‘Susanne Gervay’s I AM JACK is a significant anti bullying resource for parents, students and teachers. School bullying can have a devastating effect on a child and the school community.’
Alannah and Madeline Foundation.
It can happen to anyone.
Bullying is insidious. It is not one great dramatic incident. It is a gradual process of victimization where the child becomes more and more isolated and afraid and the bully gets more and more aggressive, strengthened through group support and lack of adult action.
BULLYING HURTS KIDS through:
- Low self esteem
- Failure at schoolwork
- Children’s experience of fear
- Isolation and loneliness
- The bullied learns to become a victim
- The bully learns the success of aggression
- The bystander feels the world is unsafe
Recent studies show that the negative effects of bullying continue into adult years, damaging the bullied, bully, bystander, creating a distrust of our society and abusive behaviours.
How ‘I Am Jack’ books can help change the bullying culture
Relating to a story or being emotionally engaged facilitates learning. Readers become fellow travellers in a story journey. Lining, Phillips and Burton (1997) in a literature based approach to bullying rationalize that a story can allow the reader to empathize with situations that they may not have experienced, can provide the reader with reassurance that other people experience the same problems they do themselves, and can provide a situation where topics can be explored through a third party – the characters in the book.
By taking students on a journey with books such as the I Am Jack books, attitudes, feelings and strategies about bullying can be explored and discussed in a non threatening way.
The I Am Jack books have been shortlisted and won the Australian Family Therapists’ Award and other awards.
Susanne Gervay as a specialist in child growth & development, an educator, author, parent whose son was bullied, has created the I Am Jack books. They engage and empower young people and families to foster a non-bullying culture and provide strategies to manage life’s challenges.
I Am Jack is written from personal experience. Susanne’s son, the character Jack in the novel, was a victim of bullying. Jack is a real kid. His story shows children that they should not face bullying alone. Set in a school, it is a story that students, parents and teachers relate to and find ways to deal with it.
Through story journey, the I Am JACK books emotionally engage the bullied, bully, other children, teachers, parents exploring important ways to create a safer place.
Jack wins against bullying and by the 4th book, Jack knows who he is and stands up for others.
Bullying is insidious. It starts with nothing.
- It can be a joke that gets out of control.
- A casual comment that escalates into a war.
- A child who comes back to school after being sick and is barred.
- Jealousy, insecurity, fun, fear.
- There are all sorts of reasons that begin the process of bullying.
Jack, was bullied. Jack is an average kid. He makes jokes, argues with his sister, kicks a ball, tries to get out of homework, loves to take photographs, invents, misses his Grandad.
The bullying started with a joke, for no real reason, escalating, until Jack was powerless.
- The common factor in bullying is isolating a child
- Then a group targeting that child.
- Teasing that is repetitive and copied by others.
- Establishing fear of speaking out.
It can include:-
- Physical aggression
- Rejection from social play
- Loss of friends
- Cyber bullying
How did JACK deal with bullying?
Every day, was a day of survival for Jack. He devised plans and strategies. He read magazines about karate. He ignored the bullies. He pretended to laughwhen they attacked him. Nothing worked as the process of isolation and bullying continued.
In the end, Jack just had to make it through the day.
The most dangerous times were when there was no teacher or parent around – before school, recess, lunchtime, after school.
Jack discovered safe places like the library and hiding behind the toilets. He’d try to arrive late to school and to class. He knew that the most his teacher would do was shout at him, but he wouldn’t kill Jack. He wasn’t sure of that on the playground.
School became a prison for Jack.
The only real power Jack has, is to tell. To speak to his mother or Nanna or a teacher. However it’s hard to tell. In Jack’s mind, telling would make the bullying worse. If the bullies found out, maybe they’d really kill him. He felt that he had to handle it himself. But how could he?
A child or anyone being bullied is a victim, which means they have no power. Jack’s a great boy and he didn’t want to put more pressure on his family. His mother worked and raised a family. He felt he couldn’t tell. Jack didn’t realise that he is more important than work to his parent.
There were a few times that Jack tried to tell. The problem is that young people often don’t know when to tell. Parents often cannot hear and when they say ‘later’ it is translated by the young person, as rejection. Try and tell a teacher when she’s in the middle of class activities. She’s likely to say ‘later’.
Young people have to learn when to speak when adults can hear them.
When the silence is broken, it is still a long and difficult journey to get change. Eventually Jack worked through the bullying with the support of family, friends, the school. By the end he felt good about himself, had great friends, loved his school, did his school work, played soccer and felt he could act. He learnt that society can be a fair place.
Schools take bullying seriously and programs have been put in place in many schools.
However school bullying still occurs. Bullying is about power, when one group or person dominates another taking away that victims’ belief in themselves. Conflict happens in daily life. In the main it is minor and part of living with teasing and a few knocks, arguments, incidents. It re-balances with group support or the children working it out, negotiations and interplay between children. Bullying is when it doesn’t re-balance escalates and it’s frightening.
Who are justice Michael Kirby and rugby player Jason Steven?
Justice Michael Kirby former High Court Judge and human rights advocate led the United Nations inquiry into human rights abuses in North Korea. He advocates against bullying which he says is ‘uncivilised’ and he supports reaching young people through ‘I Am Jack’.
Jason Steven rugby player, former celebrity Australian rugby league footballer, an Australian national and NSW State of Origin representative, he played for St George Dragons and Cronulla’s Cronulla-Sutherland.
The I Am Jack books are endorsed by Room to Read, The Alannah & Madeline Foundation, Courage to Care, The Cancer Council, Life Education, The Cancer Council and many educational organisations.
Stan Davis anti-school bullying advocate, author of ‘Schools Where Everyone Belongs and Empowering Bystanders in Bullying prevention’ says:-
‘I Am Jack is a rare treasure. This endearing and realistic book presents the authentic voice of a young person who is bullied; bystanders, friends, and family members who help him; and educators who protect and support him. Every person in this story has a positive role in stopping bullying behaviour. I recommend this book highly.’
Study and teaching Guides
- Teaching Unit on Jack & Anti Bullying
- Accessible Classroom Teaching to Prevent School Bullying: with I Am Jack
- Educators’ notes
- Anti bullying strategies
Useful School Bullying Websites
- Bullying No Way! – Australian Government site.
- Stop Bullying Now! – USA Government
- The Better Buddies Program – The Alannah and Madeline Foundation
- National Bullying Prevention Center – PACER
Articles on bullying that include I AM JACK books