Nov. 10, 2022

Clifford Weekes: Anti-Racism Team Lead, Seven Oakes School Division

Clifford Weekes: Anti-Racism Team Lead, Seven Oakes School Division

“I would rather be a little nobody than an evil somebody” – Abraham Lincoln

School violence and bullying including cyberbullying is widespread and affects a significant number of children and adolescents. On this episode of Humans, on Rights Clifford Weekes, anti-racism team lead for the Seven Oakes school Division shares his personal experiences on how, at a young age, he was bullied at school. He explains that when he was called the “whitest black guy we know” everyone laughed, and he laughed also because he thought that is what he needed to do to fit in. Contrast that with Clayton Thomas Müller who wrote in his book Life in the City of Dirty Water, “I understood, at 5 years old that having fair skin, blond hair, and blue eyes would mean my life would be easier”….at 5 years of age!!


Clifford Weekes shares his thoughts about strategies to deal with bullying. He is a firm believer in open dialogue with students who have ben bullied as well as creating safe spaces to have conversations with parents of a child who has been bullied, or parents who think their child might be the bully.

Clifford shared the following resources:

Kevin Lamoureux, BA, Med, PhD Candidate: Loving Ourselves;

Clayton Thomas Müller, Life in the City of Dirty Water

Desmond Cole, The Skin We’re In.

Transcript

Stuart Murray (Host) 00:00:00
This podcast was recorded on the ancestral lands on Treaty One territory, the traditional territory of the Anishnawbe, Cree, Oji Cree, Dakota, and the Dene peoples, and on the homeland of the Métis nation.

Voiceover 00:00:19
This is Humans on Rights, a podcast advocating for the education of human rights. Here's your host, Stuart Murray.

Stuart Murray (Host) 00:00:30
Something horrific bullying in Winnipeg schools. Escalates into violence. Enough is enough. Mother demands action after classroom death threats. Bullied childholds protest after facing repeated harassment in Winnipeg school. And of course, I think most people would remember the tragedy of Amanda Todd, and when a pervert leaked a topless photo of her, she was bullied by a group of girls until she ultimately ended taking her life. The beginning of November was International Day Against Violence and Bullying at school, including cyberbullying. And so I am delighted that my guest today is Cliff Weekes. He is the antiracism team leader for the Seven Oak School Division, and he's very modest. We're going to find out more about Cliff Weeks, but he said he's been a teacher for 13 years and he came right out of the classroom. Cliff weeks. Welcome to Humans on Rights.

Cliff Weekes (Guest) 00:01:33
Thank you. I appreciate it. Thank you for having me.

Stuart Murray (Host) 00:01:35
So, Cliff, let's talk a little bit about how it is that you've become an anti racism team leader. I know you deal with bullying in schools and cyberbullying, I should say, but let's talk about you for a second. Did you do your schooling in Manitoba?

Cliff Weekes (Guest) 00:01:51
I did. I started my schooling at the University of Manitoba, went there for a few years and then I guess got caught up in my first couple of years and unfortunately it was academically suspended. But I was able to take a year off and do some work at a daycare for a few years. And I came back, finished my first degree, and I got the opportunity to be an EA for one year. And I did that by EA over in the Central School division.

Stuart Murray (Host) 00:02:19
And Cliff, short interrupt, but always when people do an acronym, EA, executive Assistant.

Cliff Weekes (Guest) 00:02:23
Educational Assistant.

Stuart Murray (Host) 00:02:24
Educational Assistant. Okay, yeah.

