To the dismay of many students recently there has been a lot of media emphasis on closing the summer learning drain. In addition to academics, maintaining social navigation skills should be a summer priority. Kids learn more than the three Rs in school. They also figure out how to be members of social constructs.
As families move away from neighborhood schools toward private and specialized ones a student’s crew can be from anywhere in the locality. For the summer break children are removed from familiar surroundings and placed in summer environments: camp, community programs, neighborhood recreation centers and swimming pools. During the summer school friends are separated and forced to find their individual places in foreign environments. As members of these new social formations jockey for popularity and power bullying can occur.
Within summer groupings counselors don't know each child and have little time to acquaint themselves with their precious personalities. Often group leaders, even those who are trained educators, make snap judgments about youth which contribute to hastily established hierarchies. Kids rush to find a prime place within these pecking orders, often battling for roles; a ripe environment for bullying. However we must be careful. Bullying is today's catchall for anything kids do that adults don’t like. Bullying is a widespread and serious problem yet it is not the only cause of unacceptable actions. Bullying Involves:
· Imbalance of Power – people who bully use their power to control or harm; people being bullied may have a hard time defending themselves
· Intent to Cause Harm – actions done by accident are not bullying; people bullying have intend to cause harm
· Repetition – incidents of bullying happen to the same person over and over by the same person or group
There are four primary types of Bullying:
· Verbal – name calling, teasing
· Social – spreading rumors, leaving people out on purpose, breaking up friendships
· Physical – hitting, punching, shoving
· Cyber – using the Internet, mobile phones or other digital technologies to harm others.
Other conduct may have similar characteristics but is not bullying. Summer camp usually doesn't last long enough either to sort out the difference or to address all of the reasons that children engage in anti-social behavior. How should camp directors ensure that they are providing welcoming communities?
Summer program administrators must set expectations ahead of the first day of camp. Codes of conduct should be integral parts of camp registration material. Older campers should sign community agreements. During the first few days of a program sub-groups should draft a document that addresses how participants will treat one another. Everyone must be clear about what is expected and how infractions will be handled.
Summer is a break from the rigors of school not from social contracts. Families must have purposeful dialog around the issue of bullying. Topics may include discussing possible positive and negative social scenarios. Who should do what? How summer interactions may be unique. Or any number of conversation starters.
Learning is ongoing. One of the best aspects of the 10-week break is that children are able to explore untapped parts of themselves. In addition to discovering extracurricular activities they can choose to be born again. This is a great time to practice new or rusty social skills. Summer is the golden season for making changes. Adults should take advantage of the opportunity to introduce children to the idea of self-improvement. If all goes well the coming academic year will begin with renewed, refreshed students who are academically as well as socially prepared for school.