New Zealand Graduating Teacher Standard 4.f
Graduating teachers demonstrate commitment to and strategies for promoting and nurturing the physical and emotional safety of learners.
I would write about my first day of school, but I love my school so much that such slavish devotion is boring to read. Hopefully by the end of the week I will be able to write something more coherent when I am not so infatuated.
Instead I will turn my attentions to the bullying story to go viral, that ofthe student who body slams his bully. I had seen the video posted by friends on facebook before the story hit the mainstream media. Each time the video was posted, I felt more and more uncomfortable as I watched the internet crowd cheering him on.
The popularity of Heynes is not entirely surprising. There’s an entire genre of school-based movies usually rely on the premise of seeing a bully get taken down because seeing bullies get their just desserts, it makes for some pleasurable movie moments. Who didn’t cheer on Daniel in the Karate Kid when he won the championship from the guy who had been tormenting him? Who didn’t snicker when Biff got clobbered in Back to the Future? Who didn’t cackle at the site of Regina George getting run over by a school bus in Mean Girls?
We laugh because at some point just about everyone in their life has been bullied for no apparent reason. They are too tall, too short, too fat, too skinny, too smart, too stupid, the wrong, race or the wrong sexual orientation. I’d even wager that someone has been bullied for being the wrong shoe size.
To see a kid who has been tormented for years due to his weight body slam the kid who just punched him in the face feels good because who wouldn’t want to have that moment? The moment the tormented finally vanquishes his tormentor, cue victorious rock melody and closing credits.
But what happens after that moment?
What’s the message we take from this story? If someone bullies you the answer is to pick them up and dump them on their heads fracturing their leg in the process?
A lot of people would say, yes violence is the only way to stop the bullying once and for all.
Even if that were the case, what if the child in question was not bigger than the bully? What if the child didn’t want to, or even worse, couldn’t physically protect themselves? More importantly would this story have been told differently if the ‘bully’ had suffered serious injuries or even death?
But what interests me the most is that the most important figure of this clip is the one that nobody is talking about. She is the older girl who can be heard telling the bully’s friends to ‘back off’ as they were about to seek revenge on the bullied student for his act of violence against his friend. She was ultimately the person who needs to be lauded for her part in the piece. If you want to stop bullying, the answer is not just preaching to kids not to bully. It is also about kids developing skills to step in when they see situations where another person is being hurt and humiliated.
Just think of what other societal problems we might solve if more people stepped in when they heard or saw something wrong.
The best way to get away from bullies is to get out of school. My experience at Homicidal Boy’s High taught me that people are stuck in patterns in school. Same people, same routine, same location. Of course they’ll have the same attitudes until they leave.
Naturally it gets better as we pass Y10. It’s the survival of the fittest until you are supposed to be an adult.
Part of it is standing up for yourself. Even if you get your ass kicked every time, you still aren’t as much fun to push around. That is the major problem this kid had.
But all the speeches by councillors, teachers and special guests don’t work. They can’t, it’s impossible. It’s simply a part of the immature brain that seeks outward security.
I’m sorry that you had a bad experience at a high school. One of the points I was trying to make was that bullying isn’t limited to the schoolyard, we give it different names out in the ‘real world.’ Domestic abuse, harassment are names we give to adult bullying. But the purpose is still the same, to belittle and intimidate the victim.
The video got very mixed emotions from me. Of course I was happy that the bully defended himself, but as he lifted the other kid in the air and walk forward, I was very scared of what I was about to see. In fact, I was relieved that the other child was able to hobble away. The mother in me sees both of them as people’s children, the bully is still someone’s child, I can’t just switch those feelings off because he got some of what was coming to him.
I think you make a couple of excellent points: (1) “If you want to stop bullying, the answer is not just preaching to kids not to bully. It is also about kids developing skills to step in when they see situations where another person is being hurt and humiliated.” Absolutely. Well said.
And (2) “One of the points I was trying to make was that bullying isn’t limited to the schoolyard, we give it different names out in the ‘real world.’” So very true. Teenagers do make bullying into a widely used art-form, but it’s not as if the rest of our lives are free of bullies, or that we don’t all need to learn how to deal with bullies. There will always be “bad people”, because our morals, priorities, and life experiences differ (criminology is a fascinating topic). The support of other people who witness the bullying – family, friends, class-mates – is essential.
I was directly involved in punishing the living hell out of thirty or so students a few years back when they formed a circle around a girl and jumped her. There was only one actual girl who had done the jumping, but we made a big deal out of the fact that watching without stopping it was just as bad. We give a huge amount of time to praising those who step in (in the right way) and stop this sort of thing going on, and have – to a certain extent, because this problem doesn’t go away per se – created a culture where you are more respected for stopping a fight than for winning one.
That having been said, I did get two of my students today to hit a third student – who was crying at the time – because I deemed that was the best solution to the problem at hand.
Remember – phonebooks hurt but don’t leave bruises. (And yes, I did get one of the children a phonebook to use. I am a good teacher.)
Actually, here is an article which touches on creation of a good, positive culture inside schools – among other things that are worth reading about. This is really worth ten minutes of your time:
I had to chuckle a little at the inconsistency of our media reporting. Because the same weekend they ranted at how schools weren’t doing enough to stop bullying, this story was posted in the media.
And this image – follow the link – shows our national sporting heros having a friendly chat with a member of the opposite team.
Then of course Mr Key had been watching the news – and felt fit to remind BOTs and teachers to do more about bullying.
Thank goodness he watches the news – I’d never have known otherwise…..
Tim thanks for the comment. I agree that bullying doesn’t happen in a vacuum and more importantly kids aren’t the only ones subjected to it!