people may
Or: I do not recommend doing it the other way round, i.e.: one
cannot start with severe methods and, if they fail, try a shared
concern approach thereafter.
A section for those who
are interested in the theory: teacher’s role in the pupils´
conflict can be described in three paradigms
The origin of a conflict is often a tiny event or a small preference.
The decisive thing is escalation of a little conflict or teasing that
grows into bullying. The role of the teacher becomes significant in
escalation. It is known that pupils follow the deeds more than words of
the teachers. This means that a transfer
of the teacher’s behaviour pattern to the pupils occurs. Three
basic patterns of teacher intervention occur.
The decisive thing in these three patterns or paradigms is in what way
the teacher’s ego is alarmed by the behaviour of the pupil suspected of
bullying. In order to clear-cut the relevant mechanisms, we will use
the term "I-thou" relationship between teacher and pupil. We use the
psychological term "ego-alter" connection.
The third paradigm is a goal that in most people releases an anxiety of
commitment before they come to think about the advantages it may have.
They answer by reflex: "I have so many other things to do".
- The first
paradigm. The teacher’s righteous ego administers
"measures" against the pupil’s culpable alter within the frame
of law. This is the most natural (primitive) reaction. The pupil
perceives the teacher’s power to decide what measures are righteous.
Most of the bully suspects feel that this is a kind of bullying. They
later transfer the teacher’s
righteousness to their own measures against the victim.
- The second
paradigm is the opposite to the first one. The
and loving ego meets the pupil’s culpable alter with the
intention of incorporating him in the community of good people. The benevolent feelings and aims in the
teacher are supposed to be transferred to the bully suspects.
The power of love is expected to elicit a metamorphosis; the formerly
evil person is invited to enter the realm where nobody is a bully or
third paradigm. The teacher eliminates
the ego-alter relationship to the pupil. This is an elaboration
of the loving reaction of the second paradigm. It contains quite new
elements. Its tool is SCm that
purposely displays constructive
ignorance about the culpability of the bully suspect that
encourages him or her to tell what has happened. The teacher takes the
role of a therapeutic mediator who guides the parties involved to a
shared solution, acceptable to society. The adult’s listening approach
to the bully suspect is transferred into a cooperative approach of the bully suspect
to his former victim. A self-image of solution-seeking ego
is created in the former bully. The less the persuasion from the
teacher the firmer the agreement made by the former antagonists. The
teacher’s ego gets its ultimate satisfaction when they convince him
that the concord will last and that it coincides with the goals of the
school and society.
My most important argument for inducing school personnel to study and
practice a method that can discover clandestine bullying is: the time
you use in learning SCm makes a clear profit. If you read more of this
home-site you will discover how. If not, please write to email@example.com
We explore why some people
find SCm "difficult" and compare it with others who find SCm inspiring
I have a friend amongst lecturers at a teacher training school who
offers his students a list of books on bullying from which they have to
choose one to write a review about. Several of them are about bullying.
A minority chooses my book on Shared Concern method, the majority
prefer other books on bullying. "Because SCm is so difficult", my
friend explained, but did not elaborate further. Anyway, the few who
chose my book well understood its message.
The people who come on my courses in various countries have been
attracted by the label "shared concern". I suppose that they seek an
alternative to the first punitive paradigm and expect to find the
second paradigm as described above. I tell them all to read my
book on SCm
(in Swedish) or its manuscript of English or Estonian.
The learning-by-doing approach in my workshops deepens the
participants’ appreciation of SCm and at the end they understand SCm as
a third paradigm – the paradigm of therapeutic mediation. After a week
or two I write to participants asking them to tell me about their
application of SCm. I ask them to tell me if there is anything in the
method that, after their testing it out in work, could be changed. Of
my letters to about 80 persons since 2003, approximately 30 have not
answered. The answers I have received can be divided into two
I have explained the reaction in the first mentioned group by their
inability to manage in reality what we exercised in the role-plays: to
listen to the pupil in order to discover the tiniest indication that
could later be developed to a shared concern.
