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What to do?

 

What to do when your child just hurts?

Day after day he’s scared, he’s afraid.

It’s daunting the power a bully exerts.

Should I take a stance and dissuade?

 

Dissuade all those who still believe,

Boys must be boys, there’s nothing amiss.

And girls are so harmless; it’s just so naive.

The adults at school are remiss.

 

Remiss in their task to protect.

Kids are at risk; as parents, we know.

When they don’t intervene, I call that neglect.

A failure of faith we bestow.

 

Bestow on those powers that be,

To ensure they’re safe; they’re in their care.

When we send kids to school, we want an emcee.

A person who’s fair and aware.

 

Aware that children are daunted,

By not knowing to whom they can turn.

We tuck them in bed, their nightmares are haunted.

But next day, to school they return.

 

Return to some kind of torture:

Name-calling, punches, gossip or lies.

He needs a supporter, a rule-enforcer.

Someone to help and advise.

 

To advise the child and me too.

Pleas for assistance fall on deaf ears.

We need some help; how can we know what to do?

Alone we can’t allay his fears.

 

His fears are well founded and real.

His friends are supportive but afraid.

We’re at our wits end as to whom to appeal.

Will anyone come to our aid?

 

Topics for Discussion:

  • To whom should a parent address their concerns? The bully? His parents? The teacher? The principal?
  • How can a parent prepare for this interview?
  • Should the children be present?
  • What realistic and enforceable expectations should the parents request?

 

Classroom Activities:

  • Stage a meeting between the parents of both the bully and the bullied and the principal.
  • Brainstorm how to address the conflict in a way that keeps everyone safe from retribution and opens the way for healing and reconciliation. (Discuss those terms.)
  • Extrapolate what will happen to all the players if nothing is dealt with.

 

Imagine a world

Imagine a world
Where no one is different.
No one is different from you.
If your eyes are brown,
My eyes are brown,
And no one else’s are blue.

Imagine a world
Where we eat the same food.
Everyone eats tofu.
Forget a good steak,
A burger or cake,
We all have to eat soy-stew.

Imagine a world
Where we listen to music.
You and I hear the same song.
Forget the hip-hop,
Or raggae or pop,
It’s Beethoven all day long.

Now into this world,
Where all guys like girls
And all girls are gaga for guys,
Present a gay boy,
And a lesbian too.
It’s a shock and a big surprise.

But…

Imagine a world,
Where people can be,
Unique and the best that they can be.
Where the norms and rules,
Are only for fools,
Conforming is dull as can be.

Imagine a world,
Where he can love him,
And the girl can also love her.
It’s not my business.
Do you really care,
Which sex is anyone’s lover?

Life without choices,
Life without freedom,
Is to live a life as a clone.
To pretend I am you,
And he and she too,
I’d rather live all alone.

We are so lucky,
To live in a place,
And live in an era of choice.
Let’s embrace those gifts,
Avoid all those rifts.
And then we all can rejoice.

Topics for Discussion:

What is a stereotype? How are they perpetuated?
Define a “clone”. What would be the effects and end-results of scientific cloning of humans?
What is conformism and why is it such a strong element of influence during adolescence?
What reactions do sexual-orientations other than hetero-sexual provoke? Why does this occur?

Activities:

Students will research cases of gay-bullying and gay-bully-related suicides and share their findings with the class. ( Of recent note: Jamie Hubley and there are far too many more)
If a student you knew was suffering through gay-bashing what could you do as an individual or a group to help out?
How could schools/families/friends help prevent these tragic events?

Why Me?

I don’t get it.

I just don’t get it.

Why me?

I mind my own business.

I stay out of their business.

Why me?

I’m so insignificant.

They are oh so significant.

Why me?

I don’t hurt a flea.

Yet they cause me to flee.

So why

I want them to stop.

But they never will stop.

So why?

I go ask my Dad.

And he really got mad.

He said:

It’s not about you.

And it’s all about them.

Just be.

It’s they who don’t get it.

But you’ve totally got it.

Just be.

Give them some space.

A chance to save face.

Just be.

Until then be strong.

It is they who are wrong.

Just be.

I tried to stop asking “why me”?

And I tried to simply “just be”.

You know?

On some days I’m strong.

Feel someday I’ll belong.

You know?

On days when that just doesn’t work.

I feel such a pitiful jerk.

You know?

They still do not get it.

But they think that they’ve got it.

You know?

Because I’m intact.

Doing better in fact,

Since rising above all that shit.

Topics for Discussion:

  • Why is it so helpful to enlist the aid of an adult? Did this parent help? What else could he have done?
  • How can you decide who has the problem? Me or him/her? How does this help you deal with the situation?
  • What is a “strong sense of self” and how can that help you navigate social interactions?

Activities:

  • Try imagining the scenario, following the poem and plot your anxiety levels on graph paper.Using a red pencil, crayon or marker, scribble your response to the poem on a long, blank sheet of paper. Try to read a trend from your scribble.
  • Describe a bullying situation and then write a list of adjectives to describe the emotions both the bully and the victim might feel. Do any of the adjectives coincide?