Cliff Weekes (Guest) 00:02:26
So I got some experience in the school there, and I realized that I think I would like to go a little bit deeper with regards to it. So I applied for my education, and it was interesting because I applied for all three universities in Manitoba. I applied for University of Brandon and didn't get in. I applied for the University of Manitoba, didn't get in. And then the following day I got in at the University of Winnipeg. So I did my two years there and then got into the Seminole School Division. And I've been working as a classroom teacher for the last twelve years, anywhere from grades one to five, but predominantly in a middle year school. So I have that range of K to eight, is what I like to say. And then this year I just felt that need for change and there was a position that came up in seminars full of vision for the anti racism team leader. And over the past few years, I've been working to teach within what I like to call an antiracism lens with regards to equality and equity and making sure that all students are represented and feeling heard with regards to that. And I feel very fortunate and humbled that I got to position this year, and I'm only two months in, but I feel like I've been able to talk with different schools and educators and admins about different initiatives and how we can have this antiracism lens within the school community that we're in. And it's only two months, but I feel that it's going well so far. It's one of those things where you sometimes don't know how well you're doing unless you get the feedback. And I feel like I've been getting positive feedback. And just me going in and talking with different committees and educators and just the fact that everyone feels comfortable to share despite what your skin color is, and talking about these things basically making the uncomfortable conversations comfortable, that in itself makes me feel like I'm doing well so far with Cliff.

Stuart Murray (Host) 00:04:25
Thanks for sharing that. So, you know, you're now in a position where you say K to eight. You're kind of talking to students in kind of that area. Let's go back to you. When you were in, you talked about your university education. What about your high school education? Did you go to high school also in Winnipeg?

Cliff Weekes (Guest) 00:04:44
I did. I went to River East Collegiate in the North Kildonan area, and then I went to Chief Peguis Junior High, and I went to Princess Margaret Elementary. Okay.

Stuart Murray (Host) 00:04:55
And then during those years, Cliff weeks when you were attending those schools, did you ever get an experience of bullying or issues of your amount of color? Did you feel issues around antiracism bullying, those sorts of things that help you today in terms of your professional role?

Cliff Weekes (Guest) 00:05:16
It was a lonely place. I would say, in thinking about elementary, I was maybe one of two colored students where I went, and when I went to junior high, I was maybe one of five. And when I went to high school, I was maybe one of ten. And even if I was one of those ten, we were kind of plopped all the different areas that you never really got to see the collective as a whole. And I guess the term, you could say is seeing my people visibly with regards to us mixed into the group a little bit. I would say, if anything, over the years, when you're younger, you don't really know what you know until you're older. So I would say, if anything for myself with regards to thinking about potential bullying and different things like that, I would say it would probably come out in a lot of, like, microaggressions in elementary. My name is Clifford. So there's Clifford the big red dog. And I was called Clifford the big black dog. So me in my elementary years, here I am thinking it's funny and not knowing that it's the flip and taking my skin color and kind of breaking me down. So if there was some sort of bullying, it was microaggressions. I would say more than anything, not realizing that it's happening, but it's happening, and it's there. In junior high, it was called the Cliff. You're the whitest black guy that I know. Why was I called that? Because the group of friends that I connected with were all white, and when you're trying to make friends and fit in with a group, maybe I come off as white, but then again, I don't know what that means. What is coming off white mean? Right. And high school got a little bit better, but nonetheless, there were still microaggressions, still there, still being called the whitest black guy and all these different things. But going back and thinking about bullying, it would more come out in microaggressions and people knowing what they're saying and realizing it.

Stuart Murray (Host) 00:07:16
Yeah. Cliff, were you a good student at school?

Cliff Weekes (Guest) 00:07:19
Yeah, I was a fairly good student. As I say that with a very high voice. Yeah. I would say I was more like a BC student more than anything. And I grew up with my mom, only my dad wasn't involved, so I was involved in a lot of extracurricular activities basketball and volleyball and track and different things like that. And, you know, studying, studying. I did the best I could, but overall, I would say I was a fairly good student.

Stuart Murray (Host) 00:07:46
Okay, and do you have brothers or sisters?

Cliff Weekes (Guest) 00:07:48
No, only child.

Stuart Murray (Host) 00:07:49
Only child. Okay. So, Cliff, when you were in school, at some age, it doesn't really matter whether it's elementary, junior, or high school, but did you ever sort of dream about what you wanted to do, what you wanted to be?

