How Government Corruption Affects Us All

These are memorable days in Irish politics.

Not only memorable however, but also painful, sickening and disturbing.
Houses of the Oireachtas Commission suppliment(photo credit: oireachtas.ie)

Since February 9th, so many of Ireland’s fundamental institutions have been revealed to be harboring base corruption.

Our Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, the nation’s leader and figurehead, has acted dishonestly; in fact, after being forced to relate the facts regarding his dealings with Cabinet Minsters with regard to the recent McCabe scandal, he said in the Dáil on Thursday 16th Feb, ‘I actually spoke the truth in the house today’. He spoke as though speaking the truth was something to be applauded.

The credibility of the nation’s Ministers for Justice and for Children, Frances Fitzgerald and Katherine Zappone, has been weakened considerably by the corruption within their respective departments.

The Garda Síochana has been grossly unethical and the forthcoming Charleton Tribunal will investigate the extent of its corruption. This is the institution that has as its aim the protection of Irish communities, yet a man who attempted to flag wrongdoing within the Gardaí has left unprotected and abused.

 
TUSLA, the Child and Family Agency, has acted dishonorably and has been party to the blackening of an innocent man’s good name. This is the agency which professes to improve outcomes and wellbeing for children, yet Maurice McCabe’s children will be forever scarred by the horror of the false allegations regarding their father which TUSLA facilitated.

 
There is clearly a deficit in our culture of leadership. A deficit of basic moral responsibility. One is reminded of the story of a novice thief who was apprehended by the police. After he had undergone his punishment, he returned to the thieves’ hideout only to face the towering rage of his boss. When he piteously asked why he was being chastised again, the response was, ‘Because you were stupid enough to get caught’. The greatest sin in Irish political leadership seems to be the mistake of being found out. What is lacking is an inherent passion for the common good and a basic desire to be morally upright in all of one’s actions.

 
The actions and attitudes of government set the tone for the rest of the nation. Corruption at national level must be dealt severely, because it is a contagious disease, apt to spread. We look up to our leaders; they decide the moral temperature of the nation, and through their actions, they define what is acceptable behaviour for leaders in national, municipal and local institutions. If it is acceptable for the Taoiseach, the Minister for Justice, the Police Force, the Child and Family Agency to be corrupt, then it is acceptable also for the shopkeeper, the teacher, the principal, the mechanic.

 
Even our children are affected. I have written before of the premature disillusionment of certain pupils who looked at me cynically when I encouraged them to report any incidents of bullying to school management. With the insight of childish discernment, they know when management truly cares but also when its care is limited to some fancy words on a policy document.

 
A recent phenomenon in my local town are the fights under the bridge. Some of them happen during lunchtime, when youngsters from nearby schools congregate under a bridge located in the town center and watch the designated fighters take each other on. They are vicious, brutal encounters, and fraught with bullying and harassment. Anecdotal evidence reports that sometimes the Gardaí stop by, but their presence doesn’t make much difference. Others say that when the pupils return to school clearly bruised and bloodied, teachers rarely comment or get involved. Some unfortunates caught up in this activity have been subjected to terrible mental and physical abuse.

 
Corruption is becoming commonplace in our communities. When our national institutions don’t function as they ought, disillusionment follows. Depression rates soar. Suicide becomes the increasingly popular ‘way out’.

It has been a disheartening week. I recently read a quote however from Peter Ustinov which has stayed with me – ‘Corruption is nature’s way of restoring faith in democracy.’ We must believe in the power of our own voices and we must actively exercise the democratic principles of free speech and selection.

It seems that the fight for moral justice must be each person’s individual responsibility; we must be willing to expose ourselves by highlighting corruption in our workplaces and communities lest a day come when unchecked corruption turns into tyranny and free speech becomes a crime.

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Visiting Dachau

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I will never forget visiting Dachau. It was a cold March day, suitably grey and melancholy, with a chill wind that blew right through my coat. I took the train from Munich to the village of Dachau, and stepped off into a unassuming town, with a market place and a functional Hauptbahnhof with the ever-present Bäckerei. Outside the bus stop for Das Konzentrationslager was easy to spot; a cluster of tourists stood by it, hands in pockets, cameras slung around their necks. The bus came, we all got on and I spent my time gazing out the window, at the houses, the gardens, the trappings of a normal community filled with normal people. When the bus came to a halt by a wide green park, the bus driver pointed down a small road and informed us that we had to walk the rest of the way.

