Monday, November 15, 2010

Bullying--it will always be with us.

Let me start out by being slightly academic.  If one were to go to the dictionary and look up the word, "bullying or bully," you would find a definition close to this one:  A person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those that are weaker.  If we look in a Thesaurus  and find out other words that could be substituted for bully or bullying you would find some of the following:

  • oppress
  • tyrannize
  • browbeat
  • harass
  • torment
  • intimidate
  • dominate
  • pressure
  • force
  • badger
  • goad
  • prod
I have been bullied as a kid and as an adult.  Numerous times.  Probably my first exposure to being bullied happened in an Episcopal church choir in Utica, New York when I was probably seven or eight years old.  We younger (and smaller) kids were picked on by the older kids in the choir.  I learned quickly not to use the bath
room off of the choir practice room.  The big kids were waiting.  And as soon as the practice was over, I scooted for the bus stop and the protection of the metro bus.  No, it was not nice or enjoyable.  I've always wondered if my family stayed in Utica and I stayed in the choir would I have bullied the younger kids when I grew older.  I wonder.

Of course I was bullied in the Army.  That is how that institution works--it is a top down bullying factory.  Lieutenants yell at the sergeants who yell at the corporals who yell at the privates.  Each has power over the lesser.

Deans have bullying rights over department chairs.  Don't do it his way and your budget gets cut.  

 I suspect my point at this point is that bullying is in the fabric of our society.  My parents prodded, nagged, goaded and from my point of view, tormented me into studying and doing my homework.  I also had to practice my trumpet and do my chores.  I doubt if the courts would say I had been bullied--rather the court would say that my parents loved me enough to get me to study and do those other things.  So parents bully their kids for a variety of reasons.  But we don't call it that, do we?

Right now there are a number of articles and opinion pieces in the newspapers, the evening news and pretty much all over the web sites dealing with news.  Unfortunately, there have been a number of young people who have committed suicide because of bullying--high schools, colleges and the military have not escaped this sadness.  Why these tragic events?  Because the lesser cannot get away from those in power.

So the next question is why do people bully others?  I suspect the simple answer is because they can.  Bigger kids can push smaller kids around physically.  So they do.  There is research on bullying.  It starts with size and aggression in the kindergarten--taking away play toys from others.  Some research (I don't have the book anymore) suggested that white kids pick on black kids who pick on Hispanic kids who pick on asian kids.  What I do remember of that research book is the kids in school learn to bully, then together with friends, bully others.
That is the beginning of gangs.  One joins a gang so as not to get bullied by others.  It is a learned behavior.

So how do we stop the bullying that is in our classrooms?  (Trick question so be careful with your answer)  My initial answer is that the teachers have to be cognizant of bullying behaviors and to not only stop them but to teach about that behavior.  For the elementary teacher the playground becomes the place to observe who is doing what to who.  In some school districts I think we need some "observers" on the school bus.  The driver has enough to do with picking up and letting off as well as driving safely.  Another adult in the back of the bus would be advantageous.  

At one time I decided to ride all five bus routes home from my elementary school.  I only completed two routes.  The noise and horseplay was too much for me.  It is a breeding grounds for bullying.  So we have to teach what bullying is and how to stop it.

I found that in the intermediate grades I stopped some bullying by talking to the whole class about it.  I didn't use names but said that I had seen enough that it bothered me and I didn't want to see it anymore.  Besides it did not make out class look good.  In a sense I used bullying tactics to stop bullying.  I pulled power over my kids.  "Don't do it anymore, understood?"

But the trick part of my question is that not all bullying happens in a classroom or a hall.  Some gangs are smart enough to not do things on a school campus but wait until they get to a "home" neighborhood.  To keep bullying from becoming an epidemic we need all parts of society to say no to such behavior from parents, to neighbors, to police and at the schools.  

Isn't it parents we bully (prod, command, nag) our kids to do their homework and chores so that they will grow up to be a valuable part of society.  But it has to be carefully done or we might be teaching them how to bully.

This blog is not the end all answer on bullying.  Rather it is meant to be a descriptor of sorts on what is bullying and where does it happen.  Unfortunately it is always around us and we need to be diligent in recognizing what it is and where it is.

Now I want you to get busy and thank your teacher right now!  Do you hear me?  If you don't do it now, you will get no recess!  For the whole week!

1 comment:

  1. Bullying is a difficult problem to navigate. It would be wonderful if such behavior could be identified more often and more quickly that often happens. Parents should respond to the child with empathy, love and support. Only this can build confidence in the child that he/she has made the right decision by sharing the issue with the parents. Parents should build assurance to the child that they can work this problem as a team without worsening the issue or resulting in negative consequences. I would like to share this link, about a service on how to protect your children. Check it out it’s interesting: