Last week I wrote to you about "No Excuse for Abuse: How to Change a Bully." In my email, I recommended a more humane approach and strategies to help these kids work their way out of how their bully behavior mirrors their life circumstances. Every now and then I receive an email response like this:
Rather than going into detail about my parents' old-school style of bullying, verbal, physical and attitudinal abuse in raising me, I will say this: throughout some really tough years of daily bullying, I would promise myself over and over and over again that I would NEVER EVER treat my children like they were treating me.
Fast forward to my first teaching job: Sure enough, one day when I was trying to get control of my students who were being age-appropriate and disruptive, I heard myself going off on my students, starting to shame and humiliate them, doing what my parents had done repeatedly to me. I was running one of their threatening, in your face lectures like a tape recorder. There was even a rhythm and a cadence to it because it was so programmed into my mind.
I heard myself.
And then I did what many people do in that defining moment. I justified it: "Well, it worked on me, so it must be OK that I puff up like a bully, threaten and lecture abusively and excessively 'at' my students as my parents had done to me. If I can bully and scare them enough, if I can control them with threats and take-aways using old-school tactics, if it appears to work for now, it must be OK - after all it's old-school so that makes it acceptable."
I like to refer to this as: justifying, rationalizing, explaining, defending and debating ...and when you hear yourself doing this, it's a defining moment where you can literally make a new decision to stop the legacy of abuse and pain that has - up to this point - been generational and exponential.
When I got home that evening, I realized I was justifying, rationalizing, explaining, defending and debating this with myself because I had never thought through how I could do it differently.
I asked myself two questions: "What would I have preferred my parents to have done?" and "What was it that I really needed to be constructively taught and empowered to do in order to just be on task with the things they wanted?"
In asking myself how I would have liked to be treated and taught, I found empowering answers for doing things differently with my students, and later, with my own children. And from that day forward, I was mindful to stop myself when I heard the "old-school" recording starting up.
So, to appeal to this Principal logically, intelligently and educationally, I responded to his email as follows:
He did not respond back, so I did something that any concerned citizen must do, I contacted his school district as I felt it vitally important that his administrator know what he is espousing. When people write and tell me that what goes on in their school is none-of-my-business because I don't live in their town, I write back: "It is my business because I make it my business to do what I can. When I have been informed that students are being abused and bullied, it becomes my business."
Many today still excuse themselves by saying: "I just don't have time to deal with the social-emotional issues of these kids."
I say that any educator who intends to see every student succeed does not have time NOT TO LEARN HOW TO deal with what's driving self-defeating behaviors. When you give this the time to learn and use techniques that really get to the heart of the problems, and then do skill development and community building, you will make a self-sustaining, life-long difference in these kids' lives that saves you time and energy beyond what I can even put into words.
It becomes ENERGY GIVING rather than energy draining. I know, because I've done it. I have succeeded where others continue to justify old-school tactics. Over the last thirty years of using these "old-school" tactics, this population of failing, angry, disinterested and abusive students has grown exponentially, and we are at long last going to have to adopt an effective teaching model to succeed with these kids.
In order to change an existing paradigm, you do not struggle to try and change the problematic model.
©1990 to 2022
Mary Robinson Reynolds.
All Rights Reserved.
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