The walk led us past a group of small apartment blocks, and occasional snatches of children’s laughter and neighborly small talk could be heard. Seconds later, the gates were before us, ‘Arbeit macht frei’ and suddenly I was in another world, a
world of horrifying cruelty, of hopeless captivity, of mass killings.

When I left, hours later, unable to speak, I remember staring again at the
apartment blocks, the unassuming houses, the market square. I was fascinated by these buildings in which people lived and worked and talked and slept and laughed, while thousands of their fellow-human beings met their deaths a few hundred meters away. How could they do nothing? How could they not dachau_collspeak up? How could they not care?

Indoctrination and German Schools
Adolf Hitler became leader of the Nazi Party in 1926, and 7 years later, Heinrich Himmler opened the Concentration Camp in Dachau. Thus, there had been almost a decade of indoctrination in National Socialism before the mass genocide of non-Aryans began to take place. Of fundamental importance during this time was nurturing of the youth, and this was evident in the power of the Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls, both of which were established in the 1920s. I remember once conversing with an elderly German woman who recounted nostalgically her days taking part in the Youth rallies; she spoke of a powerful feeling of belonging and oneness that she had never experienced before or, indeed, since.
German schools were also directly targeted; any Jewish or politically unreliable teachers were fired and the rest were given a choice – conform or lose your job. History tells us that 97% of teachers joined the Nazi Party, greater numbers than any other profession, and that they were marked by their devotion to Adolf Hitler. Academic knowledge and intellectual development were belittled as obedience to state authority, militarism and anti-Semitism took centre place in German classrooms. Children were actively encouraged to abandon their individuality in favour of the goals of the Aryan community and this indoctrination continued in after-school meetings, weekend camping trips and regular mass rallies. Parents were relegated to second place as the state assumed responsibility for the upbringing of the nation’s children.
It is no wonder then that the people of Dachau, so heavily programmed in the ideology of National Socialism, said nothing when Heinrich Himmler officiously opened Germany’s first concentration camp ‘for political prisoners’. It is no wonder they remained silent for 9 long years, despite the rumours, the gunshots, the skeletal bodies, the mass graves.

Respecting Parents
Today is Holocaust Memorial Day – a day to remember the past, for if we do not remember, we are doomed to repeat it. Education has always been instrumental in a government’s efforts to change a nation. Any new ideological state or movement must alienate the young from their pre-revolutionary parents if it hopes to survive into future generations. And any state-imposed separation of children from their parents is wrong. It must always be a matter of concern when the State begins to infringe parental rights and assume responsibility for the upbringing of children. As teachers, employed by the state, we must always be aware that while we are ‘in loco parentis’ when our pupils in our care, we are not their parents – and there are areas of instruction which must always be firstly the responsibility of the parents. We must be careful to never belittle parents or, through our teaching, denigrate their morals and values.
In light of this, Ireland’s recent trends in education policy are worrying. Government disparagement of religion and the recent focus on schools taking responsibility for child ‘wellbeing’ along with the promotion of topics such as sexuality to children under the age of legal consent are of concern. The moving away from knowledge to ‘skills’ as an educational output is also a source of anxiety to many teachers around the country; it is imperative that we examine the reasons and philosophy behind every development. Indoctrination is never conspicuous – it is always camouflaged.
And when we disagree, we must protest. Elie Wiesel, a man who survived the brutality of a Nazi concentration camp but never forgot what it meant to be captive, once wrote:
‘There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest’.

(Images credit: Google Images)

Trump, Brexit and the People’s Voice

                                                 

1916

In Irish political and media circles, there has arisen a disturbing disregard for democracy. Of all nations, perhaps Ireland should know best the inspired power of the people’s voice. We are a young Republic; only last year we remembered the heroes of 1916, those men who gave their lives so that Ireland could be free. One of them, Padraig Pearse, after he was sentenced to death for his role in the Easter Rising, wrote: ‘If our deed has not been sufficient to win freedom, then our children will win it by a better deed’.

That better deed was democracy; inspired by the heroic actions of tragic rebels, the people claimed the once-mocked vision as their own and continued the fight for freedom. In 1919, Irish representatives, chosen by an electorate of 2 million, met in the Mansion House in Dublin and the first Dáil was convened. It was a revolutionary parliament, signifying the first political break with the British Empire and the parliament at Westminster. It was we, the people – our language, our faith, our morals, our values, our traditions, our lands, our towns, our schools, our country. It was a new nation, at last articulating the uniqueness of a centuries-old people. It was democracy – the voice of the people deciding by whom they would be governed, and it has continued right through to the 32nd Dáil.

