Bullying in schools is prevalent but do we do anything about it? As a kid, Dan had been made a target of bullying since his first day at a new school in fifth grade. Dan learned to hate the bullies who would relentlessly bully him. To the point of wanting them to die, anything to end the misery. As an adult, he wrote a post about it and a teacher, named Jamie, after reading Dan’s post, decided to do something in her class about it the very next day to stop bullying in schools. The post the teacher refers to that made her come up with the creative idea ‘Memoirs of a Bullied Kid’ by Single Dad Laughing, Dan Pearce – [on my Pinterest board], is all too true still today. What can we do in our classrooms to combat this? I believe this teacher holds the key.
Jamie found a creative way to explain the damage of bullying to her students. She stopped by the shops and bought a couple of apples to take to school. Both apples were identical. In the morning circle, Jamie explained to the class that they were going to try something different and showed them the two apples asking them to list any differences. There were none!
Jamie held up one of the apples and said, “Gross. This apple looks disgusting” and dropped on the floor. Jamie asked the students to join in and say more bad things about the apple. The kids were a bit shocked but well the teacher said to do it, so they joined in. They dropped the apple every time each one said something “I hate your skin”, “You must have worms inside you” and “You’re an ugly colour of red”. By the time the apple had gone round everyone, it looked bad! Jamie then asked the kids to list the differences a second time. But there was no difference. Not on the outside that you could see.
Jamie, asked if anyone wanted a piece of apple . . . . of course everyone wanted a piece.
Jamie cut the apples in half with a knife and asked the kids to come closer and look what the apples looked like on the inside. The bullied apple was bruised and mushy, while the ok apple looked nice and juicy to eat. The kids didn’t want the bullied apple. Jamie went on to explain “But didn’t we all make the apple look this way?! We did this, so why shouldn’t we eat it?” They all got really quiet. Jamie went on to explain how this is the way we are with each other. “We have to stop dropping each other”. The kids got it! Different ones came up and hugged her later to tell her that they were so happy that a teacher “got it”.
As a kid at school, I was bullied all through Primary just because I am half Jamaican and half English. Bullying in Schools was just the norm, – I hated it. I have fuzzy hair when I haven’t straightened it. I resonate with Dan’s story. I went home crying each day and Dad would say ‘Sticks and stones will break your bones but names will never hurt you”. But they DO!!!!!
Whenever I have a new class, at some point an incident happens; just the smallest murmur of bullying. I stop the class and tell them my story. Only the funny parts, that they can have a laugh about. It’s the day that I turned around and my fist struck directly and knocked the bully’s front teeth out!
I didn’t mean to, I think I was just as much shocked as the bullies who chased me around the yard every playtime, calling me names and making life unbearable. Everyone thought I would be grounded by the headmistress. I too. After lining up at the end of playtime, I followed ‘Mrs Lane’ [yes, I still remember her name even though she died a long time ago – what a legacy] silently to her office. She said many things I can’t remember but one I do. “It’s alright we understand and have seen what has been happening every day [she was a Christian lady who prayed for us kids all the time] but you mustn’t do it again” and sent me back to class. In high school, I tried to talk to the primary school bully but she ran away. My students laugh at that but they become very silent too. They really get it and they like that their teacher gets it too.
We need to take seriously this pain Kids feel – it leaves scars even now inside – and think creatively about how we might combat the bullying in our schools. Bullying in schools is still around, students are hurting and some even turn to violence. Let’s give some creative thought, to the way we approach all our students. Choose a subject and create a lesson that will help your students understand the pain, that will help them change their behaviour. We should not be afraid to expose our own experience to help our students.