6 April 2023

The toxicity of banter

Heads of SchoolSenior School
The toxicity of banter
The toxicity of banter
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As a once lifelong suffering supporter of Melbourne Football Club, you can only imagine the joy and relief the 2021 premiership brought to me and so many. However, as a History teacher, I became fascinated to know what the difference had been in the 2021 team to other years.

The answer I found was incredible. It seems that in the preseason of the 2021 AFL season, the players and coaches identified that banter had become an issue. All came to an agreement and understanding that banter within and amongst the club was not providing any positive outcomes, and a decision among all to cease banter came into effect. A Melbourne Football Club form of relational practices was born.

Banter involves putting someone else down or teasing someone in a light and friendly way, but one of the catchcries that I've always used in the classroom and at school is, ‘Never should anyone put someone down to big-note themselves.’ On many occasions, students have let me know, when questioned, how close they have been with the person they have put down and how that excuses it as just banter.

We, as Australians, are renowned around the world for having an easy-going and friendly nature, and banter is recognised as a sign of affection towards each other. I’m guilty of it too, and our most brilliant guidance co-ordinator in the Senior School, Jason Ross, is subject to my friendly gibes on occasions. Unfortunately though, banter can become toxic when it is pushed over the edge of being a well-meaning jab to coming from a place of frustration and with the intent to hurt. It can create environments in sporting teams, classes and groups where people are constantly competing and putting others down to gain acceptance or approval among their group.

As a History teacher, first and foremost, I want to create an environment in my classroom where all views and comments are listened to and supported with careful thought and a measured response. I know that if we can have a collaboration of 20 or so diverse minds pulling together assorted and different angles of thought, my classroom will take off with a greater understanding and wisdom of the events and past we are studying in an exciting manner.

At Carey, we have really forged a clear path with our core values of Growth, Respect and Care, and relational practices are at the very heart of everything we do. We know that students succeed when they can feel staff believe in their potential for academic progress and their capacity for emotional and relational growth. We need to continue to ensure that poor habits do not creep in. Through caring and trusting relationships, students can feel a true sense of belonging.

Being part of a team or partnership, of course, has its moments, and there will always be moments in life where tempers are frayed and issues arise. However, I don't think a better example can be found of how toxic banter can become among groups than that of the former Melbourne Football Club. Just look at what can be achieved when we stop putting each other down and start raising each other up.

Christian Gregory
Deputy Head of Senior School – Student Wellbeing


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