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As I look upon each student’s face, I look into their eyes and can finally see what I looked like when I was sitting where they are now, 5 years ago. I took my first Training Active Bystanders (TAB) Training for Trainers (T4T) when I was just 15. I was the youngest in the training, I was on crutches, and yet I still entered that room with the grandest smile on my face, much like the students who I had trained at the T4T on September 22, 2016.
TAB is a curriculum created to teach participants about how to handle abusive or harm-doing situations that may arise in day to day life. We do this over 6 lessons, each one talking in depth about harm doing situations, the roles people play in each of these situations and how to handle them properly without doing further harm to yourself or others. The jist of it is to actually teach about what a bystander is, and how to be active, and help the situation, instead of passive and remaining complicit to the action at hand.
A T4T is when two or more TAB instructors visit schools or communities and train participants to teach younger or other students and community members about Training Active Bystanders. This particular T4T was a two day session: the first day was dedicated to teaching the students the TAB curriculum, and the second day was all about the students teaching the curriculum back to us.
The first day we gathered at Mahar. All of the Mahar students sat down talking eagerly about what might happen in the class today, what classes they were thankfully missing, and typical high school gossip. Soon the sleepy, smiling faces of Athol High walked in and we were ready.
We started our morning off going right into the curriculum. Jennifer Learner and I taught the students how we would teach a middle school class: letting them answer like middle school students, and giving pointers on how to answer them in return. “I don’t know if they would actually believe aliens are coming down from outer space to learn about TAB,” to which we would respond with, “Well, you never know, so let’s be safe and not sorry!” We did a role play in lesson three, enabling the students to join in as passive and active bystanders.
We discussed briefly the dangers and advantages of technology, such as abuse over Snapchat and Twitter, while also stating that some communities are able to text 911 in an emergency to be more safe in an extreme situation. We talked about hard issues such as sexual, emotional, and domestic abuse and how to handle each of those concerns if as student were to bring up one of these situations. And at the end of the day we taught the kids what to do when you run out of time because sometimes that is just the case and you have to wrap up efficiently, much like Jennifer and I had to.
The following day Jennifer went to Athol High where the students congregated with Bob Sekula, another TAB instructor. The students each took on a lesson to teach to the instructors and other TAB trainers. All of the students were having fun teaching. The “class” gave their teachers a little bit of a hard time to help the trainers learn hands on how respond. even the TAB instructors made things a bit uncomfortable so the trainers would learn how to handle that kind of situation. By the end of both training days the new TAB trainers were ready. They learned the curriculum, they can put their own thoughts and input into the lessons, and most importantly they know how to excerpt the information in their own words and are able to relay in information to others in a professional, yet acessible manner.
Working with both Athol and Mahar is quite the experience; two different cultures, two different high schools, yet all the same problems and now all the same training to help with those problems. TAB training, uniting us as one since day one.
Marissa Lynn is a Quabbin Mediation TAB Instructor and Graduate of Athol High School.
August is a time for many of us to get ready for the new school year. For us here at Quabbin Mediation, back to school means preparing another year of implementation of TAB (Training Active Bystanders curriculum, © 2014 Quabbin Mediation) in schools around our region. This year, part of my preparation has been rereading Howard Zehr’s book on Restorative Justice (Good Books, 2002). The connections between TAB and Restorative Justice don’t always get the presentation time they could in the TAB training that we do with students or adults. But for people who have trained TAB for years, and for those coming new to TAB who are familiar with Restorative Justice principles and programs, there are fundamental connections between the two.
Restorative Justice has three central concepts. The first is that restorative justice focuses on harm. In the TAB curriculum, we start with the notion that harm can be defined in many ways and that it is important that the community provide the broad definitions of harm. Thus, the notion of harm is defined and understood by communities of people rather than given a sterile definition by an institution. This is significant in TAB because it is the recognition of harm that leads logically to how it can be interrupted – safely and effectively for the one being harmed, the one doing the harm and those who witness the harm. It is a personal decision whether or not one can safely intervene – thus that person deciding must also understand the harm as completely as possible in the moment. And that harm affects all of those involved – the target, the harmdoer, the bystander and the community.
Secondly, harm results in obligation in the restorative justice framework. Within the TAB framework, the first obligation incurred when harm is happening, is the identification of that harm. And often it is the active bystander who identifies that harm and takes the first step in meeting the obligation that is implied by the harm – to interrupt it.
Lastly, restorative justice promotes engagement. The TAB curriculum is built on the notion that members of communities are interconnected, have obligations to each other and thus their engagement ensures that all members of that community are supported, protected and safe through their being a part of the community. Engagement is at the heart of TAB. TAB promotes building strong communities through the engagement of morally courageous bystanders.
The TAB curriculum is a very tangible and concrete set of steps and skills that can be used to implement the ideas of restorative justice. TAB teaches approachable and doable ways to build connected, supportive, and inclusive communities.
Susan Wallace is the Training Director at Quabbin Mediation