Sunday, June 24, 2012

sticks and stones

By now, most of you have probably heard the story about Karen, the bus monitor. I was a little late catching the video of it (I'll blame my busy week), but I finally watched a portion of it yesterday afternoon. It's over ten minutes long, and I had to turn it off before I even reached the two-minute mark. My mouth hung open the entire time I watched. I couldn't believe what these middle schoolers - KIDS - were spouting off at this poor woman.

Some of the boys and their parents have already issued apologies to Karen, but the story has already gone viral and it's brought attention to an area of bullying that is often overlooked: the bullying of school professionals by children.

Several members of my family are teachers or work within the public school systems around the country. Over the years, the stories they've shared about common pre-teen behavioral problems have turned from silly to violent. Incidents of teachers and other school personnel receiving threats by students, both physical and verbal, never make it past the front office and certainly not to the front page of CNN. The child is often given a slap on the wrist, and then is placed right back in the classroom or other arena where the bullying took place. School administration chalks it up to "that age" while the parents of these children laugh, sometimes to the faces of those bullied.

I think about when I was in middle school, which isn't that long ago. And I think about what would have happened had I said some of the things those boys said in that video, or if I had threatened one of my teachers or administrators. I probably would have been suspended from school, to start. But my punishment at home would have been far more severe. I was raised with the philosophy that you should treat others how you want to be treated. More importantly, I was taught to respect adults. Those standards have failed me at times, I'm sad to admit, but for the most part, I take pride in trying to obey the golden rule.

As a hopeful soon-to-be parent, I can't imagine teaching my child any other lesson than that, and I assume that at least some of these kids were taught similar lessons by their own parents. Surely not every single child on that bus who bullied Karen was raised with no values, right? It certainly didn't seem that way as some of the parents stepped forward, offering heartfelt and mortified apologies at their sons' behavior.

So as much as I worry about my child being bullied by other children, I worry more about teaching her the right values to not bully others. I worry about her caving to the peer pressure of those boys and girls who aren't given those same lessons - succumbing to the masses. I worry about her being kind and respectful toward adults. Because I can give her advice on how to deal with the jokes and the name calling directed at her. But I don't know how I could sort through the emotions on the other side of the fence. There's no justification for treating another person that harshly.

I can't imagine what Karen went through that day on the bus. I admire her composure and her ability to respectfully educate those young boys about their hurtful words. I only hope that the bullies took to heart the lesson she tried to teach them - and that our child will take the heart the similar lesson we try to teach her.


Anonymous said...

I'm from Rochester and it's truly amazing how many people here and around the world have come to support her. I was sick watching that video, that poor woman.

nobabyruth said...

I'd not heard of this before seeing your post and considering I'm at work (shhhh...) I can't watch the video. I probably don't even need to as I've seen some other videos of students "bullying" teachers and other school professionals. It honestly makes my stomach turn. Both of my parents are/were school teachers and they, too, have some horror stories to tell. I cannot believe that this kind of behavior has become so common nowadays. It truly is a reflection of the parenting those children have received. Doesn't anyone teach respect anymore?

JM said...

This whole thing truly does sicken me. Last year, my MIL who is a 5th grade teacher, had a student bully her to the point of actually threatening to kill her. The student's consequence? A one month suspension, after which he ended up right back in her classroom. Absolutely unacceptable.

I hate to do the "kids these days..." but seriously. Kids these days.

missohkay said...

Middle schoolers are unspeakably cruel. I think the bullying I experienced has had an impact on me to this day. To treat adults like that who are trying to educate you or keep you safe is shameful.

Secret Sloper said...

Holy crap I picked the wrong week to stay offline. YOU'VE BEEN MATCHED!!!! O! M! G!

(And yes, I share your fears. Of Smudgie being bullied or of Smudgie somehow having no kindness. But we'll do our bests to help them handle the first case with dignity and to prevent the last from happening).