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Bullying Among Female Elementary Students, What Really Goes On-Part 1
A Teacher's Perspective on Bullying
Many articles, blogs, studies and stories have been devoted to the topic of bullying. It is so prevalent in almost any country. Alarm bells have been sounded on the potential and actual hazards of bullying. I will discuss it in the context of the public school system and according to my experiences as a teacher. It is not actually a professional or an expert discussion since I am neither a guidance counselor nor a psychologist who deals deeper with the behavior of the bullies and the ones being bullied. What I am going to present are observations and informal survey using a questionnaire. I particularly focused on the girls. I also interviewed my co-teachers who are experiencing student bullying in their class. I got alarmed by the rising number of pupils and students who are committing suicide because they can no longer cope with the bullies. I have read and viewed many stories of innocent children who can’t seem to get out of the clutches of bullies. What is so distressing is that bullying seems to be getting out of hand in some places. Children tend to be more sensitive and vulnerable to bullies owing to their mental and emotional immaturity. Most of them are helpless and they don’t know how to survive least of all ward off these bullies. Another unforgivable circumstance is when the bullies inflict so much physical force on their victims that the latter either die or become incapacitated. Of course, these are extreme cases.
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What Really Goes On When Girls Bully or Get Bullied
Bullying is one of the problems, we teachers face year in and year out. In fact, the school is the main battleground of bullies. And it is usually the breeding place of different bullying behavior. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that schools cause the bullies to be what they are. It is a part of society where different individuals who come from different economic and social backgrounds converge and interact in one way or another through the culture of learning. So it is natural that these differences present a somewhat problematic situation if the children don’t learn the value of respect to others their age.
Studies have shown that bullying among girls is as common as with that of the boys, although in a more subtle form. There are also physical forces involved but teasing and calling names is more common among the females. Scorn and ridicule are what the victims usually suffer from. We, teachers, are the primary witnesses to the suffering of the victims and the aggressiveness of the bullies.
In order to encourage the students to reveal as much as they can, I asked the female students to fill out a questionnaire which consists of pertinent questions about their bullying experiences. I randomly selected female students from grades 4, 5 and 6 levels. The following are the information I gathered from the survey. Let me clarify first that bullying may range from teasing, extortion and inflicting physical injuries. The survey is limited to the students where I teach.
Question 1: Does anyone bully you?
Answer: 88 out of the 117 female students/respondents or 75% answered that they are being bullied while 25% or 29 out of 117 answered nobody bullies them. This is clearly indicative of the fact that bullying among girls is very prevalent. Majority of them are victims, a very distressing figure. However, I would like to reiterate that this survey was done only in a public school where I teach. It may not be true to some schools, public or private, but it will provide you with an idea of how widespread it is. And it’s quite sad to know that the school which is supposed to be a peaceful learning ground for students can be a source of stress and fear for those who are being bullied. I, for one, never for one moment suspected that the majority of my students experience this undesirable treatment from their own classmates who are supposed to be more of brothers or sisters to them. We, including the parents, think that since children spend more of their waking hours in the school and in the company of other children their age, assume that they will develop a certain bond.
Question 2: Who bullies you?
Answer: Among the girls being bullied, 40% of them say that boys are their tormentors. Girls as bullies are at a high of 58%. The remaining 2% say that both boys and girls bully them. For a parent, it is quite disheartening if they realize that a boy bullies his/her beloved daughter. We all know and consider that boys can hurt more forcefully than girls.
It is no surprise that the same sex bullies the girls. It may be due to some reasons but this random survey proves that the story of “Mean Girls” is a fact.
The most depressing and alarming to know is that there are female students who experience shabby treatments from both of the sexes. They are more helpless because taunting can be more severe and frequent since it comes from both sides.
Question 3: How do they bully you?
I classified their responses into verbal bullying and physical bullying. Victims say that they experience being boxed, pushed, hit, pinched and had objects like mud or a chair thrown at them. A certain student answered she experienced being beaten black and blue. I can imagine the horror of some parents if they know that any of these may have been suffered by their daughters. The most common form of bullying among girls when talking about physical bullying is hitting and boxing the victim.
Verbal abuses are more widespread. The victims are threatened, taunted, accused, ridiculed, called names, provoked, had their money or belonging extorted. They also experience having the bullies say nasty things not only about them but also about their parents.
Most research about female bullying show that verbal abuses are the more common tactics that are inflicted among the girls. This is proven by my survey result which shows that 83% are abused verbally while 17% experience physical bullying.
Question 4: What particular name/names do they call you?
For us adults, the name children call on other children may seem petty and negligible but for the victims of bullying they are enough to spoil their day. Consider the answers of the girls:
My tormentor name-calls me as:
13. big nose
14. big eyes
19. yucky skin
21 .long chin
24. coconut shell
25. walking stick
If you will analyze, the names called on the victims stem from the deviation in physical characteristics of the latter. This goes to prove that being physically different is one of the surefire ways for a student to be the object of scorn and ridicule. Those who are too short, too flat/too thin or any other deviance from the physical norm will more often than not be tormented by these bullies. Cruel, isn’t it? It is not the fault of a child if he/she is born with a physical defect or deficiency.
Question 5: Do you fight back when you are being bullied?
Answer: 44% say that they fight back while 56% say they don’t. Again, this is quite alarming because more than half of the bullying victims suffer in silence.
Question 6: How do you retaliate?
Among those who get even, the things they do are:
a. getting even through name-calling
b. pulling the hair of the bully
c. hitting the bully
d. throwing stones at my tormentor
e. kicking him/her
f. boxing him/her
g. telling the teacher
Only 2 of the victims tell their teacher that they are being bullied. Considering the authority of the teacher in the classroom, it seems that majority of them think that their teacher will not be able to make the bullies stop.
Question 7: Do you think you are better than the one who bullies you?
Answer: 51% of the victims feel that the bullies are better than them, 23% are undecided and 26% say that they are.
From these answers of the female students, we can see that more than half of the bullying victims have no high regard of themselves. They may be so insecure of the bullies that they let themselves be victimized repeatedly. Or that they may be powerless enough to fight back since they perceive their tormentors as stronger than they are.
For those who feel that they are better than their bullies and for those who are undecided, they stand a better chance of coping because they have more positive views of themselves. If properly encouraged and given a chance to prove themselves, these girl victims can rise up and overcome the effects of bullying.