 
And yet today, a vocal, powerful minority dare to deride democracy, to dismantle it with insinuations, rhetoric, and accusations and to ridicule this very institution that brought their freedom. The liberal elite observe with plaintive woe the political changes in the UK and the US which have occurred because of the democratic voice of the people. They piously speak the subjective language of political respectability – words such as xenophobia, racism, misogyny, homophobia. Purposely forgetting the common good and individual freedoms, they claim that all they want is for everyone to be happy and accepted and loved.

 
This vocal minority are self-proclaimed activists, calling for the freedom of all people, while they shut down free speech and accuse truth-speakers of violence and racism. They talk of the worth of every human being while they mock belief in God, Who alone confirms the inherent value in each person, and thus guarantees that man is worth loving. They complain that they are criminalized and oppressed, while they campaign for No Platform policies and the prosecution of those who actively disagree with their liberal agenda.

 
They have dominated the media in recent days, bewailing democracy. They have painted Brexit as Doomsday. They have demonized President Trump. They have spoken of chaos and bigotry, and have lugubriously predicted a return to the Dark Ages. They have sneered at democracy in action, thus proving that they are traitors to its cause. They are the Europhiles, the political sycophants, the Amnesty charlatans, the RTE bootlickers, the Rainbow devotees.

 
As they protest democracy, there are thousands of Irish who do not.
We are the silent majority, heartily applauding the disarrangement of the stifling status quo. We are invigorated and energized by what democracy has achieved against the odds. We feel the chains of political correctness, the shackles of EU regulations, the curse of media bias and as we watch our neighbors across the seas each side of our small island, we dare to wonder if, here, change could happen too.

 
In 1919, the Irish people found their voice, and participated in the democratic process which resulted in the independent Republic of Ireland.

Is it time to find our voice again?

(image credit: Google images)

Staying Bright

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                              – taking responsibility for our lives as teachers –

It’s easy to get worn out in the teaching profession. The multiple needs of our pupils, the weight of implementing educational reforms, the issues regarding pay restoration and job permanency and the struggle to maintain a sense of calling amidst monotonous schedules can unite to really drag us down. But for the sake of our pupils, our families, our communities and most of all our own self-worth, we must stay bright.

Firstly, don’t obsess over bad behavior. I have found it necessary to avoid lengthy discussions in the staff-room about misbehaving pupils. Chatting about the latest incredibly wicked feats of a particular child can be a temptingly easy way to pass a 15-minute break; but unless it leads to constructive action being taken, or has a positive visible outcome, it leaves you with nothing but negative thoughts. It drags you down – for no good purpose. We should, instead, share good stories, positive thoughts and solutions that work.

Secondly, be an activist. We too often make the mistake of living out lives watching the evils of the world around us. Of living our lives as onlookers. Of being commentators – commentators who disappear or fall dumb when the opportunity to make a change comes along. We all have experienced that heavy, uncomfortable silence that often descends during a staff meeting. We love to talk but shrink from doing. And the more we shrink, the hollower our words sound. To stay bright and useful, we must pledge with ourselves not to speak unless we intend to act – not to voice a solution unless we, as individuals, are willing to do all within our power to make that solution work.

Thirdly, be the boss. A teacher mentor once told me to practice being king in my classroom – to practice developing a culture behind the classroom door where clear boundaries and tough love are paramount. He encouraged me to deal with discipline issues myself, and to learn to refer an issue only if it is totally unmanageable. In those workplaces where leadership is lacking, it is important to overcome frustration by taking ownership of our own areas of responsibility – to be in charge where possible, to be a leader whenever possible, to be self-sufficient as much as possible.
Staying bright requires effort and practice. There are actions we can take to better our life experience as teachers. After all, ‘There’s only one person responsible for your quality of life – That person is you’. (Jack Caulfield)