Cliff Weekes (Guest) 00:08:04
Oh, I think back when I was in grade two, and we had to write this book about what we want to be when we grow up, and I want it to be a hockey player.

Stuart Murray (Host) 00:08:12
Right.

Cliff Weekes (Guest) 00:08:14
In order to be a hockey player, I need to learn how to skate, and I never really learned how to skate, and I still don't know how to skate now.

Stuart Murray (Host) 00:08:20
Right, and you still don't know how to skate?

Cliff Weekes (Guest) 00:08:21
I still don't know how to skate. Okay.

Stuart Murray (Host) 00:08:23
All right.

Cliff Weekes (Guest) 00:08:23
I'm sure my daughter knows how to skate. I feel like that's a right of passage in Canada with regards to it. But I never really had any aspirations of what I wanted to do the most in elementary or high school. I think in elementary, it was one of those things where I wanted to be a policeman or a firefighter, and in junior high, I never really had any aspirations of what I wanted to do. I think at one point, I think I want to become a basketball player. But overall, with regards to it, the reality was not quite there for me as to what I wanted to do when I was older. Yeah.

Stuart Murray (Host) 00:08:57
And so I don't know if you want to talk about a cliff only, but you brought it up. So I'll ask you, when you went to university, you used the words, I hope I'm getting it accurate, if I know, please.

Cliff Weekes (Guest) 00:09:06
Correct.

Stuart Murray (Host) 00:09:06
But were you suspended for a chunk of time?

Cliff Weekes (Guest) 00:09:10
Yeah. Academically suspended. I just felt off the tracks, I guess, in the way that I could describe it. I didn't keep up with my studies. I felt like, I think in high school there's one way of studying and I feel like once you get to university, there's a different way of studying. So the study that I did in high school just didn't directly correspond to the amount of study that I needed to do university and just fell off the tracks.

Stuart Murray (Host) 00:09:35
It happens. Right. But what I love about it is that as you're being very open and honest and sharing your story, it's one thing to sort of, as you say, using your terms, fell off the tracks academically. But here you are in Seven Oak School Division and you are the team leader for a very, very important project. So let's jump into that cliff, if you will, just for general purposes. You know, is there a definition around bullying?

Cliff Weekes (Guest) 00:10:01
Is bullying defined in the classroom over the twelve years? I want to be careful with my words here, but the way that the term bullying was used, it was used so frequently that it felt the word just wasn't properly defined anymore. So, for instance, there's a parent upset saying that my kid was bullied, but little baby, do they know that their kid was saying something back? So the word was very quick to be thrown out there without any sort of context. When I personally think of the word bullying, I think of a person or potentially a group being targeted repeatedly. And I think that word targeted is something that is important with regards to this piece. I think of a person or a group repeatedly, gate target, but I think of bullying.

Stuart Murray (Host) 00:10:57
And again, just trying to get some definitions, Cliff, and I appreciate it, sharing it from your perspective, because that's really what this is about, is your perspective, is the word bullying. And I agree with you from time to time it does get potentially overused, which is unfortunate because it sort of takes away the importance of really what it is about. But if you look at bullying, you looked at conflict or you looked at harassment. I mean, all of those there's nothing good about any of those three words, frankly. But would you see them as being, from time to time, intertwined, or do you see them as being three separate, distinct actions?

Cliff Weekes (Guest) 00:11:33
Bullying, harassment. What's the thing that you said, my apologies.

Stuart Murray (Host) 00:11:36
Conflict. Somebody says, hey, well, we're just in conflict. We're conflicted. I wasn't bullying anybody here, I don't think. No big issue. I just think it's just a matter. We were just we were just in conflict.

