Teaching students to break the code of silence

Teaching students to break the code of silence

How do we going about teaching students to break the code of silence? Can we increase the likelihood that our students will speak up when they have concerns about someone’s behavior or have seen/heard something threatening?

There’s good news about teaching students to break the code of silence

It starts with building a climate of trust between the students and the adults working in the school. When kids feel supported and heard, they are more likely to report concerns to an adult who can then act on them.

Consider this: sometimes, we inadvertently train students that it is not safe or effective to tell an adult when something is wrong or when they are concerned about someone’s behavior. With good intentions and the desire to help our students become self-sufficient and capable of navigating relationships, we instruct them to work it out on their own. Perhaps, we remind them to practice the skills they’ve learned through a prevention curriculum like Steps to Respect or Second Step. Or, we believe their conflict is minor and that they will be best served by learning to ignore it.

Unfortunately, when we don’t listen and act on concerns, students learn not to tell us, and more importantly, not to trust us. When we later struggle to motivate students to break the code of silence in middle or high school, we may find it difficult to undo the learning that took place years earlier when referring to their concerns as tattling or pushing kids to work things out on their own.

The most effective way to combat this is to train your staff to listen and follow through on all student concerns, starting with pre-K and continuing through high school. This doesn’t always necessitate action; sometimes just listening and brainstorming solutions with a child are all that’s needed.

A 2008 bystander study commissioned by the U. S. Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Education (Pollack, W. S., Modzeleski, W. & Rooney, G.), revealed additional reasons students did not report concerns. If you missed that post, you can read it here.

This post first appeared here, on LinkedIn. You can connect with me on LinkedIn by clicking here.