Huge revelation … I was bullied in school. Another huge revelation … I bullied others in school. Like most, if not all, humans on the planet, I wanted to fit in. I wanted to be liked. I wanted to feel a part of the group, and I didn’t want to be the one who was left out for whatever reason.
Pretty common feelings for a child. Pretty common feelings for a teenager. Here’s the kicker – pretty common feelings for an adult too!
Bullying remains a societal issue, not just a school issue. At times, the messages we hear in politics and in the media focus on “the bullying problem in schools.” The stories we hear the most about occur on school playgrounds or in school hallways. Throw a few hundred children or young people into a confined space for 180 days a year, and human nature will sometimes display its nasty side. When you mix in the fact that every one of those adults-in-training wants to feel a sense of belonging, they are occasionally going to make choices to put others down because, in doing so, they might hope to build themselves up.
Does bullying occur in our schools? Absolutely. Does bullying occur in the workplace? You bet. Does bullying occur everywhere groups of humans spend time together? I would imagine so.
Pop culture commonly paints two different pictures of bullies – the physically intimidating boy or the group of “mean girls”. In my experience in schools, both stereotypes certainly have some basis in reality. Boys are more likely to bully others physically, while girls are more likely to use strategies such as exclusion to bully others in situations when there is an imbalance of power. What pop culture often forgets is that bullying is a behavior, not a character archetype. What pop culture also forgets is that dealing with bullying is complex. While the movie’s climax often includes the victim of bullying exacting a measure of revenge and the bully forever changing his ways, real life is not that straightforward.
Any person (child or adult) who bullies does so to boost their own self-worth. Like my reflections of my own time in school, someone can be doing the bullying one minute and turn around the next minute to bully someone else. Others may exhibit these types of behaviours repeatedly for a whole variety of reasons. The relatively new phenomenon of cyberbullying has created even more complexity. Spend a few minutes on the “Comments” section of any media website, and you’ll realize that bullying goes far beyond the walls of your neighbourhood school.
As I said last week, the best way to deal with behaviours is to teach positive behaviours. While we would all love for bullying behaviours to disappear, sending students home for bullying, while necessary at times, is not nearly as effective as teaching our students to treat each other as they would like to be treated. We need to take bullying seriously, and if we can catch our students treating each other well before they make poor choices, the better off we’ll all be.
As I rifled through my closet to find the only pink dress shirt I own this morning, I was reminded again that days like Pink Shirt Day are designed to raise awareness. Of course, these special days mean nothing if they create conversations only once a year. Hopefully, the conversations that happened today in our schools were continuations of ongoing conversations. If we hope to truly get a better handle on bullying, these conversations will also carry on tonight around dinner tables and tomorrow around water coolers.
I invite feedback and comments to any of my blog entries. As the administrator of the blog, I approve all comments before they hit the public domain. While I do not mind comments that disagree with my point of view, I will not post comments that I deem to be inappropriate, those which are personal attacks, or those which refer to specific personnel. I also will not post comments from anonymous or nicknamed sources. While one of my goals for this blog is open a dialogue, it needs to be a safe environment for everyone involved. Thanks for considering this before making a comment. – Mark