Wear Pink

Today is Nova Scotia’s new official “Stand Up Against Bullying Day”. I congratulate their Department of Education for designating the second Thursday of every school year for this event. What a wonderful way to recognize and remind everyone of the innovative and inspiring actions of two Central Kings Rural High School students last year. On an annual basis, reminding all students, parents and staff that bystanders have a critical and pivotal role to play can truly make a difference. If we could convince bystanders to refrain from contributing to bullying incidents and transform them into advocates for the victimized, we could initiate a shift in perspective.

Like so many other contentious issues, bullying is undergoing a shift in attitudes and tolerance. Whereas many of our parents considered bullying as an unavoidable right of passage to be endured in childhood, this generation of parents is balking at that conclusion. We would not dream of driving a car without our off-spring safely tethered into their boosters or seat-belts. We would not consider ourselves to be responsible parents if we allowed our kids to ride their bikes without helmets. Heaven forbid that we smoke a cigarette (or worse!) within their breathing space. Our parents were blissfully oblivious of these potential dangers and didn’t intervene or modify their behaviour. As we become more informed, our responsibilities multiply.

Addressing bullying requires just such attitudinal shift. It will likely take at least one generation to implement meaningful change. What an opportunity to make a difference!

I have decided to try to make this site more interactive in future. I never wanted to be the only voice. I would really welcome comments and contributions.

I have recently attempted to write a cyber-bullying poem but failed miserably. After passing it by my two teen-aged sons, I was convinced that I was out of my depth. It is a huge issue and one which I feel needs to be addressed.

So, I send out the challenge: Write us a cyber-bullying-poem. Use the lingo. Portray what it feels and sounds like….

    I have recently discovered that some teachers feel uncomfortable teaching poetry. This surprised me and I have been trying to understand why. I feel I have understood some of the stumbling-blocks, but please send me a comment if you feel you could explain this further.

It seems to me (admittedly not a teacher) that poetry is well suited to classroom time restrictions. Poems are generally short. No teacher need be a poet any more than a teacher need be a novelist or a master of the short-story. There is a vast variety of poetry out there, yet the perception of what constitutes poetry is very limited. Personally, I feel that poetry is a very user-friendly medium which adapts itself to a wide selection of teaching and learning styles.

Perhaps it would be useful to experiment with purely enjoyable poetry play before embarking upon a more serious theme such as bullying. Perhaps teachers and students alike might find themselves pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable this medium can be…and how useful. I would like to suggest a few ice-breaker type activities which could potentially lead into a more intense poetry exercice:

  • Fill-in-the-blank type poetry done in pairs. Compose a poem or use a well-known poem. Substitute words with their parts of speech. (nouns, adverbs, adjectives, etc.) Have one partner ask for examples of each part of speech and substitute the other partner’s responses into the poem. Read the poems aloud to the class afterwards. Example: (proper name) and Jill went up the (geographical location) to (verb) a pail of (liquid noun). Jack fell (adjective of direction) and broke his (anatomical part) and (proper name ) came (verb-ing) after. Sample result: Tom Cruise and Jill went up the canyon to splatter a pail of acid rain. Jack fell sideways and broke his funny-bone and Madonna came jogging after. Encourage outrageous responses.

  • Start a traveling poem around the classroom. Establish a rhythm and rhyme pattern and let the students jump in and collaborate as they feel inspired to do so. Write it down as they brainstorm.

  • Use a familiar song, rap-tune, chant, nursery rhyme to start a poem. Let the kids pursue it further to entirely change the outcome. When stalled ask questions of where, why, when, who, etc.

  • Display a series of silhouette drawings of recognizable objects, people or events. Allow the kids to wander around and fill in the empty space with their comments/poetry.

  • Offer a variety of percussion instruments (or have the children make their own) and encourage them to follow your rhythm while you read a poem. They could write their own and accompany it with their instrument afterwards.

  • Assign roles, establish a theme and let groups of two create and enact their own poem.

  • Play a word-association game. Eyes-closed, name a word and have the students free-associate words or thoughts.

  • Always have a magnetic poetry board at their disposition.

  • Use other media to illustrate a chosen poem. (cartoon drawing, musical composition, mime, sign language, puppet show, animation,second language translation…)

After having explored some of these warm-up activities, young minds and teachers alike will perhaps feel primed to explore more threatening issues and use poetry to work through them. That is my hope.

What shall I do about Carla McFee?
The girl is truly getting to me.
All her mocking and taunting.
To face her is daunting.
Tormenting me gives her such glee

At night in my bed,
You know what I do?
I imagine her dead,
And suffering too.

I inflict on her torture.
She’s tied to a stake.
The flames singe and scorch her.
Her insides, they bake.

Or …

I know what to say,
And I use a firm tone.
And lo and behold,
She leaves me alone.

But …

Back at my school,
Our roles are reversed.
I forget all the lines,
That I’ve tried to rehearse.

My mouth goes so dry,
And my heart is aflutter.
Not one of those words,
Do I manage to mutter.

