Saturday, September 3, 2011

New Shoes and No Bullying

School starts next week in Philadelphia and my family has made the usually trek to buy school supplies.  We got 14 (yes, 14) composition books, glue sticks, crayons, markers, protractor, pencil box, book covers, folders, and pens/pencils.  We send our son to a school that requires school uniforms so we also bought the required shirts, shorts and gym uniforms.  And we had to buy the required shoes.  Yes – the required shoes.  They are black dress shoes that he will wear with either his short or long pant uniforms.  They are chunky and are not cheap.  All summer my son has worn Crocs or tennis shoes – or nothing at all.  Now he is going to be wearing these heavy dress shoes for school.  (He also has to wear a tie when he wears long pants but that is potentially a whole different post).  The chunky shoes mean something.

Putting on the big boy shoes means school is upon us.  Buying school supplies means the summer is about over.  We are entering into Labor Day Weekend and that means back to school for my son and back to work for me.  So I am mourning a bit, but I am also ready.  This has been a great summer but it is time to get back into a regular routine.  School does that for families.  It puts them back into a routine of waking, working, studying, and homework.  It is usually a time of anxiety for younger kids starting to Kindergarten for the first time, for Middle Schoolers entering into a new school, or High Schoolers heading into a major change of their lives.  It also happens for college students and professors, which is what I am.  So back to school leads many to feel queasy, uneasy, anxious, etc.  It is also a time for new possibilities, connecting to old friends, learning new things, and amazing opportunities.  It is a time to make new friends and a time for new adventures to stretch us.

But it is also a time when some students dread the inevitable painful experiences of being treated as outsiders.  Bullying and teasing kids for being different happens all the time.  It is an unfortunate part of school.  I experienced it growing up.  Many have in their lives.  Some say it is simply a natural part of school.  I disagree completely.  It is something that should not only be discouraged, but should be removed from our school environments completely.

Recently a post started circulating around Facebook.  It said …

See that girl right there?  The one you just called fat?
She's been starving herself, and she's lost over 30 pounds.
The one you just called stupid?
  She has a learning disability, she studies 6 hours per night.
The one you just called ugly? 
She spends over 3 hours putting makeup on.
The one you just called baby? You would be crying too if your mother was dead.
The one you just tripped? 
I think she's abused enough at home.
There's a lot more to a person than you think.  Stop bullying those who are different.

You cannot tell enough by just looking at someone who they are inside, but folks try all the time.  They look at someone and make assumptions about who they are, what their lives are like, how they express their personhood, and what they believe.  And then they use those assumptions to tease, belittle, bully, and abuse those “other” than themselves.  It is time we started a new school tradition – one where we accept each other.  I realize I may be idealistic and unrealistic but I believe we can achieve it.  Talk to your kids about bullying – so they will not participate in it, so they know what to do if it happens in their presence to others, and so they will know who to talk to if they are victims.  But bullying happens outside of school, too.  So talk to them about cyber-bullying and how they can avoid it, report it, and help their friends who might be cyber-bullied.  

One person at a time can make a difference.  You can make a difference … and so can you kids.  Educate them to be kind, to be accepting of others, to not use derogatory words or phrases, and to report bullying to teachers and administrators.  You can make a difference. 

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