Tuesday, January 21, 2020

20 Conversations for 2020 Conversation #2 -- Bullying

Conversation #2: In what ways are we assuming students know how to handle bullying, and in what ways are those assumptions dangerous?

One assumption we definitely make is that handling a bullying problem is easy for a kid, it isn't.  In fact, it isn't easy for adults. Growing up I was on both ends of the bullying situation and it is not easy to handle. I remember not wanting to go to school, because I knew that the whole day would be filled with torment. Being a witness to bullying isn't easy either, especially if you have been bullied yourself. You feel bad for the person being bullied, but relieved that it isn't you. There are feelings of guilt and shame because you know you should help the person being bullied, but you don't want draw attention to yourself and become the direct victim again. To this day I still feel guilt for not helping one of my friends when he was being bullied in fourth grade. I'm 48 years old and this is still harming me. Thinking that dealing with bullying is easy is a horrible assumption and believing that bullying doesn't cause long-term trauma is another terrible assumption.

And what is the danger in making these assumptions? Kids get hurt -- that is the danger. The insidious pain of damage that can't necessarily be seen, but most definitely is felt. Lingering shame and guilt. Horrible self loathing. I can still remember thinking that being dead would be much better than going to school each day and dealing with the bullying. And when I wasn't the direct target, I was happy for me, but sad for the other people being tortured. I had empathy for their suffering, but not enough to stand up against the bullies and take the risk of being the target again. The guilt caused by being a bystander is something I still feel. The danger is real; the damage is real.

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