Bullies Play A Good Game, But They Will Be Caught
When I first got into teaching, it was because I loved English and I wanted to share that with kids. I thought it would be cool, and it very definitely tapped into my love of writing, which I continue to do to this day.
Now, thanks to various experiences that I've had and the life I've lived, I realized that there's more to teaching than just knowing what you're teaching. While the curriculum is very important, that's not what teaching is about. It's about our end users - the students - and we ultimately have to remember that we are teaching students and not just the knowledge from the government-sanctioned curriculum.
These are individuals who come to the table with a variety of things going on during any given day. They might have parents who are split up, they might be working on physical or mental health issues, they might come from backgrounds that no one could ever dream of coming from. These are kids who may view school as the one safe haven they've got.
Sometimes, though, things go the other way. There are kids who deal with horrible issues in their lives and lash out at anyone who comes near. They are so desperate for any attention that being heard or seen means they have to engage in negative behaviors like bullying.
While I sympathize with kids like these, there is no excuse for targeting and making others feel small because of terrible things happening. It's all too easy to lash out, to make others feel small and to be mean because you're hurting on the inside.
Kids are often encouraged to give these kids who are bullies chances to reform. There are those that say that it could be that opportunity to demonstrate improved behavior that could turn a bully's life around, but for those who have been victims of bullies, what happens to them?
Why are their feelings almost completely dismissed?
How many people have to come forward and say "this is a problem" before it's realized there's only so many chances for improvement a bully deserves?
I'm generally one to say that sometimes, things are misconstrued and messages can be misread and misheard. However, there's a huge difference between simple miscommunication and ongoing problems.
When kids feel like their complaints about a bully aren't heard, they lose faith in the system. They start to believe that maybe the people they're supposed to trust to make things right aren't doing what they should do. Their faith in the system, and in the people who run the system, becomes so shaky that it's hard to spark confidence and inspiration to continue beyond just going through the motions of education.
How many chances should a bully deserve to reform their behavior?
Bullies Aren't So Overt, But Should They Be Believed Over The Victim?
Stop Making Excuses
I know it's been said plenty of times before, but the scars and bruises that a bully leaves behind last a lifetime or several. The physical body heals, but the psyche of the person can be damaged for a lifetime, leading to feelings of worthlessness, a lack of enthusiasm, and a reluctance to engage in relationships, or even healthy relationships.
Viewed from an objective standpoint, there's a certain understanding that you could have of a bully's behavior, especially if you know that the bully has had a troubled background. "Someone hurt me, so I'm going to hurt someone," would probably be how you could boil down the thought process to its simplest form.
But that doesn't make it right. It doesn't matter, not really, what's happening at the bully's house; their behavior is affecting how others feel and safety should be paramount regardless of whether the person is being bullied at school or at work. It shouldn't be about making the victim understand what could be causing the bully's behavior, because quite honestly, the victim will feel as though the bully is being sided with, and that's unfair. How is the bully supposed to learn their behavior is wrong if their behavior is endlessly excused?
The bottom line is, the bully won't learn. If the parent refuses to deal with their child's behavior, the child will think that they have gotten away with behaving the way they are, and the victim will feel as though they weren't taken seriously. If the teacher or administrator tries to explain it or justify it, the child will feel as though they can continue to conduct themselves in the same manner.
If several people are coming to someone in charge with concerns about the same person, those issues do need to be taken seriously, and while both sides of the story do need to be listened to, the bully should not be made to feel as though he or she is somehow sided with. The bully needs to understand that their behavior is unacceptable and that it is serious with serious impact on the victims.
We're told that bullying is a cycle, but it doesn't have to be. Excusing the bully's behavior perpetuates that cycle, so why continue to do it?