Monday, May 21, 2012

Time To Teach Actions To Fight Bullies

                   The Tuesday Slice of Life Is Hosted Weekly by Stacey and Ruth at their blog, Two Writing Teachers.  If you wish to read wonderful words today, head over there and click on any link!  




I've read many books in my life, my life as a parent and that as a teacher. I read books to see how authors see lives being lived by both children and adults. I read professional books about teaching so I can be a better teacher.  I work hard to find solutions to challenges.
            Lately there seem to be more stories than I am used to that reflect the problems of the bullied and the actions of bullies.  There is that recent movie Bully.  Companies are producing curriculum to try to solve the problem, schools are attempting to follow certain plans, and still, there are those books, reflecting life as the authors write it, and from their research, know it.  Two recent book examples are Wonder, by R.J. Palacio and See You At Harry's by Jo Knowles.  It is worrisome that we cannot help others, children and adults, find ways to respect and love each other as individuals.  
        Here at the end of the school year, I hope that all of us can take time during our breaks to find ways to aid both those who are bullied and those who bully.  





It Takes An Ally…
It Takes Change
It Takes Us

As the Buddha taught: Life is so very difficult. How can we be anything but kind? 

R.J. Palacio, in Wonder, wrote Augie's teacher's first precept as: When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.  by Dr. Wayne Dyer

       Being kind is not all that allies do for others, yet it is that basic feeling that propels us forward into action.  If we want to choose kind actions for others as a life’s goal, then becoming an ally for those who need one can become part of that goal. 
       A few years ago, I attended my first board meeting as the first vice-president, one of three leaders.  There was also a second vice-president and a secretary/treasurer.  I was both a staff member and female.  The president was male, as were the other leaders. Each time the president asked a question specific to a leader, he directed it to the second vice-president.  Each time it happened, the second vice-president looked at the president, then at me, and said something like “I think that’s better answered now by Linda.”  It was one of the times in my life when I recognized the value of having an ally. 
       At the same time, I began to identify other situations where I could take steps to make a difference.  When a store clerk makes eye contact with me, asking what is needed and ignoring the customer there first who is much younger or a different color, I can speak up, saying the simple words, “oh, no, he or she was here first.” 
       I am re-thinking what other ways I can work as an ally in my life.  Most of the time, when one thinks of being an ally, goals become lofty and feel unattainable.  We say to ourselves that we admire those who have taken on big challenges to achieve diversity, to fight for the unearned privileges of some to be given to all, and to ensure the doors closed to some will open for everyone.  Yet, we also say that we must wait a little longer, because we don’t have the time or energy to take on such a large commitment. 
Yet, I’m convinced that we can live our lives as allies every day, using our eyes and ears to become attuned to the situations happening around us that call for allies to use their confidence to step forward to do the kind thing.  As a teacher, I am aware of possibilities every day at school.
I can greet students as they enter school, saying specific and personal words to those who appear isolated from others.  I can, as the old telephone commercial told us, reach out and touch someone...

WITH WORDS-“Hi John, welcome to Tuesday.  Hope your day today is terrific.

“Hi Marianne, I see you have a new backpack.  How’s the back doing with that load?

“Hey, Justin, your teacher told me you wrote some awesome words in your writer’s notebook yesterday.  Tell me about it.

                           “Ruby, you got a haircut!  Looks great.  How do you like it?

         WITH TOUCH-I can grab someone’s arm, give it a squeeze and walk him or her to the stairs, asking how the day is going ‘so far’, and if there’s anything I can do to help.
        
                  Pat someone on the back as they walk by, saying to have fun in class.  And later, ask how the class is going, and what the student is doing in the class.  I can follow-up every few days to communicate that I am there, watching and caring.

         As students move through the halls, when I hear names called that are derogatory to other groups, I can call attention to it to stop it.  What I can’t do is ignore it!

         WITH ACTIONS-Because of what I know and continue to learn, I can give a book talk to my class that includes books about all kinds of people and all kinds of circumstances.   When we read poetry, I can teach the poetry of various cultures and sexes, both contemporary and historical.  When I give examples from history, I can ensure that my knowledge is broad enough to talk about the history from many perspectives. 
         And finally, I can open discussions about myself with students or teachers in order to raise their levels of understanding of differences: about adoption (my own children and several nieces and nephews are adopted), about persons with physical challenges (I have a niece with Cerebral Palsy and a husband with Parkinson’s), about children with step-parents (I had one), about people who are non-white (I have nieces and nephews who are both different races and non-native Americans). 
         Being an ally means living the minutes of one’s life as one, without fanfare, without excuse.  Will you?

