The rush of heat blows through the school doors as students are let back into school from recess. Loud voices echo down the hall with an argument that started outside but is now my problem since recess is over. Two distraught students dejectedly following the outside school aides were deposited at my door.
“There was some kind of bullying and name calling going on out there,” Mrs. Holt reported to me.
With the rest of the students in my room, I put the assigned reading on the board and then stepped to the hallway to investigate what happened. Never knowing what the REAL truth is without being a witness, I wait as they both try to explain themselves in a chaotic description of what happened. “Stop! I’ll never get to the bottom of this unless we cool off and show some respect to each other.” I calmly state.
“Well, Mr. B…” begins Caleb rushing to get his side of the story out first. Caleb is tall and large for his grade level and has a history of using this to his advantage. Not only size but his sarcasm and jokes have been cutting down the self-esteem of other students for awhile now.
“But, Mr. B, he’s the problem! We were all playing football and when I got the ball, Caleb yelled, “Smear the QUEER!” Riley reported. “Why does he have to say things like that?”
Caleb looks down at his shoes and won’t look Mr. B in the eyes. “Is it true? Did you say that?” inquires Mr. B.
The destructive power of words is prevalent in schools. Bullying continues to be an issue as we teach these young people how to have respect for each other. As a victim of words and painful rumors, many students go inside a shell and don’t have the courage to open up and participate, afraid of the comments and ridicule they may hear. Others believe by making others hurt, they feel better about themselves. The bullying may just be a diversionary tactic to get the spotlight off them.
So, how do we fix it? Knowing the damage of words can never really be repaired and that an apology doesn’t make amends, I believe that compliments also have power. By finding genuine positive compliments, students can begin to appreciate each other and build respect for each other.
I also believe people need to be true to themselves. They need to learn who they are and love themselves. Being able to reflect on what has been said or implied about them and filtering it with the questions; Is it true? Is this who others see? Is this what I want to be? Can I be different and still ok? Each individual needs to evaluate who they are and decide if they need to make a change.
The man in the mirror — Michael Jackson