Peggy Lee grew up in Vancouver in a nurturing environment with traditional family values. It is her goal to revisit these values, enhance them with a strong moral compass to round out a solid foundational education. She believes in giving children a structured, nurturing environment to lay a foundation to propel them toward excellence in every aspect of life. Peggy believes in revisiting the traditional childhood when children are encouraged to explore the world around them. “It’s not just about academic achievement, but a celebration of each individual child, the whole child.” Peggy firmly believes in the emergent negotiated curriculum. The teachers at Little Sunshine Academy are researchers, collaborating with the children to arrive at a curriculum that is highly individualized, guiding them towards excellence, in both life and academics.She talks to us about Bullying in Education Now!
Peggy Lee: This is Peggy Lee. I am the founder of Little Sunshine Academy located in Vancouver, BC. We are a new preschool focused on learning for children, fostering their creativity, confidence, self-concept, through interesting materials and curriculum and through play.
Ciaran Connolly: Thank you for taking time out to talk to us today. It is very much appreciated. It is always interesting to understand how people who are educating our young people are dealing with this. Do you think bullying today in general is as big an issue as it was for parents and for children and educators ten or fifteen years ago ?
PL: Compared to the time when I was growing up or when you were growing up, it seems that bullying today is such a much larger issue than it was 10, 15, 20 and even 30 years ago. It is certain that all the bullying issues has certainly made the headlines. Now we see children committing suicide, severe depression and generally just this negativity around and also the Cyberbullying and right now we see all these issues now out and in the open in the media and bullying has always been around, it has just never gotten this much attention. We are just in different time than it was 10, 20, 30 years ago. We are now bombarded with digital media, we are now really in a truly sharing world in every sense of the word; we are online, on the internet, on our cell phones and the information spreads much faster than it was 10-15 years ago. When we were growing up, we were on the phone all the time whereas truly nowadays, they have lots of outlets. They are hooked up wired in all the time and this information spread is so much faster so it will seem like the bullying issue is more prominent today than before. I think it is a matter of how fast the information spreads compared to before.
CyberBullying and Bullying in Education
CC: Of course and do you see the current media coverage of bullying and cyberbullying, is it helping the situation?
PL: I don’t think so. I think it brings awareness. It definitely brings awareness to the problem. It is helping in the sense that we must first have awareness; we have to know that there is a problem. Now we know this is a problem but I think the next step is really to define the problem and say “What we are going to do about it?”. Government can put a law, hold people accountable but a lot of this issues we need to go back to the grassroots truly of family, of promoting family really. The traditional family needs to bring these values back for children and for adults as well. Even in workplaces, it happens quite often, it is just that we are adults so it happens in a different way. It basically is a form of abuse and we do see it even in work place. Even if we recall our own actions, we will find it is much easier in cyberspace. It is much easier to send off a nasty email and to use really strong language versus to see the person face to face and say that and have this verbal communication.
The cyberspace is great. Now we can access information so much easier but along with it comes trouble. It becomes problematic as well because with this easy access to information, we also lost the human touch as well. It is much easier for me if I don’t know you, I never see you and I honestly don’t care about you to say something that is bad and mean but it will become some much more harder if I actually see the person. If I actually, and this goes for all of us, actually I see you and I know your name and I know your family and to say something really truly horrible and to commit an act of bullying against you, against the person. This is where I guess in a lot of sense bullying has really been made worse by the easily accessible information.
A Caregiver’s Guide to Bullying in Education
CC: Of course and people are hiding behind their mobile phone screens and the computer screens; you don’t see the reaction. Amazing and as an educator, and I guess this is something we really want to know, you have taken some major steps trying to share a safe environment for children in your care. Can you talk us through these?
