Wednesday, 18 January 2017


'There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children. There is no duty more important than ensuring that their rights are respected, that their welfare is protected, and that their lives are free from fear and want.' ~ Kofi Annan

In an ideal world, all children would feel safe and happy at school. Sadly, especially if recent news stories are anything to go by, this is not the reality. 

Education is key when it comes to dealing with unacceptable behaviours, and as a teacher and lyricist, I felt prompted to create a teaching resource for this purpose.   

My colleague, Kathryn Radloff worked her usual magic with the music, and the result is 'Bully-Free Zone!', a whole school, curriculum-aligned song that provides a non-threatening, positive behaviours approach to dealing with this serious issue.

Here's a preview sample of the downloadable, read, sing & learn along Curriculum Karaoke™ version of the song:

©Lyrics, Nuala O’Hanlon / Music, Kathryn Radloff
Keystone Creations ~ Educational Songs
                                                                               'A Lesson in Every Lyric'®

The word 'bullying' is used a lot these days, so it's important to begin by defining the term.

'Bullying is an ongoing misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that causes physical and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power over one or more persons. Bullying can happen in person or online, and it can be obvious (overt) or hidden (covert).'
Have you ever felt bullied?

Bullying is nothing new - it has certainly been going on for as long as I can remember.

My first experience of this type of behaviour was way back in the ‘olden days’, when, as a 10 year old, I became what is known as an ‘immigrant’. 

My family (Mum, Dad, three sisters, brother, and I) had farewelled all of our family, friends and neighbours in Ireland and England, and set sail for our new life in Australia, where Dad was to take up a teaching post as Head of English Department in a country high school.

Migrants were still rather a novelty in country NSW in those days, and certain students in my new school saw my minority status as an open invitation to tease, ridicule, and humiliate 'the new kid on the block’.

They repeatedly mimicked my accent, made fun of my English clothing and whatever Mum had put in my lunchbox for the day, and excluded me from their games. I began to hate going to school.

It was a very lonely, distressing, and unhappy time (until they got to know me and we became friends), and to this day, I still cringe whenever I recall the time that the nun on duty at playtime rang the bell to command the other children to include me in their games!

Bullying behaviour, then, is nothing new, however, what is new is the frequency with which we are hearing about this behaviour, and the alarming rate at which it appears to be escalating, in our schools and wider society. I talk more about this in a radio interview, after a video of a school playground bullying incident went viral, a few years ago.

Bullying occurs in many different forms - from verbal, emotional, and racist bullying, to psychological, physical, and the now, all-too-prevalent, modern-day phenomenon, cyberbullying – but one thing is for certain, whatever form it takes, it is never OK!

Mahatma Gandhi once stated that,
 'If we want to create lasting peace, we must begin with the children.'
There is great wisdom in this, and education is key.

Parents, schools and wider communities have major roles to play in helping to achieve this. We do it by:
  • Creating and promoting peaceful, safe, and secure environments for children
  • Modelling positive behaviours built on mutual respect, trust, and empathy
  • Setting very clear behaviour expectations and guidelines
  • Helping children to understand and take responsibility for their own behaviour and consequences of their own actions
  • Providing children with coping strategies for dealing with distressing behaviours, if and when they arise.

Looking back with adult eyes, I’m sure the behaviour of that handful of students from my school stemmed more from fear of difference and a lack of understanding than from any conscious malice on their part.

Hence, my decision to tackle the issue of school bullying head-on, in a way that would make it easy for children to understand ~ the non-threatening, effective medium of song.

I drew on my own childhood and teaching experiences to create the lyrics  which address various types of unacceptable behaviours, including the ever-increasing cyber bullying ~ with an emphasis on the right of every child to feel safe and protected.

Kathryn and I are very grateful for the support of a wonderful local primary school principal, Mrs Terri Paterson who, together with the parent body, graciously allowed us to work with and record some of their children on the song’s chorus, and to record a student assembly performance video of 'Bully-Free Zone!' with an introduction by older students ~ children teaching children!

Principal's Testimonial:
“Students from St Kieran's Catholic Primary School have been involved in the recording of this Keystone Creations song which promotes a positive behaviours/values approach to the serious issue of bullying. The song lyrics and catchy chorus, 'Bullying is NOT OK - NO WAY!' help students to understand and address this unacceptable behaviour.” 
Mrs Terri Paterson, Principal
*'Bully-Free Zone!' song is downloadable: as

We are very proud of the students, who took ownership of the message, some even going as far as writing to a local newspaper to tell of their experience, and to urge other schools to become bully-free zones:

As a teacher, I use this positive behaviours song with students, to kick start discussion about unacceptable behaviours and methods available to students, for resolving conflict. 

We unpack the song lyrics line by line, defining and clarifying words, then sing the song through a couple of times. We've included a verse about cyberbullying for older students, who enjoy creating their own slogans, which can then be used in assembly performances, as they reinforce and spread the whole school message ~ 'Bullying is NOT OK - NO WAY!'

Until next time,

Yours in SINGING to Learn,

  • ‘In terms of application to the classroom, and usability by teachers they rate a tick in every box.’ ~ Brendan Hitchens, teacher: Music In Action, A Magazine for Educators
  • Preview samples of our Curriculum Karaoke™ video series of read, sing & learn along, curriculum-aligned songs.
  • Our ever-growing, Curriculum KaraokeTM read, sing & learn along series is available on ClickView to all subscribing schools.

*FYI: 'Bully-Free Zone!' is available in a variety of downloadable formats:
  •  MP4 (song & lyrics video file for your classroom whiteboard)
  •  MP3 (song audio file & lesson materials)
  •  Lyrics Only (lyric sheet pdf).
 *FYI: Our curriculum-aligned songs & lesson materials are available as:
  •  Hard copy (books/CDs)
  •  Downloadable song packages (songs & lesson materials: reproducible   lyrics, targeted learning & values outcomes, suggested activities,   assembly  performance items, Music score 
  •  Curriculum Karaoke™ read, sing & learn along, illustrated MP4 videos

'A Lesson in Every Lyric'®

'Bullying is a problem borne of dysfunction whereby the perpetrator and the victim are caught in a negative cycle of fear and control. We, as caretakers and educators have a duty to interrupt this cycle and facilitate change through early education and intervention. This song, 'Bully-Free Zone!' addresses the issues in a positive, child-friendly way. It not only provides strategies to help empower the victim, but also raises awareness and accountability in the perpetrator.'  ~ Eileen Condell, Psychotherapist


  1. I couldn't agree more that bullying is nothing new and the term bullying is thrown around so loosely, and often misused, in many situations, in many schools, by many students and parents. I think it is so important to raise awareness about bullying in schools and among families. I love how you teach anti bullying through songs. This helps inspire students to stand up for themselves and others against bullying. Thanks for sharing your story with bullying, as well as your love of song with others.

    1. Thank YOU, Christine, for taking the time to leave your very thoughtful comments.
      Education is definitely KEY when it comes to instilling positive behaviours in children. Song is, among other things, a highly-effective, child-friendly approach to dealing with and opening up discussion around serious issues.
      All the best with your teaching. :-)