Cliff Weekes (Guest) 00:11:48
I think the three can be intertwined. Personally, I think when you think of bullying, I feel like almost harassment is almost like a next level. It almost feels like bullying is like an educational term that happens in school, whereas harassment is when you get out of high school, you're an adult. Harassment is almost like the next level with regards to it. Right? So I would see bullying and harassment the same, but on different level with terms. If that kind of comes across with what I'm saying, because I know if you're in school and you're talking to two students, you're not going to say that this grade two student harassed another grade two student, right. You're going to use that word bullying. Whereas you get into your adult life, you're going to say, this adult harassed another adult. So with that regards, I would say the two are intertwined with regards to that. And when I connect conflict to it, conflict is dealing with the problem of bullying and harassment and what comes of it. Right. With regards to how do you solve this conflict or that issue that is happening with regards to who is being bullied and who's being harassed.

Stuart Murray (Host) 00:12:55
Okay. And so, Cliff, do you find just in some of the research I did, part of it was looking always at language. Language is super important. And one of the things that came up is the term bullying and prevention versus antibullying. I mean, they're the same thing, but it's the process. So when somebody uses the term bullying prevention, potentially, it's putting emphasis more on a positive approach or philosophy, like, I don't know, sort of framing bullying is an issue where there's a solution. So bullying prevention versus anti bullying, I don't know if that's anything that you want to share your thoughts on or you've seen that or any discourse you've had where people are starting to sort of shift language. I mean, the thing about language is it's one thing to shift language for terminology, but at the end of the day, if the problem still exists, the shifting of terminology is interesting, but it's taking it away from what the real problem is.

Cliff Weekes (Guest) 00:13:57
Yeah, like you just mentioned, the shifting of terminology isn't going to really get us any place if we're not dealing with the problem at hand. It's just a lot of language and terminology shifted. So I think the question becomes, what are the actions that are being taken place with regards to bullying prevention and anti bullying? We can say those words till we're blue in the face, right? But unless we're actually taking actions with regards to it, what are we doing with it? When I think of bullying prevention, I always think of if I were to think about the language that we're using with regards to bullying prevention and anti bullying, I would think of bullying prevention with regard to being proactive. What are some tools that we can give students to recognize bullying or to deal with bullies with regards to that piece? And if I were to think of antibullying, I think of it as being, if anything, if we're breaking down language and giving a context and definitions, I would think of antibullying is what are we doing to sustain bullying from not happening, if that makes sense. With regards to it, I think my words a little bit mixed up and doubled up. But along those terms, with regards to that, bullying is being proactive and anti bullying as being something that's sustainable throughout the school year, that we can continue these conversations and make you feel safe with regards to that.

Stuart Murray (Host) 00:15:13
So, Cliff, let's talk about sort of the environment. So you're in school, you have a leadership role in your position in school. What are some of the things that you would talk about, some of the tools you might give to a student around bullying in school and or cyber bullying, which of course is another whole area that has social media, has become very much a part of harassment and bullying for people.

Cliff Weekes (Guest) 00:15:42
The wild part about this position that I love is that I'm not connected with one school and connected with all schools, including high school. So I'm going to different schools and trying to meet them where they're at with regards to their initiatives and finding ways to support but also lead at the same time. And if we're talking about what are some things that we can do with regards to talking about this, I try to think about it from I'm always looking through an antiracism lens with regards to it and where does bullying stem from? And I think when we think about bullying, it's that kids aren't really getting a chance to understand the other. Kids aren't getting a chance to know about the other. And there's something that's possibly coming up in a student that they're seeing from another person that they don't understand. So automatically it just seems like they want to attack it. So what if we talked about identity in students? What if we had a chance to give students the chance to talk about themselves so that other students and classmates around them or even in your school community understand the other, so that they're not afraid of the other? What if we deconstruct that so we don't have this us versus them kind of thing, right? And I think about that with regards to and if we're talking about bullying that goes into racism, right? When you hear somebody taking down someone else because of their skin color, why is that? Is it because if there's something in there that's happened to you in the past, or is it that you don't understand someone that looks different from you, and why are we so afraid of that? And some of the words that I'm using are from a guest speaker that I got to listen to Kevin Lamaru a couple of weeks ago, and he talks about ways to decolonise. And two of the first things that he mentioned were talking about loving ourselves and understanding ourselves, but helping others to understand ourselves. And we talk about ourselves, understanding our culture and our backgrounds and our skin colors. Right. Why is it fair that someone gets to make fun of you because of your skin color or how you look when you don't have control of that? We don't.

