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Humanising Language Teaching
Year 2; Issue 5; September 2000


Crying for Help- the No Blame Approach to Bullying
by George Robinson and Barbara Maines, Lucky Duck Publishing, 2000.
< www.luckyduck.co.uk >

On page 67 the authors of this book outline the NO BLAME procedure with great clarity as a series of seven steps:

Step 1. Talk with the victim

When the facilitator finds out that bullying has happened, she starts by talking to the victim. During this conversation the listener encourages the victim to describe how he feels with reflective comments such as : " That must be very hard for you… So you have felt really upset."

The purpose is not to discover the factual evidence about this or other events; if the victim wants to include evidence in the account this is always reframed to establish the resulting distress. For example a comment like " they have all been ignoring me, nobody will talk to me " might be replied to with a response like " so you felt lonely and you were upset you had nobody to talk to."

It is important the victim understands and gives consent to the No Blame process. Sometimes there may be a fear that it could lead to further victimisation but when the non-punitive aspect is fully explained the victim usually feels safe, relieved that something is being done. He may want the perpetrators to understand how much distress has been caused. Talking to some one else who has been through the experience may give further reassurance.

The facilitator ends the meeting by:

a) checking that nothing confidential has been said that should not disclosed in the group.

b) asking the victim to state the names of those involved in the bullying, some colluders or observers and some friends who will make up the group.

c) inviting the victim to produce a piece of writing and or a picture which illustrates his unhappiness.

d) offering the victim an opportunity to talk again at any time during the procedure if things are not going well.

Step 2. Arrange to meet the people involved

The facilitator arranges to meet with the group of pupils who have been involved and suggested by the victim. A group of six to eight young people works well. The group should have a balance of people who have caused the distress and colluders on the one hand and helpful and reliable young people on the other.

Step 3 Explain the problem

The facilitator starts by telling the group that she has a problem- she is worried about "John" who is having a very hard time at the moment. She tells them the story of the victim's unhappiness and uses the piece of writing or drawing to emphasise his distress. At no time does she discuss the details of the incidents or attribute blame to the group.

Step 4. Share responsibility

When the account is finished the listeners may look downcast or uncomfortable and be uncertain about the purpose of the meeting. Some may be anxious about possible punishment. The facilitator then states that:

a) no-one is in trouble or going to be punished
b) there is a joint responsibility to help John to be happy and safe.
c) the group has come together to help solve the problem.

Step 5. Ask the group members for their ideas

Group members are usually genuinely moved by the account of John's distress and relieved that they are not in trouble. No one has been pushed into a defensive corner by accusations and the power in the group has shifted from the "bully leader" to the group as a whole, whose members withdraw consent for the behaviour to continue. Each member of the group is then asked to suggest ways in which the victim could be helped to feel happier.

These ideas are stated in the "I" language of intention. " I will walk to school with him." " I will ask him to sit with me at dinner". The ideas are proposed and owned by the group members and not suggested or imposed by the facilitator. She makes positive responses but she does not go on to extract a promise of improved behaviour.

Step 6. Leave it up to them

The facilitator ends the meeting by passing over responsibility to the group to solve the problem. No written record is made- it is left as a matter of trust. She thanks them, expresses confidence in a positive outcome and arranges to meet them again to see how things are going.

Step 7 Meet them again

About a week later the teacher discusses with each student, including the victim, how things are going. This allows the teacher to monitor the bullying and keeps the young people involved in the process.

These meetings are with one group member at a time so that each can give a statement about his contribution without creating a competitive atmosphere. It does not matter if everybody has not kept to his intention, as long as the bullying has stopped. The entire process showing the seven steps, is available as a training video (Maines and Robinson ).

The above Rogerian way of dealing with bullying stands in contrast to the normal Northern European puritanical, legalistic way of coping. The normal way in England, at least, is to criminalise the bully and to deal with him by a mixture of punishments and threats. This way brings huge pain to all concerned and ignores the roots of the situation.

How is bullying dealt with in your culture? It may be that the No Blame procedure is successful in England precisely because is stands in stark contrast to the normal beating up and criminalisation of the bully. How is bullying dealt with in Greenland, in China, in Nepal, in Chad and in your neck of the woods?

Good news for aspiring and Published ELT authors!

Howard Middle of HM ELT Services is setting up a specialist database and agency for ELT authors, both published and pre-published. (From 1980 to 1999 Howard Middle was a publisher and latterly an editorial director in the ELT division of Longman, now Pearson Education.)

The idea behind this database and agency is especially to help ELT professionals break into writing for publication, not only for UK publishers, but for ELT publishers overseas in countries like Spain, Italy, Greece, France and Germany. The number of UK ELT publishers has declined in recent years because of mergers and consolidation and this makes it particularly hard for aspiring authors to get noticed and to get into print. This database and agency wants to widen considerably the range of opportunities, and also to explore new opportunities like writing for on-line ELT services.

What authors and aspiring authors will do is send in details of their teaching and writing/materials development experience, which countries they have taught in, what their speciality may be – business, exams, skills, readers etc. This information will be entered into the database, sorted into categories, and then will be used by HM ELT Services to offer a confidential search service to ELT Publishers.

A small annual charge (£50 including VAT) will be made for an entry in the database, but this charge will be refunded if an author is contracted subsequently and HM ELT Services acts as an agent for the author. The official start date for the service to Publishers is January 1st 2001, so authors can join now, but pay nothing until January.

Authors with projects they want to offer publishers can choose to be represented by this agency, and will be supported and guided in submitting proposals and in dealings and negotiations with publishers.

Howard Middle can be contacted by phone, fax or e-mail (see below), and is keen to facilitate ELT professionals in joining the database, in order rapidly to gain scale and therefore usefulness to ELT publishers. Interest has already been expressed by Pearson Education (Longman), OUP, Macmillan/Heinemann and Richmond/Santillana.

HM ELT Services, 33 Clifton Road. London N8 8JA, UK
E-mail: hmelts@globalnet.co.uk
Tel:: + 44 (0) 20 8340 9449
Fax: + 44 (0) 20 8341 5735

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