Bullying as a learning experience
By: Annalee Grant
Reporter, Cranbrook Daily Townsman
At Parkland Middle School, learning is everything, and Principal Jason Tichauer
even tries to make bullying a chance to grow.
“We have to view things as a learning opportunity,” Tichauer said.
Students passing through middle school deal with changing emotions as they leave
elementary school and are exposed to new students, new experiences and the impending
journey onto high school. Through pro-active programs and activities, Tichauer believes
his students are making great strides in stopping bullying in its tracks. Parkland’s student
leadership have been working with younger students to talk about bullying.
“It’s a program that they really feel excited about,” Tichauer said.
It isn’t the only program going on right now. The school’s walls are covered in posters
that put the issue of bullying right in the students’ faces. They cover diversity and other
differences that can sometimes be targets. TAG classes are currently holding a contest to
represent aspects of bullying.
Tichauer sees the good in his students, and is careful to classify just any actions into
bullying. He said that not all behaviour is bullying, but students can sometimes take
something done to them the wrong way. Though the school has a zero tolerance policy,
he knows there’s no way to completely stop adolescent bullying.
When bullying does occur at his school, Tichauer said it often happens far away from the
hallways on weekends, when the school has no control over its students’ actions – until
they bring the drama back with them on Monday.
“These things often spill back into our buildings,” he said.
Tichauer believes that the dynamics of bullying have changed. More kids are willing
to speak up when they feel harassed, and that’s slowing the instance of serious events
that end up in the office. Teachers and staff at Parkland go out of their way to create an
environment where students feel safe and secure – and one where those students feel
welcome to speak with a trusted adult.
“I gotta believe that kids who are feeling abused or put down would come forward,” he
said. Sometimes parents come forward about claims their children make, which is another
When bullying situations do land in the office, Tichauer said the staff try their best to
work things out with both parties.
“Ideally you want a situation where you can work things out with all parties together.”
Tichauer said that in his experience, if a bully finds out how his or her actions have hurt
their victim, they often feel remorse and apologize. Very rarely would a student ever be
removed from the school for bullying, but if a situation gets bad enough, it could happen.
“We have to deal with every situation individually,” Tichauer said.
He believes that recent campaigns and awareness have put bullying on centre stage, and
kids are fighting back positively.
“It’s in the public consciousness,” Tichauer said.
By the time students reach Parkland, they know what is right and wrong and how they
should be treating their peers.
“Kids are well instructed through their years in school on how you treat people and how
you don’t,” Tichauer said. “They hear ‘keep your hands to yourself’ probably 10,000
To welcome new students, the school holds a welcome week that gently eases new
students together. They start by separating the boys and girls for team building exercises.
It’s a great success that Tichauer is proud of.
“I think it’s one of the things we do really, really well here,” he said.
It’s a big step for students to move from their elementary schools with a few hundred
students, to a middle school with such a massive population.
“We recognize that we are almost 500 kids,” Tichauer said.
Younger students are transitioned in and “podded” together into groups with common
teachers and classmates. They get extremely close with their teachers, Which adds
to Parkland’s idea of making kids feel welcome to discuss difficult topics with their
“We try to really cut down on contact in that first year,” Tichauer said. “We’re taking
kids at this level, and doing our best to prepare them for the next level.”
It’s tough to decisively discuss the difference between boys and girls when it comes to
bullying, but Tichauer has noticed differences in how they bully. He said boys tend to be
more physical, and cyber-bullying is often a female-dominated tactic.
Tichauer applies one of his favourite sayings – which he picked off a banner at a middle
school early in his career – to his approach to bullying.
“They won’t care what you know, till they know that you care.”