Image credit: Google Images

Wellbeing – refurbishing Plato’s Cave

The introduction of a new subject for the Junior Cycle, Well-being, has been much lauded by the media as the advent of a fresh dawn in Irish education – a dawn which claims to put the pupil at the very centre of the school community. However, for all its promises and positivity, there is much more at stake in Wellbeing than simply a benevolent desire on the part of the Department of Education to help our children be happier. This subject represents a new definition of education, a shift from parents to teachers as the primary educators of children and the replacing of principles of justice and individual responsibility with a liberal concept of care and community.
1. A new definition of education:
School has always been a place of discovery. As a young teacher, I was inspired by the idea that knowledge was power – one book that particularly made an impact on me was ‘And Still We Rise’ by Miles Corwin, a true-life account of how one Los Angeles teacher changed the lives of her pupils through an incisive, comprehensive course in English literature. There is a sector of educational philosophy, however, which believes that such a concept of education is lacking; education should not only be about expanding the intellect and preparing pupils for working life. In a 2008 research paper on well-being commissioned by the NCCA, Maeve O’Brien considers the idea that perhaps ‘happiness is an appropriate aim of education’ (172) and that ‘the possibilities for schooling to make a significant contribution to the happiness of young people’ are significant. The Draft Consultation on Wellbeing states that teachers are to guide children to recognise and understand both their positive and negative feelings – ‘That I am aware of my thoughts, feelings and behaviours and that I can make sense of them’ (37). Of central importance is that every child would realise that they are emotional beings, prone to good and bad days, and that they would be aware of when and where to get support. Under the umbrella of Wellbeing, children will learn to become focussed on themselves, aware of their emotional needs, knowledgeable concerning what services and societal attitudes they have the right to, and experts in analysing their own thoughts and feelings. Thus, in Wellbeing, there is a great danger that education – the transmission of knowledge – will be redefined as the social engineering of a generation that has been convinced that, above all else in life, being happy is most important.
Wellbeing – put simply: Once you went to school to learn, now you go to school to be happy.
2. Teachers (as State employees), not parents, are the primary educators of children
The Irish Constitution states that ‘the State acknowledges that the primary and natural educator of the child is the Family and guarantees to respect the inalienable right and duty of parents to provide, according to their means, for the religious and moral, intellectual, physical and social education of their children.’ Parents have always been regarded as the primary source of instruction for their children and it is a parental right for a child to be educated in all areas as the parents see fit. School and family have historically worked together, with both institutions complementing each other at best; in cases where parents have disagreed with the subject matter of a specific class (i.e. religion or RSE/SPHE), it has been their right to remove their child from that class.

The NCCA Draft Guidelines recognise that ‘wellbeing can mean different things for different people’, and thus have defined Wellbeing very broadly as ‘encompassing social, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, environmental, and physical education’. In doing so, they have appropriated areas for instruction which have always belonged firstly to parents. The state is replacing the parent as the primary educator and is taking responsibility for all areas of instruction, not just intellectual.

Now all teachers are expected to be proactive in promoting wellbeing in the school community, regardless of subject area, and there is to be a pervading climate in which ‘children and young people feel safe and secure and which respects and develops children’s rights and wellbeing’. (By the way, schools are already supposed to be safe and secure environments.) Topics to be addressed under Wellbeing include relaxation techniques and mindfulness, global citizenship, awareness of ecological footprint, sustainable living, weaknesses of the democratic process, sexual intimacy, sexual health and gender identity, among many more. There are many parents with strong moral values who would highly disapprove (and rightly so) of the above being taught to their 12-15 year olds by anyone else other than themselves; yet the State is taking it upon itself to instruct young people in its own definition of wellbeing, thereby bypassing and disregarding parents.

Because Wellbeing is to be incorporated into the whole-school ethos, it will be difficult for any concerned parent to remove their child from instruction in the subject.
3. Replacing principles of justice and individual responsibility with a liberal concept of care and community.
A brief examination of both the NCCA ‘Draft Guidelines on Wellbeing in Junior Certificate’ (2016) and the NCCA-commissioned ‘Wellbeing and Post-Primary Schooling: A review of the literature and research’ (2008) reveals that the educational philosophy of Nell Nodding is central to the objectives of Wellbeing. Nell Nodding is an American feminist, an educational philosopher and a past president of the John Dewey Society. Her beliefs that ‘care…should be viewed as the ethical idea of education’ and that ‘happiness is an aim of education’, are promoted throughout the NCCA literature as the new ideal to which all schools should now aspire. Nodding believes that caring is more preferable than a justice-based approach to ethics, and wrote in 2005 that increasing security, administering tests or encouraging teachers to be knowledgeable in their subject areas will not solve the problems of ignorance and unhappiness; ‘Instead we must allow teachers and students to interact as whole persons and we must develop policies that treat the school as a whole community’. (Educational Leadership, 2005). Nodding views educational success in terms of happiness levels. School is to be, above all, a caring community where pupils feel they belong.
But is care not a subjective term? Where do the realities of discipline, test failure, team selection etc. fit into this model? How does this philosophy prepare our children for the workplace where they must abide by rules and regulations, and they must reach a certain standard of productivity? If we measure success in terms of happiness, what about the child who feels happiest when he is not at school? Or who feels that school-work makes him unhappy? It is worrying that the Department of Education would force us to change our beliefs concerning education to fall in line with the abstruse, impracticable philosophy of a feminist educationalist.
Plato wrote of a cave where the prisoners sat and watched shadows dancing on the wall. Searching for the source of the shadows at first brought pain and discomfort, but those who prevailed found themselves free from the ignorance of the cave. It was once our vocation as teachers to help free the prisoners from the chains of ignorance by giving them the gift of knowledge; with Wellbeing, it now appears that we are simply polishing the chains and refurbishing the cave.