Stuart Murray (Host) 00:18:00
Right.

Cliff Weekes (Guest) 00:18:01
When I was born, we didn't get to control how we look on our color or whatever it is. So why is it that someone gets to make fun of that? It isn't so that's where we talk about let's talk about our identities and who we are and help people understand why we are and how we grow up with regards to who we are.

Stuart Murray (Host) 00:18:20
Yeah. And Cliff, one of the things you said and I'd like this to come in your words I understand when people talk about the other. There was a big conversation at one time about trying to sort of look at people that have a different opinion in you. I mean, it might be their skin color. It may be their political view. It might be their religious view. It might be their sexual orientation. It might be a lot of things. And it was always sort of a notion that if you really want to sort of grow as a human being, take the other to lunch. But in your terms, describe when you say the other, what does that mean to you?

Cliff Weekes (Guest) 00:18:57
The way that I see it is someone that's possibly different than me. Right. I think of a co worker that I work with. He is Indian. He looks different than I am. You know, we've made a great connection and help you sit down, understand who you are as a person. Tell me about your background and your culture. I was working on a project in here that's talking about different cultural events, and he looked over at my computer, and he saw one of his cultural events that he celebrates, and he got super excited, and there's that representation. So I'm like, okay, I don't know anything about that holiday or that cultural event, but I would love to learn about it. Tell me more about who you are and your background so that I can help other people with regards to it. I might go a little bit deeper here, but I also think about the indigenous community growing up. There were a lot of, I would say, unconscious biases that slipped into my psyche with regards to it, and it wasn't fair. So over the years, a lot of people are getting to fully understand what the indigenous population is going through. I got a chance to listen to Clayton Thomas Mueller he was our guest speaker to see where he came from. I also read his books excuse me. Called life in the city of dirty water Reading that story, the crossover with what he went through and what I went through with regards to things not so much as what I went through, but what he went through is just uncanny. With regards to being indigenous in Canada, with regards to that, or even in Manitoba, I guess we can look at. So we would be even looking at him as an indigenous man and say, you're different from me. Let's sit down and let's talk about the other and explain to me who you are and what your cultural background is and what you've been through.

Stuart Murray (Host) 00:20:51
Yeah, that's a great conversation to have. Cliff, you mentioned at one point, I think that something about teaching your daughter how to learn how to skate. So do you have a daughter? Do you have other children?

Cliff Weekes (Guest) 00:21:02
Yeah, I do have a daughter. She's two and a half.

Stuart Murray (Host) 00:21:04
She's two and a half.

Cliff Weekes (Guest) 00:21:05
Okay.

Stuart Murray (Host) 00:21:06
Because I was going to ask you, and it's probably although, I don't know, you sort of wonder at what age do people feel a sense of bullying? You look at it and sort of say, I mean, it's well, it must be at an age of ten or must be age of seven. I think the reality is bullying can start at any time, at any age and continue on for our life journey. It's not an age issue.

Cliff Weekes (Guest) 00:21:33
There's a powerful quote that Clayton Thomas Mueller mentioned in his book, and I'm sorry, I'm just going to see if I can find it. One that always stuck with me is that one of the quotes that he said is that if we talk about age and when bullying or these things get mentioned, his quote is even at the age of five, I understood that having fair skin, blonde hair and blue eyes would mean life would be easier each by realize this. So if you're thinking about our students, at what age are they realizing it? Because kids are smart. They don't know. And to hear that, it's pretty mind blowing. I think, the fact that he realized that. So I think about all the students that I work with, and I'm like, how do we work with students to make sure that they have or feel like they have the same chances of it?

Stuart Murray (Host) 00:22:28
For sure. Yeah, thanks for sharing that, Cliff. I appreciate that. As you say, you get a chance to go to lots of schools, so you're not just at one school. Have you ever had a child come forward to you to say that that person feels that they've been bullied? In other words, I'm trying to get a sense of a process. How does that work from your perspective in school to ensure that there's protection of students against bullying just because I.

