In France, it is estimated that more than 700,000 young people are bullied at school, i.e., 12 percent of elementary school pupils, 10 percent of secondary school pupils, and 4 percent of high school pupils. At the "Don Bosco" secondary school in Gières, near Grenoble, positive psychology and Salesian pedagogy are working together to prevent this scourge.
Marie Sauzon, a teacher and librarian at this Salesian network school, is especially sensitive to the phenomenon of bullying. She has noticed for some years that "many young people are stressed, anxious, feel bad about themselves, and have little self-respect. In contrast, several studies have shown that students who feel good and have higher self-esteem learn better. So, I asked myself, how can I help them find their way?"
During a conference on emotions and learning at the "Jean Bosco" Center in Lyon, Marie discovered positive psychology and in 2019 enrolled in the University Diploma in Positive Psychology at the University of Grenoble. She is now working on a bullying prevention project for the school's fifth-grade students (about 12 years old). A project that consists of raising awareness of the mechanisms of bullying and addressing issues related to cyberbullying through hands-on workshops.
The Jean Bosco Centre
As part of the project, she designed a positive psychology experiment based on two key questions, "What do we really want?" and "If there were no bullying, what would be there instead?"
For Marie, the answer to the second question is obvious: coexistence. Instead of addressing the existing problem, it is necessary to prevent and develop pro-social behaviors and psychosocial skills that anticipate bullying. "This is what St. John Bosco teaches us! Salesian pedagogy and his Preventive System have the same goal: to position ourselves upstream. Let's get to know each other better, then we can create a positive relational climate."
During her positive psychology sessions, she uses Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson's "character strengths" tool, which lists 24 positive character traits that everyone possesses. Such a workshop thus allows them to see their classmates differently and foster class cohesion.
In addition to this, together with Pastoral Care Manager Catherine Valente, she conducts sessions on emotions and teaches students how to identify, understand and express their emotions. Another project she is leading is the creation of posters and a video clip with students as models: through these means, she intends to promote good living together with the other levels of the school!
Her project has been particularly appreciated by the teaching staff, who are motivated and dynamic. Everyone contributes and feels involved. In addition, teaching colleagues and young people in the school have expressed a real need to return to the fundamentals of Don Bosco. That is why "last June in the institute a reflection was initiated on values such as respect, empathy, benevolence, listening and consideration which are fundamental points of Don Bosco's pedagogy," the teacher concludes.
The results of Marie's project cannot yet be measured in concrete terms. However, the teaching team has noticed that some classes have created and propagated a team spirit and solidarity thanks to her sessions, thus preventing some pupils from being excluded.