It’s all I can do,
Not to break down and cry,
I stammer, I stutter.
I feel I shall die.

What shall I do about Carla McFee?
I’ll ask my Grampa.
He’s wise as can be
He says …

Although it feels good to dream of her torture,
It really won’t stop her abuse.
You need to put your imagination,
To more constructive use.

The next time Carla starts taunting again,
Protect yourself from the pain.
Imagine you’re wearing a rubber skin.
Her insults bounce off you in vain.

She’d love you to cry.
Or to show a reaction.
She mustn’t be given,
That grim satisfaction.

Just hold you head high,
And show no dismay.
Look her straight in the eye.
And walk calmly away.

So …

The next day, Carla was at it again;
She ridiculed how I was dressed.
I imagined I put on my rubber skin,
And I managed to feel less stressed.

I kept my cool and looked at her calmly,
As if not a thing was amiss.
I walked away and said to her simply.
“I haven’t got time for this”

It took a few weeks until Carla got bored,
Of seeing me so unperturbed.
Her mocking and jeering I simply ignored.
I managed to seem undisturbed.

The memories continue to haunt me,
That I cannot deny.
So then I go to see Grampa,
I have a little cry.

If you should meet a Carla McFee,
Remember Grampa’s advice.
I don’t know why it has to be.
Why can’t we all be nice?

by Andrea Wilson

Topics For Discussion:

  • Is the desire for revenge healthy? What could be the results?
  • How does anxiety manifest itself? What can provide relief?
  • It is important to seek advice and assistance from adults. Why?
  • Define coping mechanisms. Explore ones which are effective and appropriate. Which aren’t?
  • It is possible to defuse a bully. What can happened when a bully doesn’t get a reaction? What attitudes (verbal and non-verbal) might suggest to a bully that a victim isn’t reacting? What is the bully likely to do? Has he/she learned anything?
  • When is it not advisable to cry, and when is it safe to do so?

Classroom Activities:

  • In groups of three, re-enact the story.
  • Draw illustrations for the poem.
  • Practice adopting a nonchalant attitude and using phrases intended to defuse (and not provoke) a bully.
  • Expand upon the story. Adopting the role of the Grand-Father, brainstorm a list of other advice and coping mechanisms.

Cause and Effect

[first draft, needs work]

In the middle of the hall stands Big Bruce Halliday.
Looking very handsome as he swaggers to and fro.
Teachers all admire his charming personality.
They don’t see he’s putting on a show.

But it’s after school he wields his cool authority.
Intimidating, threatening until he gets his way.
That’s how Bruce maintains superiority.
Not a sole would dare to disobey.

Now meet Fran Wright, she’s as mean as she is cunning.
Just be careful not to anger her or make her jealous.
Next thing you will notice, she’ll be gossiping and shunning.
A schemer, she is cruel and overzealous.

Somehow grown-ups don’t notice her manipulate.
They don’t hear her insults or her taunts.
One small thing I would really like to stipulate:
This is precisely what she wants.

And then there’s Crystal Bergman. She is cool and so collected.
One wouldn’t think she knew what feelings were.
Oftentimes her actions go completely undetected.
But hurting other girls is kicks for her.

Why is it that grown-ups do not notice she’s malicious?
Why can’t they see the wounds, the scars, the tears?
Crystal’s very careful to be oh, so surreptitious.
The girl is so much more than she appears.

Take a look at that. There’s Old Bruce Senior.
Did you see him raise his fist and start to shout?
“No kid of mine cries! What’s this behavior?
You want a bruise to really cry about?”

Around the corner storms mean Mrs. Wright.
She’s yelling at her daughter. Fran is sucking on her thumb.
“Can’t you do a single thing right?
How could you be so dumb?”

Young Miss Bergman was once a happy girl.
Who knows what happened to Crystal?
One day her life just started to unfurl.
Eventually it ended with a pistol.

by Andrea Wilson

Topics for Discussion:

  • There are many types of bullies. Some are confident bullies with big egos and violent tendencies. Other are cold and heartless bullies who appear insensitive and vicious. Still other are social bullies who love to taunt and spread rumors and gossip. A bullied bully is himself a target and seeks relief from feelings of powerlessness by lashing out at weaker individuals. A hyperactive bully struggles socially and reacts aggressively to any provocation. How would you describe the three bullies in the poem?
  • A person isn’t born a bully. What factors can contribute to the development of bullying tendencies?
  • What is empathy? How can empathy help?

Classroom Activities:

  • In small groups, research news reports of some of the more tragic incidents of bullying. (For example: Columbine High School, Littleton Colorado, 1999; Reena Virk, Victoria, BC, 1997; Hamed Nastih, Surrey, BC, 2000; Dawn Marie Wesley, Mission, BC, 2000; Emmet Fralick, Halifax, NS, 2002)
  • As a class, discuss how bullying can result in retaliatory homicide and suicide. What could be done to avoid such tragic outcomes? Brainstorm a mission statement for you class to help address this issue.
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