I had the pleasure of attending a conference on RTI this summer…(no surprise for those of you reading earlier posts)… One of statements made by the keynote speaker made me think…and think…and think…and blog.
The keynote speaker was Randy Sprick and he was definitely intriguing. One of the statements he said was “30% of High School students don’t feel safe using the bathroom” (to which I immediately thought – whew! Glad I live in a rural area)…and then he said “even in rural areas.” WHAT?
He said it again…”even in rural areas, 30% of the high school student body does not feel safe in the bathroom.” The BATHROOM!?! What kind of world does he live in that kids don’t feel safe in the bathroom? Do kids get mugged in the bathroom? Are there that many guns and knives in school?
I remembered being in junior high and high school and carefully timing when I walked down the hall…or into the bathroom..or out to the bus. Not that I was afraid I would get mugged or shot or anything like that. But I was afraid of getting ridiculed and teased. I definitely did not feel “safe” at school and there were no adults I felt I could talk with about the situation.
The ASHA Leader had this post about teasing and bullying. Bullying takes many forms and has many targets. Many of the articles at ASHA.Com (and there are a lot of them) deal with bullying students who stutter and English language learners and if we think back to what we saw at school as kids (or watch current TV – the most recent GLEE episode is a great example), it’s the people who are viewed as different that are targeted.
Different doesn’t mean just the obese, those with glasses, those who stutter, or those who obvious differences. Sometimes it’s those kids who don’t have the impulse control to stop the blurting…or those who are able to run and play, but don’t have the oral motor skills necessary to talk clearly…the students who gets grades that are different (higher or lower) than most of their classmates, or those who don’t have a grasp on the finer nuances of language and just don’t understand the jokes that everyone thinks are so funny. You know the ones…they laugh just a shade late and a bit too loud as a way to cover up that they don’t get it the joke.
In today’s world of smart-phones, tablets, and social media it becomes even more important to be aware of what form bullying takes. Sometimes it’s not the obvious…sometimes it’s little things that create the most harm. The nasty comment on a facebook page, the picture that was posted with the mean comment, the subtle “if you are her friend – you can’t be mine” that is rampant from kindergarten on up.
As speech-language pathologists…educators…heck, decent human beings, we have the obligation to stop bullying when we see it. Not just the obvious bullying – but the subtle covert bullying that happens. We can do this by educating our students about differences…by showing compassion to those who need it…and allowing our own walls to come down.
Erik Raj’s “Ice Cream Monsters” app is a story that talks about differences. This story was one that I had planned on reading to some of my students because I saw they weren’t including one of their peers. He was…different. Unfortunately, he moved before I was able to get into to the classroom and read it, and talk about how even though he was different – he had some great things going on, and that he still had feelings the same as they did…he just couldn’t express those feelings appropriately.
The kids weren’t outright “bullying” in the classic sense…but they were ostracizing him. They didn’t include him…they didn’t want to have him play with their toys. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t blame the kids…I think they learned it from the adults around them. I refuse to believe that little kids have that prejudice built into them. I wish that I had made time to read the book…and I may go ahead and read it to them for the next kid who is just a little bit different. I don’t think I did enough for this child, and that’s not a good feeling. I failed him…and by default I’ve failed them. It’s not to late to help them become aware…but it may be too late for him. I may have been the only one who was willing to reach out to make a difference. Hopefully there will be someone who reaches out and helps him in his new school…and I hope he can grow up to make a difference in their life as much as they make in his.
I don’t like Randy Spreck’s statistics.
I don’t like the idea that 30% of the kids in my school are afraid to do something as routine as go to the bathroom. No one should feel like that. I think it’s our moral responsibility to help our students learn to accept the differences they will face in the world. We teach children respect for adults, adherence to school rules, how to walk in the lunch line nicely… is it possible for us to teach them to accept that someone may not look like, dress like, or act like they do…but still be thinking, feeling, human beings?
What do you do to help? How do you make a difference in a student’s life? How do you teach acceptance? Please let me know…I’ll be looking for things to help my school. After all, if I’m not an active part of the solution – I am… by default a part of the problem.
Until then…Adventure on!