Prevent School Bullying: Story Journey with I AM JACK
An Accessible, Teacher-friendly Methodology For Classroom Teaching
by Susanne Gervay
Bullying is an issue of social injustice and imbalance of power. School is a microcosm of our democratic system where teachers, parents, students create their own society with a fundamental goal of education. This society needs to be fair for young people to grow up with a belief in a just world and in themselves. Bullying stops this process.
Successful anti-bullying programmes occur when all members of the school community participate and where the principal leads the school in an anti-bullying environment which includes: early intervention; teacher training which is not an additional compliance but integral to teaching practice; increased supervision of children at high risk times such as lunch time; clear and consistent anti-bullying rules; establishment of trust so that bullying can be reported; support systems for the bullied and redirection of bullying behaviour into positive roles; and involvement of parents and teachers.
One easily applied and successful strategy in countering bullying, is through story journey. Historically, the therapeutic use of books to heal has been used as far back as ancient Greece where the door of the library at Thebes welcomed readers with the inscription: ‘The Healing Place of the Soul.’ Aristotle advocated reading fiction as a way to purge illness, leaving the reader healthier and sounder of mind. ‘The Medicine Chest for the Soul,’ is found in the medieval Abbey Library of St. Gall, in Switzerland.
Although the powerful effects of reading have been known since ancient times, it was only in the second half of the nineteenth century that youth literature for healing started to become a significant force. There was a recognition that story journey allows readers to identify with a third party -- the characters in a book. Readers become emotionally involved in the story struggle, work through issues, and ultimately achieve insight into their lives.
Relating to a story, or being emotionally engaged facilitates communication, questioning and learning. Readers become fellow travellers in a story journey and are reassured that other people experience the same problems they do themselves.
I Am Jack and Story Journey
‘I Am Jack’ was written when my son was bullied at school. It reaches into real experience, taking adult and children on the journey with all its humour, sadness, realities. It opens the real opportunity for discussion and engagement of students, teachers and parents in effective communication. By taking students, on a journey with Jack, attitudes, feelings and strategies about bullying can be explored and discussed in a non threatening way.
A successful cross-curriculum teaching unit using I am Jack was conducted with a middle school reading group at Winmalee Public School in New South Wales. The class teacher, working with the teacher librarian, created a unit of work to achieve reading and viewing literacy outcomes, to address values and attitudes of interpersonal behaviours - specifically bullying, and to use the library and computers as tools in student learning. The result was an effective unit of work that generated much discussion and empowered the teachers and students to work towards a safe school.
Through ‘I Am Jack’ the students and teachers were able to become problem solvers making their own decisions about social justice. They were able to discuss, question and develop strategies to counter bullying. Through the emotional engagement with ‘I Am Jack’ and a discovery approach, the students emotionally engaged in the process of bullying and were empowered to make choices. Students developed strategies such as group reporting bullying they saw to a teacher, or asking an isolated student to join their game or choosing not to follow a bully. They realised that their actions determined if bullying occurred in their school.
‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.’ (Edmund Burke) Students are empowered to do ‘something’ through ‘I Am Jack’.
Life Education Australia commends ‘I Am Jack’ :
‘I Am Jack’ celebrates kids. Unique, valuable kids who deserve
the right to take pride in their own special qualities. Bullying takes
this right away from them.
In the context of family and school life, ‘I Am Jack’ sensitively
explores how bullying attacks the very basis of a child's self esteem.
Bullying isolates and victimises children. ‘I Am Jack’ shows them
that they are not alone and that they can win against bullying.
‘I Am Jack’ is children's literature at its most effective. Beautifully
written, revealing the quirkiness of kids, it is funny, loving, moving.
It gives adults and children a remarkable understanding into an area
that challenges children's belief in themselves.
This is a book children should read because kids are unique.
‘I Am Jack’ is recommended in anti-bullying programmes used in The Better Buddies (www.buddybear.com.au) and Life Education Australia www.healthstar.com.au) programmes. It is extensively used throughout Australian schools to meet PDHPE outcomes.
‘I Am Jack’ has been adapted into an acclaimed play and will be touring the USA January and February 2014 www.monkeybaa.com.au
About the author:
Susanne Gervay OAM, MEd, MA, DipEd, BA, is an award winning children’s and Young Adult (YA) author. Her books are endorsed by The Children’s Hospital Westmead Sydney, Life Education Australia, The Alannah & Madeline Foundation, the Cancer Council, Room to Read, Variety and many anti school bullying organisations.
For more information about Susanne, including downloadable teaching units, visit: www.sgervay.com
Literature Review on Bullying 2005, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, page 1, Retrieved from http://drs.dadeschools.net/Reports/Bullying.pdf *