The Biggest Bully is Never One Person
(A post by Gabrielle Arrowsmith.)
When you visualize bullying in schools, what image comes to mind? Someone who bullied you, a friend, or a classmate? The big, powerful character from a film or television show who famously stole lunch money from, vandalized the lockers of, and generally pushed around the small, ‘nerdy’ students?
Today, the faces of both the bullies and their victims have changed, as have the avenues by which bullying takes place. All this considered, bullying has the potential to be a runaway problem.
From a teacher’s standpoint, I am proud to say that school districts have made bullying a primary concern, and have developed actions plans both to prevent and address situations where the bully or bullies and the victim or victims can be identified.
Earlier this school year, a very upset fourth grade student approached me with a bullying concern. Unfortunately, there was no isolated incident or individual bully to point out. He expressed that he has suffered bullying since starting at the elementary school, and that everyone in the grade level participates in it (or does not stand up to break the cycle).
I asked the boy to give examples to explain his history of being bullied, so that I could better understand how to address the issue. He told me that kids grumble when he’s put into a group with them, that they call him names like weird, gross, and dumb, and that people don’t sit by him at lunch, recess, or on the bus, and in fact move away from him if he makes an effort to join his peers.
This type of bullying breaks my heart the most, because the victim feels they have no option for friendship with their peers, and can only seek solace from adults. It is also the most difficult to stop. How do you address an entire grade level in a meaningful way? Sure, there are videos, anti-bullying assemblies, blue T-shirt day, and wristbands that raise awareness and invite students to reflect on their school environment, but do these efforts have a long-term effect?
My opinion is that, sadly, they do not—at least, not as much as school personnel and the students who feel massively victimized would like. But, these school-wide efforts and opportunities provided for bullied students to speak to a school counselor or attend friendship club during lunch and let the student know that they have advocates in their corner. Just as important as reiterating the fact that they are not weird, gross, or dumb, is the fact that they are not forgotten, and never alone.
About Gabrielle Arrowsmith:
GABRIELLE ARROWSMITH enjoyed writing her debut novel, Concealed in the Shadows, during a lovely Minnesota summer that she had off from her primary profession, teaching. Acting, playing and coaching soccer, reading, playing piano, and spending time with family and friends are among her other interests.
About Gabrielle Arrowsmith:
GABRIELLE ARROWSMITH’S BOOKS:
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