Some days certain topics just resonate and revisit you over and over.
So on an inservice day when some of the conversation turned towards how we should handle bullies and the issue of bullying, I don’t think I was all that surprised when my son brought it up.
He wanted to know why people picked on each other.
(For those of you who were following Twitter conversations a few weeks ago about how he encountered his own bully on the bus, this conversation was not directly related to that incident. If you knew my son, you’d know that he gets very thoughtful when he asks loaded questions such as these. It’s hard to tell quite what is going on behind those huge hazel eyes.)
This seems to get at the bigger question of bullying.
See, the What and How and When and Where of bullying are what gets reported on our incidence paperwork or emails to guidance and administrators.
That Why though. That’s a different beast altogether. And it seems to me that this is the root of the problem.
The Why is about intolerance and fear and revenge. It’s about maintaining status or attempting to regain it.
And the problem with all of it is that meanness only breeds more meanness.
I do my best to remind my students that they each have a choice, a decision at any moment about how they act and react to what happens around and to them. They have little ability to control the behavior of others, but they do have a choice about how they will handle their own.
I remind them that they should Choose Kind. Stick up for the bullied. Don’t give in to being mean. Choose to do the right thing. It isn’t always the easy thing.
None of this is a new message in my classroom.
I shared this video in my class a little over a week ago because it tied into my discussion on poetry and ongoing dialogue on bullying.
Based on the comments, I think that my students were surprised to hear that the effects of those comments that they make echo for a long time.
More than one student thanked me for sharing it. Several asked to watch it again.
I don’t have much in the way of answers, but I do suspect that stories like these – no matter if they are poems, essays, novels, or plays – are at the heart of getting students to realize the pain those words and actions can cause.
And to think twice before they do it themselves.