- "There have been so many other important things to do
in the school that I have not had the time to apply SCm." (Sometimes
with the addition: "There has not been much bullying in our school
- "I applied SCm some days ago and was astonished
to find that it works. Certainly, no one case is exactly like any
In the other category, correspondence developed with 8 teachers and 10
school psychologists with many letters going back and forth. In the
Autumn 2007 I started with 5 teachers discussions (in three countries)
about strategies for "selling" SCm to those head teachers who would
consider discovery of clandestine bullying as important. We ask: "Do
you know any other method that can do this?"
The words in itself give a
kick of excitement
Sorting through my observations about the press and politicians and the
majority of teachers, I have after many years found a physiological
process that governs us: as soon as the word "bully" appears, an enemy
image, stored in the brain, surfaces. It gives a kick of epinephrine
(adrenaline), providing a boost. To condemn bullying satisfies the need
to be in company with others who think in the same way. It increases
the excitement and hence, dependency of bullying as a kick-start
device. People in general have become addicted to the concept of
Here we find the conditions for the fight against bullying. That’s why
the products of the excitement industry – mass media – follow the
pattern I have called the first paradigm.
I presume that hundreds of people who publish results of their
fieldwork with SCm (or MSC) follow as a contrast the second paradigm
– the paradigm of love and attention to the disorderly pupil. Let me
assure you that we are on the same side. United in our opposition
against those bully fighters who (according to the pupils) “bully the
bullies”. But I encourage you to study the third paradigm – SCm – that
I hope I have expressed here more clearly than before! Try it also in
Teenagers in class discussions have had less time to become addicted to
the words "bully" and "bullying". Young people have a more open and
flexible conception of these words. In their tangible reality,
identification of "baddies" and "goodies" may shift. They feel my
approach of therapeutic mediation fits in with their view that the most
important thing is to aim at a shared solution.
Those staff members who have corroborated their insights with SCm may
get inspiration to transfer the paradigm of therapeutic mediation to
the pupils by a programme called All in the Class Become Mediators.
A simulating question for
the future is: could the employers of teachers provide resources to
those teachers who have understood that bullying, clandestine to
teachers, can be disclosed with the third paradigm?
Some teachers can understand something more: that the paradigm of
therapeutic mediation follows an operational programme that contributes
to the improvement of the atmosphere in the class. Some politicians can
even grasp that pupils, who have acquired insights in therapeutic
mediation by learning-by-doing, can also realize this peace creating
concept as adults. And above all – that they are going to elect their
political representatives according to their capacity to apply the
paradigm of mediation.
I hope that if those who
make decisions about schools of the future school will read the present
home site, and realize that SCm is operationalizing the ultimate goals
|If you are teachers
in a school who have been practicing methods in the
direction here described, please write to me firstname.lastname@example.org and tell
about you work and your ideas.
A summary intended to
work in dealing with bullying consists today of enlightenment
about the frightfulness of bullying that leads to declarations against
it. Exercises in good social behaviour in normal situations are
arranged, but also supervision of school playgrounds and corridors.
This method approach does not reach pupils who do not identify with the
norms of the school. Dealing with bullying that occurs is characterised
by "serious talks" is, however, deficient and partially counteracts
prevention and discovery. When parents of the victims complain, the
head teachers maintain that the school has used "scientifically
investigated methods" when dealing with bullying.
Shared Concern method, SCm, emanates from the necessity to
discover and treat clandestine bullying. SCm is validated by the
approval of pupils in class discussions that result in their giving the
names of those who "need help". These are immediately involved in
therapeutic mediation leading to a shared solution. In accordance with
general psychological experience of transfer of behaviour, the
operational approach of SCm imprints the conduct of pupils. Or:
to the same extent as pupils follow the action of teachers more than
their words, the treatment of bullying with SCm has proactive