At Swiss International School in Dubai, we strive to provide a fully inclusive learning environment that caters to every student’s needs. A combination of the IB, Swiss educational system, and pastoral care allow us to address individual needs and enact a behavioural policy that aims for harmony and goodwill among our student body.
However, it’s not always possible to completely remove negative behaviour in school. The early years to adolescence are a critical stage of development that can become a source of a lot of anxiety, trauma, and bad habit-forming, all with potentially complex root causes.
One common particular problem associated with school is bullying, and it’s a topic for which we’ve developed intensive measures to address.
Bullying can be caused by a variety of factors, and it’s very difficult to pinpoint them all. What’s important is that every student involved is counseled individually and talked to, both victim and bully, to uncover these root causes.
Some causes may include peer and cultural pressure at school. Children can be very impressionable, and wanting to win over the approval of their peers may come at the expense of marginalizing someone else.
Another cause is poor academic performance, which is something that can be addressed through the correct channels and helped along by our trained faculty.
Others include anxiety and self-esteem issues, which are complex problems that require in-depth counseling, which we of course provide for all of our students,
SISD believes that punishment isn’t an appropriate recourse for bullying. Rather we use a framework known as restorative practices that allow students with negative behaviour to learn and grow, and receive consequences – both positive and negative – that make them aware of their mistakes and give them a chance to repair whatever harm they might have caused.
In our Behaviour Policy, we describe these practices thus: “These promote inclusiveness, relationship-building and problem-solving, through methods such as reflection, student-led consequence creation and focus on action taking that supports all parties with an emphasis on resolution and personal growth.”
For example, we expect every student to comply with our Behaviour Agreements and take them to heart. Any time they are in violation of these agreements, a teacher will talk to them and ask them to identify which agreements they’re failing to live up to.
Succeeding offenses may lead to an age-based stripping of social time, mandatory journaling and reflection, and even review sessions with the grade leader. Repeated behaviour may well warrant a meeting of teachers, counselors, and parents.
The whole point of this system is to ensure that every child is accounted for and looked out for, at all times. These sessions might be seen as punishment, but they’re designed to be opportunities for growth.
Physical aggression is handled separately, with safety measures for other students that include suspension of the offending student, isolation from classmates who they might be bullying, and even being sent home.
The penultimate outcome of repeated bad behaviour is suspension, which may be in school at first but can then take place at home. Finally, expulsion is reserved for repeat offenders who pose a risk to the healthy environment that SISD hopes to provide.
Bullying is a complex problem that deserves deep solutions that try to tackle every facet of the situation. We don’t want to let go of a problem student without trying everything we can to help them out. That’s the core of our Behaviour Agreement – every student agrees to follow these rules, and we agree to build character in our students and be with them every step of the way.