Friday, September 21, 2012
Who cares about the bully?
I had a very interesting conversation just now with a woman who's son is the class bully. Well, that would be the insensitive-bird-eye way to phrase things. What should be said is that the boy exhibits aggressive behavior at school. What isn't being addressed by the teachers is why, or how he feels inside those walls. In fact, he feels unsafe. He is bullied often, and has been since early elementary. He has been threatened on many occasions by other students. The boy has a small run of social inconsistencies which prevent him from behaving properly. At this point, he has been quarantined (no really); told to walk only in certain hallways, not allowed to speak with other students; forced out of the places at school where he feels safe, where his only friends are. But this boy is big and tall, and with those social difficulties, is an easy hiding place for the quiet fighter.
While I don't wish to excuse aggressive behavior (not acceptable), I do hope there are teachers willing to look at the reasons for the behavior and how to best address those reasons, instead of slapping "zero tolerance" band-aids on every aggressive kid. At which point will this boy earn the respect of appropriate teaching? Rather than dismissing the problem by way of avoidance, which is not productive at all, I wonder if the teachers would, instead, deal with the problem, and in so doing: teach.
I remember boys like him, both in elementary and high school. Large in stature and in voice, bumbling through social cues where others their age skated gracefully. Yes, they bullied others. But what most people failed to notice is that these boys were bullied too; often first. I was in grade 6 when Sean, the socially awkward "loser", pulled my ponytail so hard I actually saw black spots and felt dizzy; I heard my neck crack. Oh, didn't I mention? I made fun of him immediately prior (quietly, of course). It's not a proud moment, but one that should be looked at. In that situation, I was the instigator; Sean simply lacked the ability to deal with rude people appropriately and lashed out.
While I understand this new move for "zero tolerance" bullying, I have to ask: when will we take a closer look at the reasons, and not just the reactions, of those who bully? I want my children to grown up with empathy and understanding, even for those who are mean to them. If my child is the aggressor, I want that child to constantly meet people who will set boundaries for him, so he has to learn. Hiding these kids and cutting them out of society will not teach them anything good. I am much better off for having to deal with those who picked on me, than I would be if they had been plucked from my view early on. I had to stand up for myself. This is good for kids.
Perhaps I should reiterate: I was bullied in school, and I get it. I get how much it hurts, and I can't even imagine how much it would hurt to watch your child go through it, and of course there are cases where reconciliation would not work. But what if we made education and growth and relationship the first goals, and put alienation as a last resort? No child should be disregarded; even those who bully.