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.