43 comments:

  1. With words...with touch...with action...exactly! I've seen bits and pieces of "Bully" - it was more painful to hear the words of the teachers than the bullies. How can we help our kids if we don't practice kindness ourselves? That's why I love the quote you shared: When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind. I love the emphasis on choice...that's what it's all about, right?

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    1. It is a choice, I agree. And there are those who still choose to be right. I'll never really understand, but I don't like that so much is going on. Those bullying must be hurting in some way too, but those bullied are hurting even more.

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  2. I love your caring call to action, Linda! Imagining yourself as an ally is an empowering POV.

    Isn't Summer (in Wonder) an amazing ally?

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    1. I agree Tabatha. And I just know there are other Summers out there like her!

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  3. Linda,
    You are so inspirational...I never really thought so deeply about how I could be an ally-your personal example of what you experienced in the meeting is definitely a call to action. Because of you, I will be more conscious of situations that call for an ally. Thank you for your post about this topic!

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    1. Thanks Amy. I really do believe that it's important to speak up!

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  4. I like the fact that you give simple, concrete, daily actions. I also like the term "ally". We don't have to march on DC - just be daily ally and model of the kind of behavior that pushes back against bullies.

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    1. Yes indeed, to take action hopefully will show others how to do this. Thanks Maria!

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  5. Great post, Linda. Like Maria, I appreciated the simple daily actions that one can take. In school, I'm good at these things. Outside of school, it's too easy to ignore the bully and move on, mind your own business, although I've been working on it too. THe Buddha quote is a personal favorite, and a great one to live one's life by.

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    1. I thought it was you who wrote about that Buddha quote & I looked, briefly, through your posts, but couldn't find it, so didn't attribute it to you too. I love it too! Thanks Deb. I hope your last day is wonderful!

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  6. Linda, every time I read a post from you I feel inspired to do something. Today I will be sure to make a difference with my actions, words and touch. I will be intentional about it to be sure it happens. Thanks for a great post!

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    1. Thank you Robin. I hope you find ways all day to reach out. I'll be looking too!

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  7. Hi Linda! I'm so glad you wrote this post. Bullying is as huge issue that we all face in one way or another. I like how you wrote the different ways we can help make a difference and be an ally. As a teacher, it's definitely an issue I deal with a lot.
    --jee young

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    1. Thank you for sharing that you see the problem too. I wish there was something we could do to help parents teach their children both not to bully & to take care of themselves.

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  8. Another powerful post. You write so clearly that I can see myself reflected in your words. I have always looked for the person no one talked to or played with on the playground. Kind always wins in my book. Thanks for your words.

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    1. Thanks Elsie. They are there, slipping down the hall and in the corner on the playground. We need those good eyes to ferret them out!

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  9. Thanks for the inspiration here today. I am looking forward to reading SEE YOU AT HARRY'S. I liked how you organized your thinking here and put emphasis on the areas that we can make a difference for others. I am always saddened when I hear people who have truly given up on being an ally or advocate for another person. I heard it today at lunch and said, "it sounds like you don't think there is any hope, that is so sad and there is something wrong with that. We can always do something." I hope my words were heard. Then I read this post and am reminded that others are with me in the fight to stand up for people. Thank you.

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    1. I too hate when someone says they're 'done'. There is always something, even if the student or colleague doesn't acknowledge it, I want my actions to stick in their brains for later, at least. Thanks Betsy!

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  10. The idea of allies kind of goes with my thinking that we need to better equip people not to be victims than to try to eradicate all bullying. It's a touchy and fine line deal sometimes. We want people to stand up for themselves, but if they can't, someone who can needs to do that with them! Great post.

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    1. I agree, as I said in that one part, both things need to happen for sure, Donna. I really believe that both sides have things to work out. Thank you!

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  11. "using our eyes and ears to become attuned..." Your post reminds me to pay attention. So many times I think I/we overlook or ignore those subtle remarks or actions that really can cut deep. So I resolve to pay attention and notice when someone needs an ally. Caring people can make a difference as long as they pay attention.

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    1. I agree, to stay tuned to what is swirling around is important for us to do. Thanks!

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  12. Wow, Linda! I love your list of all the powerful examples of being an ally. Thanks for the reminders of the "little things" we can do that can make a BIG difference!

