Lysia doesn’t allow a beat of silence as her mother exits the laundromat. “Guess why she has to stop by the school?” she says.
“Why?” I bite.
“I’m suspended,” she grins mischievously. I don’t doubt that judging by her gregariousness. It explains why she is at her mother’s work instead of school on a Friday morning.
“How old are you?” I ask. She seems too little to have done anything serious enough to get in trouble.
“I’m eight. Aren’t you going to ask what I did?” she plays.
“I’m sure you’ll tell me,” I say. A pinch of humor rises in me. [Sentence removed due to spoiler factor].
“I threw a bucket of crayons at another kid’s face.”
Clearly, Lysia isn’t remorseful about the action. I can’t imagine such a young girl committing such an infraction. Cyber bullying was the only real problem instruction monitors had to face with their students on EduWeb (as was the main type of schooling in my book.) I imagine behavior management is more of a struggle in a traditional school environment. In this excerpt, Lysia goes on to explain that her classmate had called her drawing ugly, and that is why she retaliated against him. As a teacher, I try to grind it into my students that, like Lysia in the story, you become just as much of a bully and will get into as much trouble (sometimes more) if you return verbal insults or physical harm, or initiate the latter as a higher means of revenge. What I encourage my students to do instead is:
1) Take a deep breath,
2) Tell an adult, and
3) Do your part to avoid whomever you are having problems with until they are resolved and you feel comfortable socializing with them again.
It’s a good philosophy, but step one is nearly impossibly for an angry child to remember in the heat of the moment, especially if they’ve faced a similar issue with multiple children or various issues with one child or a group that bullies them consistently. It’s difficult for me to keep my cool sometimes, and I’m a grown adult! However, this step is crucial to eliminating the automatic violence to which some children resort.
Thankfully, there is an easy step for students to follow in the philosophy that I teach – to tell an adult. One of my greatest goals as a teacher is to create a classroom environment that is open, friendly, and safe. The number of students that come to me with their various concerns has shown me that I do this well enough for students to find ease in bringing their concerns to me. For those that are shy or reluctant to tell on a friend who is bullying them, they can simply fill out an anonymous form that I’ve created for this very purpose and drop it into the matching box.
When the bully is a close friend of the one who’s raised the concern, step three becomes rather difficult. Sometimes, the friend being bullied has become so used to being bullied that they actually accept it as their role in the group (tragic). Other times, the one being bullied is afraid to leave their friend or group in search of others. You wouldn’t believe how much drama can be stirred up because Susie didn’t play with Molly at recess! Kids know these things, and so sometimes they don’t want to risk the social upset and aftermath.
The three-step lesson is for the kids (and let’s be honest, we all need it at times) but, with two and sometimes three of the steps being difficult, how is a child ever going to succeed in using it? The only way that breathing, telling, and staying away will become a child’s natural reaction, is for it to be not only taught by, but also practiced with, adults in multiple facets of the child’s life. Yes, the lesson is ours too. Teachers, school social workers, recess para-professionals, parents, daycare staff, coaches, and etc. all have to not only be proactive about teaching these children strategies for dealing with bullies (in my class, I post the philosophy and we role-play scenarios), but also must listen to issues raised by children and act accordingly.
We rarely fully understand what a child is facing when it comes to bullying, that is why it is always crucial to prepare, listen, and act.
Concealed In The Shadows by Gabrielle Arrowsmith