I found out yesterday that one of my students is being bullied. We will call him "John." John is a sweet, intelligent, kind, talented, creative, great kid. I'd love for Trace to grow up to be as friendly and really interesting as John is. What John isn't is a Jock. He's tried every sport under the sun and though he's okay at them and is an athletic kid, he just doesn't really enjoy them. No biggie, right?
Well apparently that's all the fodder high school kids need these days. Forget the fact that this kid is musically talented, SMART as a whip and a born leader. He's not bashing people's skulls on the football field or wrestling in a leotard. To high school boys, that makes him less than them. A target. Someone to be picked on and made fun of.
Can I just say something to high school boys?
Your life should not begin and end with high school sports. You may be the "big man" in school right now, but guess what. It won't always be the case. You aren't going to the NFL, NBA or MLB. You aren't. Statistics and logic tell us that kids from the forest are lucky to play at a tiny, state run university if anything at all. Your life right now may revolve around sports, your truck, hunting and girls. That's great. Enjoy your youth, but at least let other kids enjoy theirs too. If John wants to play the piano, paint a picture or take a tap dance class (and no, he's not a ballerina as you so eloquently refer to him) then he can. We don't bully you for getting drunk in a field on the weekends, so leave my John alone. After all, you are wrestling sweaty boys. He's lifting, touching, partnering and dancing with hot girls in leotards and tights every week. Who has the better end of the deal? Yeah, that's what I thought.
My problem with bullies is this. What is so wrong in their lives that they think it's okay to pick on another kid? Who said that was okay? Who set that example? I don't believe a kid is born mean or born a bully. I believe bullies are a direct result of a combination of any of the following things: bad home life, low self esteem, parental/familial example, verbal/physical abuse, constant desire to be better than others. I think they all relate right back to low self esteem though. I've found, in years of working with girls, that the girls who feel most confident in their own skin have no reason to make fun of others.
There has to be something done about this. Girl on girl crime is one thing, but it seems to me that boy on boy crime is much worse these days. Why should any kid be afraid to be their true, authentic self? It's mind boggling to me. Where does the blame lie? With the bullies, of course. But it goes beyond that. Don't teachers have a responsibility to encourage kids to discover their true identity? I know that I'm not a "real" teacher, but I feel bound to facilitate a classroom where my students feel welcome, honest and safe. It is my duty as an educator in any capacity to encourage self expression, healthy conversations and an environment where kids can create without fear of bullying. That is my job. Before I make good dancers, I need to take care of the child. That's the real education.
There's nothing wrong with not fitting the status quo. The status quo is average. Average is boring. Normal is boring. Extraordinary is exciting. Just because everyone else plays basketball, is a cheerleader or likes to drink beer at age 17 doesn't mean that it's right. Just because everyone else picks on a kid doesn't mean it's right. Stand up. Be the first one to say back off. You never know the difference you can make.