A teacher in New York gave each of her students a new, clean sheet of paper. She then told the class to crumple the paper, toss it around, stand on it, yell at it. Then she had them take the paper and smooth out on their desks, make it as flat and perfect as they could and tell the paper they were sorry. The teacher held up one of the papers. She said that if that piece of paper had been a person, and you had done all of the things you did to the paper, bullied them into feeling less than perfect, these are the scars you would leave behind. No matter how many times you said you were sorry the ‘scars’ would always be there.
That story really resonated with me. I have been teaching for 32 years and I have seen my share of bullying, but this was a way for the kids to SEE what happens regardless if it is words or actions. You can apologize a million times, but it will never change what was done, it’s permanent. It certainly gets the point across. Is it a magic cure for bullying? Of course not but maybe one or two people might think of that activity next time they want to say something cruel to someone else.
I absolutely cannot tolerate one ounce of bullying. As a parent it was never allowed in my home and as a teacher it is never allowed in my classroom. It is my ‘nuclear red button’. I am a very happy, non-yelling kind of teacher, but if I see any form of bullying there are swift repercussions. My students know it is at the top of the list of our classroom rules, Treat Each Other With Respect, which means no bullying.
I teach in an elementary school that has various classrooms for students with many special needs. I have found that regular ed students who are involved with special needs students on a daily basis tend to not single them out for bullying. I actually witness the opposite and see bonds of caring and friendship forming. Of course this by no means says that bullying doesn’t exist, we know it does.
We used to think of bullying as the pushing around on the playground, give me your lunch money kind of actions. Today there is so much more involved. There are actually 5 different kinds of bullying usually found in schools and everyone can be a victim. Physical, Emotional, Social, Verbal and Cyber bullying are all things we need to be vigilant in looking for. Some kinds are easier to detect than others, all make lasting scars.
Certainly children with special needs may seem the easiest targets. Perhaps the bullies think they won’t tell, or are too ‘stupid’ to figure it out, or crave the attention so much that they accept the negative attention just so they feel like they are a part of something. Sadly bullies have a way of honing in on which peers are the most vulnerable. I watched the show , Parenthood, the other evening. In the show the family has an Autistic/Asbergers son. He wants to run for class president and got the 25 signatures he needed. When his mom looked at the signatures she saw that most of them were extremely vile names that were made up by mean students (ie. I. M. Retarded). That would crush every parent, but they decided to let him run because they can’t always protect him from life.
Sometimes as much as we want to protect our children, we can’t. We CAN be there to support them and guide them through these battles.
We know bullies exist and they will forever. As long as people need to feel good about themselves at the expense of others it will go on. As long as people don’t speak up, it will go on. Many children model what they see in their homes, set a good example. If I had a solution to the bully problem I would be a gazillionaire, but I won’t give up in helping to shape the future generations because I refuse to let the bullies win. Crumpled paper =Crumpled souls, the hurt remains forever. Let’s be aware of what is going on, speak up for others, set a good example. Surround yourself with positive influences; they are the best shield against hate and unkind acts.