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(source: Google Images)

Ireland’s ‘Special Needs’ Crisis

Recent calls from local TDs for more access to psychologists for school children have highlighted a worrying trend in the younger sections of Ireland’s population. Educationalists notice a yearly increase in the number of children entering secondary school who already have a ‘report’ (a psychological assessment’, who have been diagnosed with a specific emotional or behavioural disorder or who have been identified by primary teachers as possibly needing a psychological assessment. There has also been a corresponding increase in the numbers of pupils presenting with reading ages considerably lower than their actual age, or with a severe numeracy/literacy deficit. Social and behavioural disorder diagnoses are also increasing.

Recent statistics released by the National Educational Psychologists Service (NEPS) show that 1 in 4 Irish pupils have special educational needs and up to 1 in 5 are experiencing emotional or behavioural disorders. It would be morally wrong for us to refuse to acknowledge that we have a major crisis on our hands if 25% of our children are labelled as having SEN. Such a statistic spells havoc for schools which are already understaffed and in many cases, are struggling to give children with SEN the professional, structured help which their diagnosis has declared they must receive.

There are many children who genuinely do have special needs, a lower than average IQ, or an emotional disorder. They do need help. However, from observing the surge in SEN and social/cognitive disorder diagnoses, I have been often given reason to wonder how genuine some of these perceived ‘issues’ are – or whether perhaps they are issues that have arisen due to inadequate parenting, motivational and discipline issues, sheer laziness, or the fact that Mom and Dad have enough money to pay for a private psychologist.

Because the hidden dangers in this consistent growth are firstly, the risk that the children who genuinely do need help are getting lost in the system and secondly, that by filling our classrooms with a variety of diagnoses, we, as teachers, are being forced to lower our own standards to ‘include’ everyone.

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The Irish Education Inspectorate has spoken strongly against streaming or setting, even in Maths and English, and has intimated that best practice is to have all abilities together in the same classroom. While there are a limited number of separate classes provided for SEN pupils, they will still spend most of the school-day in mainstream classes. Thus, we have children presenting with diagnoses ranging from dyslexia, dyspraxia, Asperger’s Syndrome, anxiety, depression, and very low numeracy and literacy abilities all in the same classroom. As a rule, we are mainstream teachers trained in one or two specific subject areas, with little or no knowledge of accommodating SEN or other issues in our classrooms. Our lack of training and resources combined with the unreasonable demands by the Department of Education to educate all levels together and the unrealistic expectations of certain parents are contributing to a serious sense of disillusionment and burnout in our staffrooms.

Several problems ensue consequently. Our classes become either ‘who-cares’ sessions where everyone has great fun but very little learning occurs, or unable to cope with catering for everyone, we focus on the few pupils who seem eager to learn and will do reasonably well while the rest tune out. The pupils who have psychological assessments do not worry however, because they will probably receive several allowances during exam time, including perhaps a reader, a scribe or a spelling exemption. Other pupils, realising both these benefits and their own intellectual inadequacies, wonder whether they perhaps should also undergo psychological assessment – or their parents recognise that a child with a ‘report’ appears far better than a lazy, unmotivated child. Thence the vicious circle, and the eventual dumbing down of education.