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    1. You're welcome, Jennifer. I bet if we all sat together & brainstormed, we could add to the list, too! Thanks!

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  13. This is just what I needed to hear today. Choose kindness. The worst bullies are the adult bullies. This behavior, no matter the source, hurts and doesn't help. I love your advice and will be thinking about ways I can apply it daily.
    I am going to make a shameless plug for my new young readers novel, Blessen (found on Amazon). Blessen is a bi-racial child dealing with some difficult situations. Check it out.

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    1. I think you are partially right about the adults, but maybe I also don't get out enough to have interactions with the adults. I try really hard to smile at most everyone-seems to melt them a little bit. I looked your book up Margaret & it looks good. I'll try to get it this summer. It seems as if it might be a great read aloud! Thanks for telling me about it!

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  14. I appreciate how you reflected on how you could be an ally to anyone in your daily life. Being cognizant of the reality that bullies exist outside of our classrooms, affecting both children and adults is a powerful realization. It baffles me that bullying is discussed so frequently, but we often do not follow through on managing a rapidly growing problem in our society.

    I read and reread your slice, and I am happy that I do many of the things you do, but I never really thought that some of my actions could be strategies for combatting bullying.

    Thank you, Linda.

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    1. On one of the videos I watched about bullying, they said that having one person in one's life is sometimes enough to help someone survive, just knowing one person cares. If we pay attention to many students, or people, maybe we can be that one person? I hope so. Thanks for the thoughts Mandy.

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  15. I am going to print this out to reread and to share. It is a topic that demands our attention. And, as you say, there are ways we can help, even though it seems like an overwhelming problem. Words, touch, action- we can make a difference.

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    1. I really do think it will help, one child/one adult at a time. Thank you for carrying it on.

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  16. We've been discussing allies in our Social Studies curriculum. What a great discovery that each of us can be an ally for someone else. Thanks so much for your concrete suggestions. I look forward to sharing this post with my students.

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  17. That is so exciting Ramona. I hope that your students draw some ideas from mine. If they have new ones, please share!

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  18. Your writing is powerful and inspirational. I have found that the choice to be kind rather than right is a difficult idea for some students to understand (and for some adults). May-be if repeated enough it will at some point become loud and memorable enough to alter the reluctant listener's behavior too.
    Weaving in your personal experience and examples made this writing extra strong. It was a speech from a heart, not just big words.

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    1. Thank you Terje. I agree that the choice, after having so many tell us that the great thing to do is to be right, to learn things & to do the right thing, yet there are those shades of grey & it's not always clear about right. But it is clear about kind, at least to me.

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  19. What a thought-provoking post! See You at Harry's is now on my TBR list. Your words made me think that kindness is sort of the antidote to entitlement. It is not an easy concept to teach when families breed ideas to the contrary, but I find that kindness is a natural human quality that can be cultivated more than it can be taught. Loads of inspiration from our ally today! Thanks, Linda!

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    1. It seems that entitlement is something I'm never sure what to do about, but I've been reading and thinking about all the ways to find an antidote, as you said Christy. And kindness is one. I think one has to continue asking, 'if I do this, does it hurt me in any way?' or "what is the kinder approach here?" Thanks!

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  20. I hope the exposure to bullying will help us all learn new ways to talk and act in the world. We've been complacent for so long and I'm feeling hopeful about more people - children and adults - taking action to right wrongs.

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    1. I am hopeful, too, Amelia. I wish everyone would speak up every day they need to.

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  21. Being an ally everyday. Such a beautiful goal for living. Well written!

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  22. This is very profound, Linda. I have been collecting "promising, provocative" articles about bullying - such an insidious issue in our schools, our world - and this blogpost of yours is joining my collection. There was recently an excellent article on the web that I shared with my families "Let’s Build Pro-Hero Schools Instead of Anti-Bully Schools" by Matt Langdon, The Janus Center: Hero Construction Company," which your post reminded me of. [I apologize for not being able to provide a link...I'm not tech savvy.] Basically, when we focus on bullying, we highlight the negative; but, if we think of being "heroes" or "allies", we are going to create a more positive environment, a better world. This I believe! Thank you for this thorough, enlightening, thought-provoking piece!

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    1. Thank you for your comment Maureen & the article reference. I appreciate the response & obviously you see how much I believe in this approach. I will try to Google my way to the article!

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  23. Linda, I love your simple and specific examples, taking us from theory to action. This surely deserved Tabatha's Nota Bene!

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Having a conversation is a good thing!