Toronto Zoo

School Heroes Unite

November 14 to 18 was Anti-Bullying Week 2011. I agree with the general spirit of the initiative but it is my opinion that anti-bullying programs only beget more bullying. This might sound controversial so let me explain. I believe we get what we focus on, negative or positive. Some readers might be familiar with the “law of attraction” (popularized in the movie “The Secret”). The idea is that whatever we focus our mental energies on we draw more of into our reality. A relatable example in the negative sense would be if you stub your toe first thing in the morning, you get really upset and begin to harbour negative thoughts which start a chain reaction of unfortunate events. So it is my belief that the answer is not to focus our energies on the problem but on the solution.

Bullying only exists because it serves a purpose. It allows those students to feel a sense of importance, acceptance and respect. These are needs, and if they cannot be met through positive means students will try and meet them through whatever means necessary. I don’t know of a better way to achieve all three of these needs then through being a hero.

I believe that all students have what it takes to be a hero to both their school and their community. I use a superhero analogy during my presentations where I explain that individually there a bunch of Supermen and Wonder Women but together they form the Justice League.  The Justice League derives its power through teamwork and they can accomplish almost anything, together.

As a child I was bullied and like most children who were bullied no one ever came running to my rescue. I was on my own which made me a perfect target. Like wolves, bullies are not looking for a challenge, they seek out look for the most vulnerable in the group. So the key is taking the target off these marginalized children’s backs. A simple way I promote through “School Heroes Unite” (my pro-heroism school program) is to be a hero by befriending these students – if they see a student who eats lunch alone, or is frequently picked on during recess, to invite them to join their group or activity. This is a simple way students can prevent bullying by being a hero.

Every time I present “School Heroes Unite” I am encouraged by how quickly and enthusiastically students receive and apply the program’s message of heroism. Children idolize heroes and jump at the chance to be one. As a group I have them come up with a list of small, everyday things they can do to be a hero to each other. Not only can I not write fast enough to keep up with the outpouring of ideas they come up with, they are anxious to try them and promise as a group to do at least one per day. This is a helpful activity that you may want to try with your children or students.  Remember, you don’t need to wear tights or be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound to be a hero.

Children already know that bullying is bad; most have been bullied, so let’s help foster the solution in our kids. Promote heroism and lead by example. Bullying can be beaten by offering children positive ways to meet their needs. Kids will choose heroism if given the choice.

For more information on “School Heroes Unite” visit www.schoolheroesunite.com.