Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Bullying, what are we doing?
I don't know if you've seen this video from this boy named Jonah or not. I know it went viral and is still floating around cyberspace, causinhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifg a stir. I just saw it today for the first time and was so saddened by what this kid has had to endure. I was abused and bullied as a child and then just bullied as a teen. I never cut myself like Jonah did, I never felt as alone as he does in this video, but I've known that kind of pain and alienation.
Now I'm a teacher and as I watched that video I got to thinking about all my students past and present. How many of them were like Jonah? Did I do enough to make them feel protected and safe, loved and somewhat happy? I've never thought of teaching as just a job or a 9-5 occupation where my only responsibility was to impart practical skills and knowledge to my students. I've always viewed my students as my kids. I love them like they all live with me (thank God they don't, though... that'd be far too many kids for a 2 bedroom apartment!!) and like I am responsible for their happiness. But I know that I didn't connect with EVERY student (I don't think it's possible simply because of personalities being different) and I worry. I worry that they felt sad, that they felt afraid, that they felt alienated, that they felt like there was no one for them to turn to.
This video also makes me ask the question of what were his teacher's doing? What are we ALL doing to lessen bullying in our schools and in our student's lives? Are we working hard to make sure that these kids understand social responsibility? Are we ensuring that they understand the meaning of words like tolerance, acceptance, caring, responsibility and respect? Or are we just taking a hard line, no tolerance kind of attitude (I agree that we can't tolerate bullying, but I don't know if expelling every bully is the solution to the problem... feels like a bizarre kind of Band-Aid) that teaches kids the power of complaint rather than the desire to create solutions. I don't have all the answers, but I sure have a lot of questions about how to handle these kinds of situations. I know that one can't just DEMAND tolerance, kindness, respect, trust, integrity and so on from children. They need to be taught these things by example (and I am, by no means, a perfect example of any of these), with words, with actions, and with care.
To my students of the past and present, I hope you have always felt cared for and safe in the classrooms where I have taught and I hope none of you suffered a Jonah-like experience when I was your teacher. I hope and pray that I will be more vigilant about teaching my students the kind of characteristics it takes to be a truly good and productive citizen of the world and that I will be more aware and mindful of the experiences my students have at school.
And finally, to my fellow professional educators, let's try to find solutions to this bullying situation together. Let's be examples of tolerance and acceptance, kindness and caring to our students on a daily basis. It won't be easy (especially on cold winter Mondays... speaking from my own experience) but it will be worth it if one less child feels the need to cut or consider suicide. It will be worth it if one more child learns to accept that kid who just isn't like all the others. It. Will. Be. Worth. It.