Big Questions – #Slice 4 of 31


Please click on the image to go to the Two Writing Teachers blog to see what others have written for their Slice of Life Challenge posts.

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.

To This Day from To This Day on Vimeo.

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.

21 thoughts on “Big Questions – #Slice 4 of 31

  1. Great post. Much deeper than mine today! :-)
    I’ve been having the “be kind” conversation with my 6th grader quite a bit lately as her friendships are changing in middle school. It’s hard.

    • Thanks!
      Those conversations are definitely not easy but they continue and we all hope that it makes a difference at some point – whether we are talking to our students or our children.

  2. Wow that video was absolutely incredible. I made everyone in my family watch it and the majority was brought to tears. My by far favorite line was “and if you can’t see anything beautiful about yourself, get another mirror.” I have always loved slam poetry, but this took slam poetry to another level. I also loved (well, not loved, but appreciated) how you touched on how kids aren’t bullying just to feel better about themselves, but also to climb the social ladder. For some sick reason many kids believe that bullying is actually funny and if they get just one laugh they’ll continue thinking so. Thank you for sharing!

    • I love this video, too. That is also my favorite line. I think I might have to put visual reminders of this poem all over my room. Glad I could introduce you to this video and poem. It’s been making its waves all over the internet – as it should. Share it.

    • Sadly, the why is what gets missed more times than not. Did you see this video before? I felt like it was all over Twitter/FB in the last couple of weeks.

  3. I think it is amazing the conversations that you can have with your child! They are so smart and so young although my daughter seems to be planning for the zombie take-over. My heart wrenched with you over the bus bully and I love how you’ve linked the conversation to a book.

    • I hear zombies are not to be taken lightly. And I hear this mostly from my high schoolers and my husband. Your daughter’s a bit ahead of her time. :)
      My son is an only child so he’s quite comfortable and used to having these kinds of conversations with us because he has far more adults around outside of the school day than children.

  4. I always frame a bullying discussion through power dynamics. The bully has had power taken from them in some way, and they’re trying to steal it from someone so they can feel good again, just as someone/something stole it from them. I’ve found that when kids understand that’s what is happening, they have a new way to reflect on their own behavior and that of others. Strange as it may sound, empathy for the bully themselves is the best way I’ve found of breaking the cycle.

    An important topic and discussion — we all need to be thoughtful and engage in conversation around this one. Thanks–

    • I have tried the empathy for the bully tactic. It hasn’t worked as well as I have hoped. I know that we as adults need to worry more about the bully than the bullied in some cases – if not taught to behave more appropriately towards others, they run the risk of having far worse outcomes over the rest of their lives than the bullied. Still, I’ll bring this up again in discussion and see what happens…

  5. What an important topic! I did see this video last week (I think Gae had posted it, and then it was being tweeted around as well). It is so powerful – but probably a bit too much for an elementary audience.

    I’m worried about my son heading to middle school. He’s not a “typical” kid in many ways, and I’m hoping he finds friends and can avoid the bullies…. keeping my fingers crossed.

    • Oh the video is definitely not geared towards an elementary audience. It wasn’t shared with the Jr Librarian. I suspect that the part about the girl might not be too far above him.
      I worry that he will be bullied, too. It’s heartbreaking to think about.

    • Choose Kind is simple to remember – and if you’ve read Wonder, all of the emotion about the book is associated with it, giving it even more weight.

    • You miss a lot if you aren’t paying attention to what your kids are really asking. It seemed like such a simple question that could have been dismissed with an “I don’t know.”

  6. We’ve been grappling with these issues lately, too — we at home and we at school. The video is pure awesome! Thank you for sharing it. I’ll be passing it on.

    • I’m sorry to hear that this is going on for you – at home, at school – and hope that somehow something turns it around. I love this video, too. I was just thinking about how we never seem to be on Twitter at the same times anymore and I was wondering how you were. We’ll have to coordinate some time to chat…

  7. Such an important topic and one we cannot ignore as the adults who play such an important role in our students’ and our own children’s lives. I had the wonderful experience of talking to James Preller once over drinks, right before his book Bystander was due out. We discussed the bully phenomenon and more importantly, why others stand by and let it happen.
    I don’t know all the answers either. I read Wonder to two groups of students, yet the transfer from what they know is right in the book to what they actually do has a slight disconnect for a small few. I found myself wondering why this is so — you are right, the why is a very complicated beast. Thanks so much for this reflective post.

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