Tag Archives: anger

Combating Bullying…

Cyber bullyWhile admitting it’s very easy to over-simplify the “national epidemic” referred to as “bullying,” I do want to encourage those with an interest in the topic to read at least this one article. October is National Bullying Prevention Month–a program first introduced in 2006. In spite of all the attention we are giving the problem, most sources will concur the problem is actually increasing. The article will explain that bullying is now the “leading form of child abuse.”

Clearly, becoming more aware of the problem is not having an impact on reducing it. I’m forced to speculate that’s because we are focusing on the problem instead of solutions. One of the things I like about this article is that it is solution-oriented and the solutions proposed are both realistic and achievable.

I’d love to tell you more, but don’t want to be a “spoiler.” Read the article for yourself!

 

 

Won’t You Guide…?

For readers who do not know, I’ve worked with elementary kids on a volunteer basis for quite a few years… this year (at age 65) I’ve embarked a new “career” as an elementary substitute teacher.

When I got the call last Monday that I’d be needed at school, I was momentarily struck with the reality that going “to work” included the distinct possibly of not coming home. Like many, I’d been mourning the huge loss we experienced in Connecticut. As a society we’ve trusted teachers with our children’s education for a long time. The Newtown tragedy has demonstrated that we also trust those teachers and staff with our children’s very lives.

While I in no way want to diminish the loss of those children and adults, as time has passed I think we might consider that we are also mourning the loss of safe havens for children to learn. The grief that we are feeling calls out for answers and brings with it a rush to prevent this type of tragedy. We want to bring back those safe places.

One of the most meaningful things I learned about “classroom management” while preparing to become a substitute was the observation that “the only behavior you can truly control in your classroom is your own.”

boy_girl_flying_on_pencil_150_clr_186One day this week I was working with first graders on an art project. I’d been warned to keep them busy or “they will make your life miserable.” We’d been doing quite well, actually, when I suddenly lost control of the classroom. Amid the coloring and cutting and pasting and cries of “Mr. B, can you help me with this?” very suddenly and spontaneously one child started singing “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” Within seconds fifteen little voices chimed in and I was left to stand and watch the unfolding of what might be described as a “Normal Rockwell Moment.”  For at least six renditions of the song (the part they remembered) my life was anything but miserable.

But it was not because of anything I did.

Every sane person wants to prevent the type of tragedy we experienced on December 14. As we work through the grief, I believe we need to remember that six year old who decided to sing. To be sure, somebody taught him to sing. But he decided it was time to sing. If we don’t remember him and his choice, we are in danger of deluding ourselves into thinking we can fix this by controlling things (guns, videos, the media, etc.) and perhaps even people.

I’ve asked myself what I might do to prevent this type of tragedy and believe the long look answer lies in another truth:  “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken adults.” While we cannot ignore those broken adults, we (collectively, not just teachers) are “breaking” children every day by missing opportunities, failing to provide structure, and in too many cases engaging in outright abuse and neglect. The same newspaper that headlined the Newtown events also carried a story of an eight year old girl who was raped. These tragedies deserve equal outrage.

Anyone who spends any time working in schools has met them–the kids we are breaking. A kid who is constantly angry for reasons we don’t yet understand–copes by screaming and pushing his way around. The loner who is always seen off by herself during recess…

All of the other reindeer
used to laugh and call him names.
They never let poor Rudolph
join in any reindeer games.

Just this week a nine year old confessed to being tired first thing in the morning explaining that her dad goes to work at 3 AM and she’s required to get up to care for her younger brother. She’s a real good kid and I think will grow up to be a responsible adult. I’m not indicting her Dad, because it’s likely an economic necessity. But she’s carrying a lot of weight on her young shoulders–can we be sure whether it will make or break her?

What happens to us shapes us, but we decide who we are. Those of us who are fortunate enough to work with kids have a key–we need to focus on building strong children who learn the skills–including the skill of self-control–that will allow them make good decisions about what they will do and who they will become.

Then all the reindeer loved him
as they shouted out with glee,
Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer,
you’ll go down in history!

Do What?

I like that we celebrate Labor Day by not working.

My morning email included yet another email diatribe from an acquaintance who is clearly addicted to forwarding email. Dealing with his email isn’t really much work–I will usually give it a five second scan and hit the delete button.  Since I’m not working today (mostly) I gave it ten seconds. This one was a real rant and rave about the Social Security “problem” and politicians in general, closing with:

YEAH, OK, SO WHEN DO WE GET P—— ENOUGH TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT ALL THIS CRAP?

95% of people won’t have the guts to forward this. I’m one of the 5%, I Just did.

He added the red for emphasis, I deleted the expletive. Perhaps because it’s a relatively leisurely day, I found myself a bit amused by the message. Permit me to paraphrase his words into the message I heard:

“I am so mad over all this crap I’m doing something about it–I’m clicking forward and sending this email to a bunch of people who probably don’t want it. It took a lot of courage for me to do this.”

I’m quite sure the world is a better place now–thanks to his courage and willingness to take on this huge task.  Call me a coward. I didn’t forward his email.

While I am a firm believer that there are times when “the work is the reward,” consideration should be given to what that work accomplishes. I know quite a few people who are (by their own admission) extremely busy. I occasionally want to ask, “What are you accomplishing?” On the occasions when I have, the reply is most often a blank stare.

I do ask myself that question fairly often–because it’s very easy to kid yourself into thinking you’re working really hard when all you’re actually doing is being busy.

Don’t confuse activity with accomplishment.