While I re-emphasis that there are many children who do have SEN, we must acknowledge that there are parents who are simply abusing the system. I once spoke to a mother about how her child’s irregular attendance was resulting in poor assessment results; she responded by saying that he had an ‘anxiety issue’ and that I was exacerbating it by asking him to give oral answers in class. When I asked to see proof of this issue, I was told coldly that the boy was undergoing appointments with a psychologist. I was now to ‘be careful and accommodating’ when dealing with this pupil. In another case where a teacher reprimanded a pupil for negative behaviour in class, she was informed that the pupil was suffering from depression – even though a psychologist’s report was not forthcoming.

Psychological fairdiagnoses are often subjective and ‘incorporate an ever-increasing range of cognitive and self-regulatory deficits including poor working memory, processing speed limitations, attention/concentration problems, difficulties in analysing and synthesizing complex information and in organising and expressing ideas’ (Julian Elliott, author of The Dyslexia Debate).

Often, early childhood intervention, a secure relationship with parents, good emotional and physical health, consistent parental involvement with all aspects of the child’s life including homework completion, loving discipline and a healthy spirit of motivation can go a long way in eliminating/curing many psychological diagnoses.

Perhaps the answer to Ireland’s perceived need for psychologists is to instead encourage parents to get involved with their kids and to emphasize to them by words and actions that all children can achieve their dreams.

That might free up the psychologists to deal with the children who genuinely do need help.

#timetotalk…but are we listening?

As the number of children suffering from depression and anxiety rises, the government response includes mental health programs, social media campaigns, more youth clubs, new school subjects such as wellbeing, mindfulness and philosophy and continual discussion in the media regarding positive self-esteem.

There has never been so much money poured into mental health programs, youth facilities and anti-bullying measures. There have never been so many politicians, sports starts and celebrities declaring that ‘Bullying is wrong’ and ‘It’s ok not to be ok’. We have Walk in My Shoes, the Green Ribbon, Time to Change, pleasetalk.ie, Lets Go Mental, and the hashtags #LittleThings, #IAmaReason,#MindYourSelfie, #timetotalk..bullying_fi.

So, in SPHE class a while ago, I decided it was just that – #timetotalk. After discussing the whys and hows of that ever-present evil, Bullying, we came to the big question – If you are being bullied, what should you do? The responses were varied. Most popular was the answer, ‘If people hate you for no reason, give them a reason!’ and as I tactfully tried to point out the shortcomings in this solution, I was greeted by innocent derision. ‘But Miss, you have to do something!’

Eventually one shy child gave me the answer I wanted – ‘Tell someone’.

‘Good’, I said. ‘Tell someone – your mum or dad, guardian, aunt, uncle, teacher, coach, friend, school counsellor. Get it out there. The worst thing you can do is to say nothing, and to keep it all bottled up tightly inside’.

I sensed a resigned disappointment from some pupils and asked, ‘What do you all think? Talk to me!’

Youthful openness can be achingly honest.

One voice spoke up bravely. ‘That doesn’t necessarily do any good, Miss. You can report an incident to a teacher and sometimes they don’t do anything about it. Nothing changes’.

‘Do you just think so, or are you speaking from experience?’ I asked curiously.

The girl responded briefly, ‘From experience’, and turned to gaze out the wide classroom window. Already she bore scars and already the people in her life who were supposed to care had let her down.

Another child piped up. ‘If I told ______ I was being bullied, he would just say, ‘Alright, Alright, Alright…!’ The class dissolved into hollow laughter.

And from the back – ‘If I was being bullied, and I told my Gaelic coach, he’d drop me’.

There wasn’t much I could say really. At this age of early adolescence, what an utter travesty that these precious children were already cynical; that when they did that which they were being told continually to do, when they did talk – no one really listened. No one really cared.

All I could do was tell them my own story, one of being harshly bullied by heartless peers at a summer camp, when I came home a sad and quiet girl with all my wounds covered up in the deepest, darkest part of my heart. I told them how, weeks later, I broke down and cried into the arms of my mother and father, and how they were righteously angry for me, and how they told me they loved me to bits, and that I was uniquely special and precious. I told my pupils how the world became alright again , because the problem wasn’t just mine alone. I told someone, and that was enough.

The children were silent. Some were visibly moved, some stared fixedly at me, others moved nervously in their seats. And I knew deep down that many of them had already been bullied, hurt, wounded. They needed to talk – they wanted to talk. But was there anyone to really listen?

The answer to rising levels of depression and anxiety among our children is not more programs, new school subjects, celebrity confessions or catchy Twitter campaigns, but rather a return to the days when parents took the time to listen and teachers took the time to act.

True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.
– Arthur Ashe