Bullying is not something that is new or groundbreaking, but it is a more prominent topic of conversation today. We often hear that bullies are pushing other children to their breaking points and beyond. When I hear these stories, they have a special meaning to me, because I was a victim of bullying myself for years, and it was the most difficult time of my life. I wasn’t the best at anything, I didn’t live in the same development as everyone else, I moved to the area in the middle of elementary school, I was short, and had a big mouth. I had a lot of things working against me and what made it worse was my lack of friends. It took many years of torment from a few individuals until I was able to break free and become confident enough to get out from under their control.
When I was bullied, it was a mixture of physical and verbal abuse that was continuous at school. I was able to find ways of staying out of sight in order to avoid being made fun of. While these tactics worked for me to make it through a school day, children today aren’t nearly as lucky. Not only are they tormented while at school face to face with their assailants, but then they go home and get online to receive even more abuse. The world of social media has spawned a new wave of ways for bullies to attack their victims and create a relentless attack. The blessing of instant access to each other online has become a double edged sword that creates an attack pit for bullies to attack on a round the clock basis.
If bullies have so many opportunities and avenues to torment, how are we supposed to stop them? Well, a Tulsa public school has done just that, and created a way to anonymously report and describe bullying and where and how it is taking place. This will hopefully allow students to feel comfortable enough to speak up and tell someone, and have the people listening make a difference. Students often feel like they are unable to say anything about bullying, because they don’t know where they can turn in order to find help.
There are ways of dealing with bullying, that aren’t the confrontational and classic “fight back”, because violence rarely solves violence. You can confront the bullying in much the same ways as ju jitsu, and use their force and power and use it against them. We can teach our students to take away the power from the bullies by teaching confidence. But we can’t stop with teaching it, we must help to build it, through creating active relationships and teaching them to not allow the insults to carry weight. While this is easier said than done, it is possible, because I am living breathing proof.
The power of a confiding word is much more powerful than one might expect. Being accessible is the first step that we can take as a teacher to help support our students. We also need to let our students know that there is more to life than school and that there is something to look forward to. Many large companies have stepped forward to pass on the message of “it gets better”. This is a message to help young people who are struggling with their sexuality and the challenges that come with it, and it lets them know that people care and things are only going to go up. This message is vitally important because students need hope and to know that just because things are bad now, it doesn’t mean that this is how things are always going to be. We also need to play an active role in ensuring that we do not allow any form of bullying to take place in or outside of our classroom if we can. I know that from my own experiences growing up, that I will be doing whatever it takes to stop bullying to the best of my abilities.