This past week I had to be out of the classroom two days for trainings. I'm on the school's behavior management team and I'm currently being trained on how to help teachers who need help with behavior management with their class or with a particular student. I am learning A LOT that I can apply in my classroom and in my life. The afternoon session of my second training this week was on Thursday. The topic was tricky: bullying. It could go either way but we had an excellent speaker and he spoke to us about the evolution of bullying and how it's not like what it used to be. It's evolved into something much more dangerous and the effects on the child bullied are also a lot more dangerous, as the kids who are bullied are the kids who shoot schools up.
I thought about who bullied me when I was in school. I thought about how my parents told me to handle it. I had one bully in the second grade who made fun of me constantly and I remember very clearly my dad telling me to stand up for myself. With a child who is bullied there is always a tipping point, a point where they just can't take it anymore and one day, I tipped. My seven year old self grabbed her by the hand and bent her middle finger all the way back until it touched her wrist. I didn't get in trouble, my parents weren't called, her parents never complained to the school, I didn't even get sent to the principal's office. But she never bullied me again and in fact we became very good friends later in the year. We were on the same UIL team. However, that's how bullying has changed. My retaliation would have caused me to get in a lot of trouble. Her parents would have been at the school, my parents would have been called, there would have been a referral written. At the very least. Back in 1989, I solved it and we moved on.
*Disclaimer: I would never, ever promote violence as a way to handle bullies to my students nor to my own children. I believe firmly in using words to settle differences. However, if a student or child of mine is ever bullied I would take an active role in figuring out how to stop it. That's the same if a student or child of mine ever turns out to be the bully. Instead of telling a child to stand up for itself, I will show it with my actions what that looks like.*
These days, it's harder to shrug a bully off and here's why: the Internet. This is where the speaker really taught me something. Social networking sites and viral video sites like youtube really proliferate bullying in a novel way. Now, bullies might not have the cajones to bully someone to their face, but they are willing to get behind a computer and tear that person apart. The computer now serves as a wall for bullies and the bullied. Students' lives have been ruined thanks to internet bullies. Unfortunately, students do not have the support system to deal with internet bullies, nor do school systems have the infrastructure to deal with it. Essentially, if it does not happen on the campus, the school can't take action, except to protect the child being bullied from a forseeable threat.
I myself have had experience with an internet bully, but it was in my adult years when I was mature enough to deal with it. What happened to me is small potatoes compared to what these students are apt to go through. While I knew how to stop it, younger students do not know how to stop it and this is where we need to educate them.
I wish I could say that all my students will be equipped to deal with a bully when they leave my room, but that's not the case. I wish I could say that they have never dealt with bullying before. I think if I did a random survey, everyone I would ask would tell me that they have dealt with bullying in some form or another. It's just important that parents and educators take active roles in dealing with bullying, because it's the children who are bullied who turn into the ones we really have to worry about. If pushed enough in a negative way, a child will push back. This is when you have unthinkable massacres like Virginia Tech and Columbine.
*steps off soap box*
That's all. If you ever need help with bullying, I might be able to help you.