Cliff Weekes (Guest) 00:23:00
Think I'm getting my face to be known with regards to different school communities and the different students. I have not personally had a student come up to me and share that they feel like they've been being bullied. But I would say, overall, the conversation about bullying and we talked about it being the word being overused, but I feel that in the schools that we have, that admin and staff are being very careful to have these. Conversations with students and also excuse me, not just students, but also families and the communities that they're in about the conversations of what bullying is. Exactly. So that we make sure that, like we said, that word does not become overused and it's completely saturated to not have that meaning of what it actually is anymore.

Stuart Murray (Host) 00:23:47
I should know this and I don't clip and I'll ask you if you're aware, but could a student be charged legally for bullying?

Cliff Weekes (Guest) 00:23:54
Not that I am aware of, but I probably should know that myself alone.

Stuart Murray (Host) 00:23:58
No, I know that a lot of times, I mean, from just any conversations or research I have, people always make reference to the fact that it's kind of up to, quote unquote, the school division to supervise or decide. I mean, they don't sort of talk to say that they're going to police or an authority of that figure or that nature. You know, the point, I guess, is that if bullying is around death threats, that's a different issue, perhaps. But I wasn't sure from your perspective, if you were aware of anything that allowed a child to be charged.

Cliff Weekes (Guest) 00:24:31
Not fully aware with regards to being charged. But I think about something maybe I don't know if it's a little bit bigger or smaller because being charged is a big deal, but I also think about what the reputation of the child would look like. If we're talking cyberbullying and we're talking Internet media, that's a piece of digital footprint that is on there forever. So whether it is a slur that's being said on video or words being typed out, the minute it goes up, it's on there and anybody can take a screenshot. So I'm thinking about the reputation of what the reputation of that child would be, because if they are being charged with something, it's on their record forever. But the reputation of a child that made these comments is also there forever. And how do you get past that and through that with regards to that? And I also think that's something that, you know, can build on the psyche of a student with how do you get through school over the next few years knowing that there's a video or words that you have said on social media that is out there forever?

Stuart Murray (Host) 00:25:40
Cliff it is really hard to know what happens after school hours. Of course, as a teacher, I would speak to you now as a parent, but your daughter's two and a half, so she's not sort of in school and then having to deal with cyber issues or just internet issues, I should say. But what would you say if a parent came forward and said two things? Let me look at it from both angles. If somebody parent came forward to you and said, cliff, I really feel that my son or daughter is being bullied, and I want to get your perspective on that, and I want to also get your perspective on this question. If somebody parent came forward to you and said, I think that my son or daughter is a bully, so if somebody came to you and said, I think my son or daughter is being bullied, how would you deal with that parent? Or what process would that involve?

Cliff Weekes (Guest) 00:26:34
Just to start off with your second question there, to think about a parent. You know, I think parents are always going to advocate for their kids. I think it's just something that you do. But I think it would be such a noble thing for parents to think about and come forward and say, I think that my child is a bully. I think that's a really noble thing for parents to do and probably kind of like a hard kind of reality to think about with regards to that. So when you think about school at home, I think it has to work as a solid relationship. So what kind of tools do we help parents with, you know, find out where this bullying might be coming from, and there might be some potential harsh realities that parents might have to think about with regard to possibly the way that they're acting and possibly with the way that the parents might see themselves, that type of thing. Or maybe it's something at school that the kids are noticing. But in the end, I think it's a very noble thing that parents would come forward with regards to that and thinking that their child is a bully. And what do we do? I think it's about having those tough conversations and figuring out what kind of tools can we do to help this student not be seen as that the whole fully change that trajectory of them not being a bully, of thinking that they are more dominant and powerful than others. With regards to your first question of having the conversation of your child being bullied, I think it's a tough one, because the way that I've always dealt with it is conversations being had and making sure that both sides of the story are heard first, but at the same time too, making sure that both parents are comfortable with the resolution that might come along with it. Because you have to think of the person that is being bullied. You have to think about them wanting to feel safe in the space that they're in, whether it's coming to school or in. The classroom or in the classroom community. But I think you also have to think about the person that is being bullied and what they might be coming from with regards to whether it's something outside of school, whether it's something at home, whether it's something that's happening in school that would have made them react or attack someone. With regards to that, it's a really tough question to ask because I just think about I always try to think about where is this student coming from with regards to their background and why would they be acting like this? I think right away the quick thing is to say you're suspended, you're gone. But I think sometimes it's not always as easy to make that decision. And it's probably very hard to understand for some people to think about, this was said, why isn't this student suspended or gone? It's always a very quick reaction with regards to it. But in certain situations that might be the case. But in some situations, I think there needs to be consideration between the two stories that you're hearing and the case of the individual students and what they are going through, what they have gone through with regards to it. But also if they're ready to make amends with regards to the situation. But if we were to talk about and go back to bullying, and if it's something that gets repeated over and over again and it's being targeted, that is something that needs to be dealt with at a more kind of serious level with regards to it.

