University professor creates a program to help overcome bullying among elementary school students
It is ironic that the University of Alberta's own anti-bullying crusader was once told by a psychic that she was a bully in a past life.
"On a spur of the moment, I went to this psychic fair at the Fringe in Edmonton," chuckles Marilyn Langevin, '88 BSc(Spch&Aud), '91 MSc, clinical director of the University's institute for Stuttering Treatment and Research (ISTAR). "She said I was a terrible bully in a previous life, but thankfully I had atoned for my sins and changed my ways. Helping children overcome teasing and bullying is definitely a path I was destined to follow!"
Langevin's path to prevent bullying started in the early 1990s. Langevin was working on developing educational materials to help school children who were picked on or teased because they stuttered. Almost as soon as she started, she realized that it was important to broaden her scope and include all the children involved in the bullying—victims, their peers, and children who bully. "This led to a marriage of two goals: to provide educational materials that changed attitudes towards bullying, while at the same time improving attitudes toward children who stutter," says Langevin.
In her early research, Langevin found that bullying was very much a part of children's everyday lives. While conducting interviews and questionnaires, she discovered that almost 58 per cent of children between the ages of eight and 12 reported being bullied at some time. And 32 per cent indicated that they were bullied at least once a week or more often. Langevin found these numbers significant and decided to take a more holistic approach—not limiting her focus to students who stutter. "I wanted to create a prograin that would help foster healthier, more positive rclationships among children with and without differences." The culmination of Langevin's 10 years of research is Teasing and Bullying: Unacceptable Bebaviour, an educational program that includes ready-to-use lesson plans and activities, parent handouts, fullcolour classroom posters, a teacher manual, and videotape. The program, whose acronym is TAB, is designed for children in Grades 4 to 6, but Langevin says it can be adapted for earlier grades or junior high. TAB is also a useful program for teachers, counselors, psychologists, social workers, and other professionals who work with children.
The program was developed in consultation with elementary-school teachers, counsellors, and students. It was field tested in 1996 with 900 students and 37 teachers, and results showed an improvement in attitude towards victims and children who stutter. It also reduced the approval of bullying.
Langevin explains that the program works by changing the whole environment, rather that removing the bully from the situation. Once the entire class learns about teasing and bullying, attitudes change, and the children begin to understand what it is and how it makes people feel. Lessons and exercises teach a problemsolving approach that uses conflict-resolution strategies, she says.
"TAB will become a classic resource for teachers and other professionals who need clear and concise steps for dealing with the complex issues related to differences," said TAB reviewer Rosalee Shenker from the Montreal Fluency Centre at McGill University.
TAB is listed as a recommended classroom resource in Alberta Learning's Sale, Secure, and Caring Schools Curriculum. The program is supported by The Elks and the Royal Purple Funds.
Published Spring 2001.