The Victim

The other day I had the opportunity to speak with a student who was heading back to school as so many children are or will be soon. This particular student, a young man, was not too keen on going back to school. I asked him why and he just said he hated school and didn’t want to go. Knowing this student fairly well, and even knowing a great deal about his school, I was a little taken back by this. Here was a good kid who I thought had a great previous school year, who was now nearly petrified of going back to school. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why. Personally, I just wrote this off to the unease that often accompanies a new school year. I even went as far as to talk to his mother about the situation and she was just as baffled as I was.

As any good parents would do, this young man’s parents encouraged him and slightly “forced” him on the bus that first day of school. Knowing both of them well, I knew the anxiety they felt and uncertainty of how his day would go. At the end of the day, he got off the bus, came home and appeared to be in good spirits. When he was asked about his day, he simply replied that it was good and that he wanted to go back the next day.

Being the inquisitive person that I am, I was curious as to what could have happened on the first day of school that could flip his seemingly strong feelings so quickly. Once I had a chance to sit down with him, I asked him how his first day was. He replied that it was good as he had told his mother. I then followed it up with the question, why? Why was school good for him? He looked at me and said, “Pat is not there anymore.”

Now, Pat is a fictional name because I don’t want to embarrass or put down a real student. However, he said that his day was good because this student was no longer in his class. This again heightened my curiosity so I asked him what he meant by that statement. He went on to explain how this particular student would push and hit him all of last year. Now that this student was no longer in his class, he was confident school would be “good”. This young man was a victim of bullying. As someone who knows this student well, I was shocked that he was apparently being picked on and nobody was aware of it. Trust me when I say his parents had no clue. As any good teacher would do, I then asked this young man if he told his teacher or another adult in his school. He replied nope and then went back to coloring.

The story above is real and actually happened to me as I described it. The students involved will remain nameless as that is not the intent of why I share this story. We have many students in our schools and classrooms that are harassed or mistreated in some way and will never speak up for themselves. Instead they harbor this fear where it manifests as it did in this young man to a point of him not wanting to go to school. Now, I know this student as well as his teachers. They would be the first to address this type of issue but clearly they were not aware of it.

It is this type of story that reminds me to be ever so aware of the quiet and meek students in our classrooms…or even the loud ones that you suspect are hiding pain. While many kids will share their life stories with you at the drop of a hat, many will never step up and advocate for themselves. Sadly, we have seen the pain caused by adults on children who were incapable of speaking up for themselves. We have to see the real pain that is also being caused by other kids. Be mindful of the victims and go out of your way to create those relationships that allow students to feel comfortable reaching out to you and advocating for themselves. Not all victims are obvious and not all victims will stand up for themselves. 


Bill Ferriter said...

Good bit, Stump....

What it's got me thinking about is the other kids in your victim's class.

Surely SOME of them knew that Pat was a bully -- and that your victim was the target.

That's the dynamic that I want to see changed in my middle school -- I want my kids to start standing up for each other.

My message to them is when you see bullying happening, you have to do SOMETHING -- stand up to the bully if you have the confidence. If not, reach out to the victim and give him/her a place to belong. Invite them to join your social group. And most importantly, let an adult know.

Ending bullying isn't just a matter of teachers being more aware or victims being more vocal -- it's a matter of a group of students deciding to make THEIR learning space a safe space for everyone.

It's not a perfect approach -- I've still got bullying going on in my classes -- but it's made my kids realize that if they stand on the sidelines and ignore what everyone knows is going on, they're a part of the problem too.

Enjoyed thinking with you this morning.

Rock on,

Mike LaDew said...

Josh, The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has implemented a policy aimed at terrorism called "If You See Something, Say Something". Perhaps this same policy can be implemented towards bullying.

Melinda said...

I agree that it is important to be cognizant of students who may be victims. Students who are quiet and shy as well as loud students who hide their pain, are often overlooked and many times do not advocate for themselves. My children are both very shy and have a hard time advocating for themselves. I try my best to encourage them to be self-advocates. Think of the number of students we could help if teachers work along with parents to be on the look-out for victims who are not advocating for themselves and reach out to those who need help.

Kristen said...

I am very happy to hear that this student is no longer being bullied. It is very unfortunate that the child had to go through that experience. Does your school provide any trainings or lessons on bullying? There are great video clips located at on bullying. In the district in which I am employed, the students watch this video clip, discuss bullying during a character counts activity, during health class, and complete a personal internet survey about it. It is important for all of the students to be aware of what Bullying means and what it can do to a person. Some students may not understand what it is and or the horrible outcomes that can result from it. There are several current event articles available pertaining to bullying at Students can learn from them as well. Teachers should also be aware of proper procedures to omit bullying at all times. This is where training or discussing via e-mail different strategies and precautions may be helpful.

denice K said...

Students like one discussed in this story are just too real. Not to disregard the child you mention, but it seems schools and families are not doing enough to fight against bullying in my opinion. The number of students increase in a higher grades and it's harder to protect because the number of students increase in the classrooms. Since professional educators are the people that spend the majority of the day with students we often feel responsible and should also be more mindful in the process of what actions are taking place. If the student in this story was not looking forward to school others should have picked up on it like friends or family and questined what the problem was regarding him not wanting to go to school. This is where people all need to be more involved. It seems students and others are afraid that they will be considered a snitch or get in trouble for speaking up. Doesn’t your school have an anti- bullying program? Don't teachers feel responsible and the weight of the issue on their shoulders? It seems that kids today have little or no accountability for their actions by parents and sometimes administration. I truly if behavior was held to a higher standard as when I was younger, there would be less bullying and even disruptions at school. Making sure that there are consequences to actions need to become more of a reality in school and not a free for all in some schools.

Anonymous said...

Bullying is definitely a serious issue in today’s society. What puzzles me is that schools do not have support systems in place to deal with these situations. At our school, we have an assembly each year called “Rachel’s Challenge”. This assembly talks about how the deaths at Columbine High School were a result of two students who were bullied, getting even with the people who bullied them. This assembly is presented by Rachel’s uncle and is very empowering. After the assembly, our students are asked to sign a banner in the cafeteria which states they will not bully other students. In additional, several students have formed a group that meets after to school to talk about the issues of bullying and not being positive role models. Our school also has a bullying hotline and e-mail that is listed on the back of the student agenda books that are given out at the beginning of school each year.
Today’s students are mean. We as teachers need to be doing everything in our power not only to educate our students but also to keep them safe!