Involving the whole school community
Pathways of change can only be successful when they follow a holistic plan of action involving a wider range of teachers and stakeholders in school but also in the wider school community.
In this final section, we illustrate how the SELMA Toolkit materials can be integrated across the curriculum, while outlining some elements to make SELMA part of a whole-school strategy in which children and young people, parents, school staff and the whole school community work together in a more structural and systematic way.
Integrating SELMA across the curriculum
SELMA activities can easily be integrated across a range of subject areas, as illustrated by the following examples:
- English and/or foreign languages:
- The ‘Theme 1’ ‘SEL’ questions and activities help building an emotional vocabulary.
- Language teachers may also wish to explore Crack the code (‘Theme 5’, ‘SEL’) which:
- Examines how words and phrases can have different meanings depending on their context and use.
- Asks pupils to think of any examples of “coded language” online? (e.g. slang words/phrases created by a group referring to people/objects/activities that only members of the group would understand.)
- Explores factors which might be involved in inferring the meaning of a word/phrase/message, e.g. current situation, who said it, who the intended audience are, current emotional state of reader, native language of speaker/audience.
- What feelings people might have when there is a miscommunication.
- The Scissor words or glue words? activity (‘Theme 9’, ‘Peer Mentoring’) introduces pupils to the idea of the language we use to describe groups acting like “nouns that cut slices” - a visual description which speaks to the power of language to create social divisions. Pupils will also be encouraged to think about the flipside of that - the fact that language can be used in ways that bind people together, too.
- Computing and/or maths:
- The Spotting hate: creating an algorithm activity (‘Theme 5’, ‘Media Production’) is designed to help learners further understand the characteristics of hate speech and the complexity of identifying hate speech in online content. The idea behind this activity is for learners to create and test a “hate speech” algorithm.
- Through history we have seen how traditional mass media – from books or newspapers to radio, film and television – can be abused as an instrument for stigmatisation, discrimination, exclusion, and incitement to hatred and violence. In its most extreme form, mass media propaganda contributed to the widespread marginalisation of groups and even mass murder and genocide. The Xorg the Xenovian activity in (‘Theme 1’, ‘Media Analysis’) and Thinking outside the frame (‘Theme 3’, ‘Media Analysis’) provide two examples – among many others – which will help pupils to understand how online media can draw upon similar mechanisms to amplify and normalise hatred and violence.
- Art, design and/or music:
- In ‘Theme 1’, ‘Media Production’, pupils are invited to re-create/communicate their hate speech definition through a meme, an animation, a poem or rap.
- Creative communication skills are at the heart of most ‘Media Production’ activities, and they will inevitably play an important part in the campaigning activities included in the ‘Citizenship’ focus of ‘Theme 7’, ‘Theme 8’ and ‘Theme 9’.
- More broadly, the ‘Citizenship’ focus area provides an obvious entry point to citizenship across all themes, accumulating in a final ‘Mobilising your online community’ activity in ‘Theme 9’, where learners identify how to engage others and build a supportive community.
Building towards an effective whole-school strategy
A whole-school approach involves “addressing the needs of learners, staff and the wider community, not only within the curriculum, but across the whole-school and learning environment. It implies collective and collaborative action in and by a school community to improve student learning, behaviour and wellbeing, and the conditions that support these”.
Successful strategies must be embedded in a whole-school programme which takes into account a wide spectrum of actors, within and beyond the school.
Within the school:
- Pupils should be given the opportunity to actively participate in the school governance. Pupils bring in a unique perspective. Youth voices should be elevated. Pupils should be engaged as problem solvers and decision makers. This includes engaging students who don’t typically take on leadership roles. They should be supported to become agents of change. This can take the form of school councils or assemblies, student surveys, or youth-led programmes, campaigns or initiatives, among others.
- Apart from teachers and school leaders, other school professionals such as school curriculum designers, school psychologists and guidance counsellors, pastoral and behavioural leads, can play an important role as well. Whole-school strategies should take into consideration existing concerns raised by the whole school team. Teachers and school professionals should be supported, through training and appropriate materials, so that they can feel that they have the ability to implement the actions proposed.
Meanwhile, schools should recognise that pupils and educators cannot do the job alone:
- Schools can put in place systems that support parent/carer involvement. For this, they will need to create meaningful partnership opportunities and a two-way communication that provides a welcoming environment for families. Parents/carers can be brought together to discuss relevant topics. The school can suggest strategies to use at home. This requires an understanding of parental/carer concerns, possibly by undertaking surveys, involving parent associations, organising open or consultation evenings. Parents/carers should be kept informed through offline and online communication channels. Students could also involve their parents/carers in take-away tasks and projects.
- Schools can also reflect on how to foster strategic community partnerships, which will help to establish shared norms and expectations in the local community. Possible partners include local government services, youth and community centres, public libraries, police officers or even sport and recreation clubs. Here again, pupils can be actively involved in establishing these kind of partnerships, through various steps and actions, such as signing petitions, organizing and attending events.
- On a more ambitious level, schools could also try to engage national and international stakeholders, such as children’s commissioners, media authorities, social media providers, ministries, NGO’s and so forth.
By increasing stakeholders’ participation early in the process, schools can increase uptake and effectiveness. By actively contributing to the development of the whole-school strategy, school staff, parents, carers and students will feel part of the process and will contribute to making the strategy more attainable and attuned to real needs identified at school.
To make this more concrete, ‘Theme 9: Changing the world’ provides a straightforward example of how SELMA might help to develop a whole-school strategy around the topic of online hate speech. Of course, we invite you to draw upon the many other Toolkit activities also. Equally, you might find scope to integrate this kind of activity into existing strategies of your school.
‘Theme 9’ starts by asking a number of questions, which can be a springboard for bringing your school community together around a common cause:
- What are the hate issues in the communities (online and offline) you belong to?
- What do you think are the “big” issues around online hate speech?
- How could you go about tackling a “big issue”?
- Who would you target?
- What would you do?
- What would you hope to achieve?
- How would you get others to support/help you to make a change?
- What features does your main message/call to action need to be heard, taken seriously and empower people to act?
Each of the ‘Theme 9’ focus area opens further opportunity to bring pupils, school staff and the wider community together.
- Collaborate with a group of teachers in your school to run the Facing a culture of hate ‘SEL’ activity across different classrooms. Pupils in your school will start putting a face to hate in your community, while considering the role online media play.
- Bring pupils together in a school council or assembly setting. Let your pupils identify a key challenge they would like to tackle together. Use the ‘SEL’ Respectful dialogue guidelines to set clear communication standards.
- It might be difficult to find consensus among your pupils. Given the focus of the debates, you may also end up with heated discussions. This is a useful exercise in resilience and democratic decision making. Still, we recommend you involve a wider range of school actors, including school psychologists or wellbeing counsellors. The ‘Peer Mentoring’ activity Scissor words or glue words? will prove particularly helpful to encourage pupils (and adults) to reflect on the use of divisive language. Of course, you should try to find ways to bring people together.
- Once you have agreed on a common issue or goal, together with your students, draw upon the ‘Media Analysis’ and ‘Media Production’ activities to start developing and implementing a Successful campaign. To amplify their messages, pupils will have to reflect on how they can involve friends and family, and other relevant actors and influencers in the local community when trying to grow a following, using both offline and online communication channels.
As will be clear from the ‘Citizenship’ section, Mobilising your online community is not just about outreach but also about building supportive long terms relationships. This is exactly what a whole-school strategy should be about!