Stuart Murray (Host) 00:30:08
So, Cliff, in your capacity, are you aware of any tools that you have the ability to or with working with other teachers in this environment, have the ability to offer up to somebody who feels that they've been bullied? I use the word process. Maybe that's the wrong way, but are there a set of tools or some advice that you would give to a student who came forward and said, I feel like I'm being bullied.

Cliff Weekes (Guest) 00:30:39
I wish I had maybe like a website or a toolkit or something that I go to. But I think with regards to teachers, a lot of us just we have that gut feeling of when the situation arrives, how do we deal with it accordingly and quickly. And one of the things that I always think of is make sure you let an adult know what's going on. And I think in order to let an adult know, a relationship has to be built. So even if I'm going really backwards here, I think one of the things that we can think about is making sure that you're building relationships with your students so that they feel comfortable coming up to you and sharing. And I always think of this too. It's like as a classroom teacher, you're responsible for your classroom kids, but it would be really awesome if some people are ready for and some people aren't, right? So it would be really cool to think about is instead of thinking of you have like a 25 set of students in the classroom. How do we build this out? So that you have capacity, like you said, to feel like the whole school is kind of your classroom and everybody feels safe going to someone in that community and in that community space that you have. And it's work, and it's a lot of work and teachers have a lot on their plate with regards to it. But I always go back to something that I brought in as a classroom teacher twelve years ago, is that one of the most important things for me is to build a classroom community and feeling safer on the people that you are around. And when you're feeling safe, you're feeling comfortable to talk to those sorts of people in your community to talk about what's going on.

Stuart Murray (Host) 00:32:14
If you ever had a situation where somebody came forward and talked about somebody who was bullying, they were aware of it, they saw it in the locker room or they saw it in maybe they were in a boys and a girls washroom and just happened in sort of an area that somebody was bullying somebody else. But the student that was observing it didn't know what to do. What would you say to a student that came forward to you and said, look, I don't want to be a snitch. It's such a negative word, but what would you say to somebody? Because the balance is they observed. And the advice is that I think typically we try as adults, and adults have to have this conversation with other adults, not just with students. But if you observe something, whether it's a racist comment or it's bullying, and you don't intervene in some way, shape or form, and you have to use your best judgment, but if you simply turn your back, you might as well be supporting the bullying, of course, to the potential victim, if you will. So you run into the situation as young kids. I mean, everybody wants to be friends and they're struggling how to be friends. But if they make if they observe something and clearly the person who may be the bully knows that if anybody's going to find out about it because the one person told on them or snitched on them or whatever it may be. How would you interact with a student who is struggling with what's the right thing to do?