PL: One, we actually suggest we tell all of our parents a couple of different things. One is we suggest to our parents that please have a proper family meal time. Share with your children a proper family meal. Sit down and foster this good habit from a very young age so the mealtime becomes sharing. This is bonding and sharing. This is incredibly important. Parents are busy. Of course parents are always busy running around, work, life and the grandparents all with different obligations but take some time out; a mealtime is a perfect time to do that. Turn off the TV, go away from the distractions, sit down, have a meal and talk to children. Children can feel that they have the support there, that no matter what happened they can go to the parents and tell them. A lot of time it is really crucial to see that they are not alone. This is one of the first things we tell our parents and the second thing is for the school. We have for our children in our pre-school for ages 3 to 5, we have absolute no technology policy. They can come to school the way they are but please leave the cellphones, leave the iPads, leave the video games, leave all that at home where it belongs. Not here, not in school. Here they need to learn there is human relationship between their peers. They need to learn their social skills. We are going to foster their social skills; how to interact with each other and this is and this is a vital point because in school, it is no longer a name on a Facebook account or no longer Facebook messaging or something like that. It is we are human beings right here. Right now you get to interact.
CC: Do you actually find children so young but they would be using technology a lot in general?
PL: Of course! You know, we live in this modern age and the parents are busy and a lot of times it is much easier for a lot of parents to give children a cellphone to play with, give the children an iPod to play with than sit down and do a puzzle because they will have to have the patience or sit down and read a book or something to that effect and you know I am a parent too and I have tried very hard all the time reminding myself no technology no technology. The concept is as usual. We have cell phones, iPads, computers; we are online all the time so we are working all the time. We have to remind ourselves all the time whatever we do, we have to set examples for children. We have to set example for our daughter because otherwise she is at that age, at her age, she can’t distinguish that we use the phone for work. She will see us on it all the time and they copy us in a way. Children imitate what we do and they want to do what we do. So, she knows what an iPad is, what a cell phone is, but she also knows that it is not for her.
CC:Very good and I have to admit that I am guilty of exactly what you are saying; handing the phone with the game open to buy myself some extra time so I will be thinking of that this evening so I am glad you brought that up. So, basically you have banned technology and social media in your school and I know some other schools have done this as well. Some people’s view would be that this may be not dealing with the issue or educating children how to use social media or the flip of that is our children getting involved in technology and social media too young these days because on Facebook for example the age requirement is to be over 13 but I guess we all know that there are people under 13 that use social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Are children too young under 13 to be using these sites?
PL: I think so. Absolutely and I think these sites they impose this age right as what they do but I think really the choice should belong to the individual parents. It should be a thought process between the parent and the child. First, children are too young. I ban technology, I always ban social media in my school, because children need to learn the human relation first. They need to interact, they need to feel ,they need to touch, they need to play, they need to learn all these day to day human actions first before getting on to something that is flat screen, that is a nickname, that is something abstract concept of human being in representation.
Another thing also will be we need to make sure that children develop their true sense of self first and when they are young, they are developing, and they are shaping their world. They are trying to figure out who they are and you can’t do that online because if we look around, the way we shape our world, your world, my world , the way we deal with it we are bombarded with our environmental influences. We are bombarded with parental influence, teacher influence, every single adult’s influence all bombard the children in how they construct their own identity.
The last thing the child needs is for someone else with no connection to them, who really don’t care about them, to tell them how to construct their own identity. Children need to construct their own identity through themselves, through trials and error, thorough hands on learning experience, through figuring the challenge, through conquering the challenge. As they do that, they build their own confidence and as they build their own confidence, they will be like “Oh! This is who I am “. As they build more and more, then we can start to foster compassion which I think is really the key to end it. The compassion to think that “Ok. I am confident and I am confident about myself. Ok now I want to do something else I want to help others as well, the sense that we are connected. We are all human, we are all together. This has been taken away by social media, has been taken away by technology. We are now connected but in a way that we are really very much alone.
Bullying in Education: How to Discuss Being Bullied with Children?
