Monday, July 7, 2008

Coping with Bullies

I saw this video Andrew Sings Pie Jesu recommended on someone’s blog and thought, “Oh no, another Idol contestant.” I have to admit that after seeing this, it was truly amazing. I think all students should be shown something like this. This young boy overcame his fear and sang a beautiful song with the most awesome voice. He even told that he was bullied most of his life because he was different than the other kids. He didn’t like the same music and that made him different. When asked how he handled it, he said that he kept singing. What an inspiration this young boy was!

I know what he was feeling because I was bullied a lot in my school days. I was the only Chinese girl in my school for many years and this made me different. Then to top it all off, I played an accordion (in the 60s and 70s, NOONE played an accordion! It was the time of guitars and rock music). My parents were proud of me because I ranked #5 in my state of all accordion players in my age group, so they bragged about me to everyone. I just wanted to crawl in a hole and die. I enjoyed playing the accordion because I loved music, but this talent stayed hidden, even for many years after I graduated college. Growing up, I remember being harassed and called names when no adults were present, which of course is the way bullies usually work. Of course I didn’t want anybody to know I was being bullied because it embarrassed me. Not only was I different but I was also not strong enough to fight a bully and I knew how weak it made me look. Unlike this boy, I didn’t have a choice because I couldn’t change my nationality and my parents wouldn’t let me give up my accordion, so I saw no way to cope with these behaviors. For many years it chipped away at my self esteem and made me feel very awkward in social situations. It took a lot of courage at his age to continue what he loved doing despite the bullies.

As a teacher, I feel it is my job to do all that I can to make sure my students are safe in class and not bullied. Of course I can not control their behavior outside my classroom but I can equip my students with tools to help them cope with the bullies. A great way to begin the discussion is to ask students ways that children bully each other. I do not ask who has been bullied because no one wants to admit that they were bullied. Students can be like a pack of wild animals and if another student admits this, it shows a sign of weakness that the others will jump on. Once students brainstorm ways that others get bullied, they can begin to work together to find ways to cope with bullies. Sometimes it will also help them band together when they leave the classroom. This discussion has given some students courage to stick up for their fellow classmates in the lunchroom. Others were not aware that some students were bullying others and this made them more alert to the fact. Others have even felt comfortable reporting it to a teacher so action could be taken because they were afraid that it could happen to them next. Sometimes when these terrorizing acts are brought out in the open and dealt with, the bullies lose their strength. Those being bullied gain more confidence and there is a shift in power. If I could focus on students’ strengths and give them confidence, maybe they will be the one with the power and not the other way around. By shutting down a bully’s power, I could concentrate on that bully’s strength in order to build their self esteem too. This will help everyone involved be more successful, not just in the classroom, but in life too.

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