0039: Bullying, Helplessness, and a Cycle of Crushing Pain
Teaching, being a humanist profession if attended to correctly, puts you in direct and often harsh contact with the gamut of human emotions. It can get a little heavy. Kids, teachers, people are up and down. There are moments that are wonderful and rich, and others that scrape the edges of darkness. There is no moment more painful and confusing than watching someone wretch and cry over something that is so out of their control. Bullying is a bad word and a buzz word. It’s easy to become numb to it. We sit through professional developments about the subject, most of them vaguely tell us that bullying is bad, and then they spout of some suicide statistics. We are to “deal with bullies”, but how? They bully, we talk to them. We send them to the office. They get suspended, punished, or let go. They enter the cogs of punitive discipline while keeping up with their chronic victimization of others. We punish the bullies without dealing with the genesis of their behavior. And, then the group-think. A kid sparks a fire and the next thing you know you have a class of kids or an entire school against one person, or so it seems.
Finally, the victim. Today the victim has a clear and tearful face. She’s been harassed since she got to this school about being “poor”. The majority of the kids here receive free lunch. The school is a Title I school. The area is poor. But, there’s that one kid who stands out. They don’t have the nice clothes and the shoes. The family has other pressing priorities. She’s had enough. One comment about her shoes resulted in a desperate scream of “leave me alone” and out the door to violently breakdown on the sidewalk. The class laughed, and she was alone. I walked out behind her and listened through mumbles and tears— about lost it myself. I was helpless except to listen to her and share with her my delight in who she is. But, that does not change the fact that she feels entirely alone. She says she has no one except her mom. She was the victim of the day on the wheel of outcasts that are defined in classrooms. I’m baffled today. I’m baffled every time it has happened to anyone.
What to do? Listen?