Safe Learning Environments through RESPECT Education
Presented by: Scott McHenry
“Independence is Key”
I know what you’re thinking, this is probably just another presentation where they will stress that we should all respect each other without really going into detail. That however would be wrong. This presentation was one of the most engaging and interesting presentations I have ever seen. They focused on real issues effecting teenagers and children, and they presented them in a way as to equip educators with the knowledge necessary to teach and show respect. Focusing on prevention not intervention was the message. This is important, for example if there is a leak in a boat you’re in, bailing out water may work short term, however for a long term solution you must find the hole and fix it.
Respect education is a little known section of the red cross that works to equip educators with the skills necessary to teach students from kindergarten to grade 12 with the skills necessary to survive in this ever changing world. Scott McHenry walked us through a couple programs the first was Healthy Youth relationships (HYR). I was surprised by the detail the presentation touched focusing on topics that have historically been regarded as taboo, such as; Dating violence, Consent, sexting, LGBTQ2S+ vulnerability, and more. Not only that but the presentation worked to normalize LGBTQ2S+ people with educators and policy makers featuring slides with two men holding hands while talking about relationships in general. I was also surprised that the program placed the same amount of importance on Emotional and physical violence, as they are both important topics youth need to be educated on, however historically we are taught physical violence is wrong without given much thought to the emotional impacts in relationships.
HYR is targeted towards high school students. As a high school student myself I’m aware that often times when there are presentations or programs we have to watch many and many of my peers become disinterested or even skip as they don’t see the value. I asked Mr. McHenry how the program keeps students engaged. He responded saying that although the program is divided into different lessons, it’s not just someone standing at the front and talking. Each lesson has 3-4 activities that the students take part in to increase their understanding of the issues being looked at. Not only that, but they also train youth facilitators at schools as talking with your peers can be a refreshing and easier way to learn about these taboo topics.
The next program he walked us through was Beyond the hurt (BTH) which is targeted towards grade 5-10 students. BTH used to focus on bullying and impacts of that, however it was recently expanded to include information on human rights. The program Works to teach students that it’s okay to be who they are and focuses on the positive instead of the negative. As we all know, bullying is wrong, however we aren’t always taught we all have value. Increasing a person’s self-confidence can often help to prevent bullying by showing them they have value. He also talked about the differences between Conflict and bullying which is important as a student being pushed on the playground once is not bullying, however if this behavior repeats, it is. This is an important distinction to make, as confusing bullying and conflict can take away the seriousness of the issues.
The presentation shared evidence based information to treat taboo topics in such a manner that the seriousness of issues effecting students was highlighted. Hearing the importance of youth in helping teach the about these issues was refreshing. Based on what I saw, and as a high school student I would definitely recommend educators look into this program.
By: ANDREW BATYCKI