Cliff Weekes (Guest) 00:33:45
Here when I have these conversations, I tried to flip it on the students a little bit because that word snitch always comes up and there's a term that they always say snitches get stitches or whatever. It is just a common term used by the youth, even though it's a competitor. I don't know why I always like to flip it and ask what is so bad about being a snitch? What is the worst thing that could happen with regards to being a snitch, like, really think about what is the worst thing that could happen? And we talked about it, and one of the things that I preferred is what is so bad about helping someone preserve their identity and who they are by you sticking up for that person and who they are with regards to their identity? Is that such a bad thing? Is that what being a snitch is, protecting someone and making someone feel good about themselves? And I also ask this question in middle years, like you said, they're trying to make connections and fit in. And there's a lot of pressure with becoming friends and being friends. And I think in our adult lives, as we get older, with some of the things that you go through, we find out who our real friends are. So the other question is arises if someone is mad at you for being a snitch, are they really your true friends? Right? And it might be a harsh reality as a middle year student or as an elementary student, maybe even a high school student might be a harsh reality, but are they really your true friends if they consider you a snitch? And if they are not your friend anymore, is that really a true friend? If you're sticking up for someone to help them, that person who got bullied make them feel better?

Stuart Murray (Host) 00:35:34
Yeah, I mean, Cliff, it's interesting, right, because, you know, as a young kid growing up, and even today, when I hear myself say the word snitch, it has such a hard edge to it, such a negative connotation to it. Yet when you look around human rights and trying to sort of stand up for what you believe in, it's very powerful for people to say, I speak truth to power. And that, in essence, is what you are doing in that situation. You can use the I'll just say the derogatory term. It's derogatory to me snitch. But really what you're doing is if you observe somebody bullying somebody and you basically want to bring that to an authority to sort of deal with it or to sort of intervene or do something, I mean, you're really speaking truth to power because the power is with the bully to take action on somebody who, for whatever reason, verbally, physically or however they're bullying that person. So let me just sort of conclude our conversation. Thank you so much for finding time to chat about bullying and cyber bullying. And I mean, there's a lot to COVID under this. Is there places where you mentioned a couple of talks that you've been a part of. And I always look to sort of put something into the show notes, the written parts, so that if people are listening to this, they can always go to the show notes if they want to make reference to where they can get help. You mentioned a book that you read. Is it something you would like to be a part of or you would like to share with, or is there any places that you would say if you wanted to get help here's where you might look?

Cliff Weekes (Guest) 00:37:10
Yeah, well, a couple of books that I've read over the last few months is Life in the City of Dirty Water by Clinton Thomas Mueller. Just kind of understanding some things that the indigenous are going through with regards to that, another book that I've read is on the Skin I'm In by Desmond Cole. That's also a really good one. It gave me personally, as a black person, a lot of insight with regards to some of the injustices that are going on in Canada with regards to black people and immigrants. We always see it in the United States being posted on news and media about what is happening to the black community. And in that book, that one cold really highlights a lot of things that have not been brought to the media with regards to how some black people have been treated. So I'm always thinking about the crossover with regards to how the two books intertwined with one another. And those have been really two eye opening pieces with regards to that. But for me personally, I'm building up a network of people and learning of places where to go and visit. But for me personally, I think one of the best places to talk about these things or learn about these things is in the classroom. And I would say as an adult or as an adult of students that you have going to school, talk to your teachers, find out what they're learning about in school and continue building that relationship between school and home because it's probably one of the most powerful relationships that we can have.

Stuart Murray (Host) 00:38:38
Yeah, on that note, I think it's a great way to close our conversation off. Cliff, cliff Weeks, thank you so much for taking time to share your thoughts on humans and rights with respect to what you're doing in the classroom and the leadership that you're taking, particularly on anti racism in the Seven Oak School division. So, Cliff, thanks for your time. I really appreciate it.

Cliff Weekes (Guest) 00:39:00
Thank you so much. I appreciate it. Thank you.

Voiceover 00:39:03
Humans on Rights is recorded and hosted by Stuart Murray, social media marketing by the Creative team at Full Current in Winnipeg. Thanks also to Trixie Maybituin. Music by Doug Edmond For more, go to Humanrights Hub CA.  Produced and distributed by the Sound Off Media Company.