CC:Brilliant. Excellent. It’s great to hear all this explanation. These children are so young, as they are developing their personalities, do you discuss bullying with them? Is that something that this age group learn about? Or is that something an older age group should learn about?
PL: I think that age group should know the concept of bullying, just the word to explain that. We explain it in a very simple way. We explain it as to cause other people hurt; we explain it in a straight way. If you do that, you are going to cause other people pain and pain is not a good thing. For children, they understand. It is very concrete and very simple and very straight forward. Physical pain, emotional pain, just telling them that which is simply to tell them “We don’t want to do anything to cause people pain. Would you like that?” “No. I wouldn’t like that” “So, don’t do it”. After a while, they realize “I don’t like that being done to me so I shouldn’t be doing that for others” then we teach them coping techniques. We teach them mindful coping techniques, deep breath, moving their attention elsewhere so that they have a dealing mechanism to deal with when they are angry, to deal with when they are really frustrated. A lot of times, words result in a myriad of different emotions with different needs. So, we will teach children different techniques on how to deal with emotions and how to properly express them.
Parents and Bullying in Education
CC: And do you think that parents are generally concerned about bullying and cyberbullying?
PL: I think parents are definitely concerned but I am a parent and a lot of times I would think “Oh no! It’s not going to happen to me” and we sort of push it to the back of our heads and not really wanting to deal with it but this is a reality. You know, I went to a boarding school. Bullying and hazing were basically a part of the growing up process. You are a senior, you get to do certain things; it was like a rite of passage back then, part of the boarding school culture. Now looking back, do I agree with it? I think on many different levels, I think the teachers and the adults sort of stand back and say “well, that was just part of our culture so we will let it be”. So, the younger grade 8s or grade 9s usually get their head shaved from time to time by the older kids and this is part of it. We don’t think about it. We think it’s ok, it’s a rite of passage. Well, hear this. It is not OK because we are really allowing this culture to grow out of hand; grow bigger than what it is and turning a blind eye. Do we parents, do we need to think about it? Yes, absolutely. We need to think about it. Is it a pleasant subject? No, it is not.
Bullying in Education
CC: Educators have a part to play in developing a child’s social skills, but do you feel that society and parents have a big role to play as well?
PL: Absolutely. As a society and all the parents, we need to go back to family values. We can’t just talk about it and say “Well, we want to foster our children’s confidence”. You are a parent and as a parent, you have really a number one role in fostering a child’s confidence. If the parents are busy I get that but if we don’t acknowledge our own child on their achievement, on what they do, or just any simple gesture really to positively reinforce positively feedback, how do we expect our child to be confident? How do we expect our child to know that or change that? Because if we don’t acknowledge them, then they would pretty much turn to anybody else who would acknowledge them and that’s a lot of times how that happened. So, as a parent, we need to begin with really setting a time out to do something special. It doesn’t have to be anything. It could be sitting in the car driving around with your child and you could still have a positive interaction instead of sitting in the back playing video games and the parent driving and get really mad at traffic. Maybe take some time off to talk to the child and see what is going on.
CC: What do you feel is the most important thing that should be taught to children to help them develop into great future citizens?
PL: I think we need to foster compassion. Compassion is the number one quality we need to foster. We need to foster this human connection through compassion, through the fact that we are the same and we are all here and whatever happens, one gets sick or in pain or we are suffering, obviously we don’t feel good but I want every child to realize that compassion comes from the fact that, whatever I am feeling young people, other person feels it too. They get sick, they are going to go through suffering and this is the basis of compassion. If we have compassion, the world is going to be a much better place.
CC: Very interesting. Thank you, Peggy Lee for taking time to talk to us today. It has been very interesting. If someone wants to find out more about Little Sunshine Academy and what is happening , and what you and every one there is doing , where can we send them or how can they find out more?
PL: You know here it’s irony! “Find us on the website”.
CC: Yes, switch on to technology. Yes.
PL: This is irony. Find us on the website http://www.littlesunshinevancouver.com/