Friday, March 2, 2012

Being Different.

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.

8 comments:

Vicki said...

This is a beautifully written post! Unfortunately there are far too few kids willing to stand up against the bully ... but I agree. A bully is only as strong as the people who back him up. If they had to stand alone I doubt they would be as mean. It's so sad the things kids have to live through ...

Kelly said...

I couldn't agree with you more! With that, my mom always tought us that hearing or seeing someone being picked on or treated badly and not going anything about it, is just as bad. One of my favorite quotes of all time is by Martin Luther King Jr. "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemines, but the silence of our friends."

Amber said...

You're such a sweet mama, Kate. I agree with you. I don't understand why boys are "supposed" to be jocks. It's not for all kids, and the ones who aren't shouldn't be ridiculed for it!

Lindsey @ Running Down A Dream said...

This is such a great post! The bullying has to stop!!! But sadly, it does start at home and with low self esteem.

Meagan said...

This is a great post! It's definitely the parents. If the parents aren't accepting of differences, their kids aren't. Also wanting to fit in. They don't want to get picked on so they don't say anything. I think you are an amazing teacher and parent. I'm not sure what else we can do!

Melissa said...

This is an awesome post. So well written & so true. It angers me & for the same reasons. I don't know why this is okay. I feel like society has become more accepting (in many places) but high schoolers still think it's okay to act like this? I was made fun of in high school... in P.E. class... because i suck at sports. And you know what? I still remember harsh words said to me in that class. Words hurt. And what makes those people so superior. GAH! I'm so glad those days are over for me!

Meghan said...

Amen Kate! I see this all of the time as a high school teacher, and I have ZERO tolerance for it. These bullies are just so insecure and project it unfairly onto others...

Suze said...

You nailed it! This so needs to be addressed in schools today! I hope John keeps on keeping on at what he loves and excels at :)