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I’ve been working since I was nine years old. Granted, it was mostly babysitting gigs and poorly run lemonade stands until age thirteen when I was a busgirl in a Mongolian Barbecue restaurant. But I’ve worked constantly. Along the way, I’ve met my share of sexism and microaggressions from all manner of coworkers and supervisors. And in those four decades of work experience, not once have I ever witness a bully paying any kind of consequence for their actions. Maybe there is some invisible karma that gets metered out, or some moment of self-reflection in a quiet, pensive moment where the bully thinks, “Gee, whiz, I was kind of a jerk. Since [X] happened to me, I now understand when [this other person was going through the same thing] how awful I was to them.”
Is empathy really empathy when it requires the same exact event? Well, that’s a question for another time perhaps, although my first instinct is to answer empathy is a proactive emotion, it gets in front of another’s pain in order to prevent further damage.
In a recent discussion thread, a parent shared her detailed concerns about her son. I know from a teachers’ perspective addressing bullying is a daunting task: children, and then they grow up to adulthood, get deep pleasure from the control and social status when they bully others. Even in one of my classes now, a new student says something that makes other boys snicker, just because they aren’t used to his colloquialisms. So: time for a conversation with those two young men. It can’t be ignored.
What bullying is:
- Persistent and targeted harassment regarding someone’s personality, social status, race, gender, health or cultural viewpoints.
- Putting someone down or marginalizing tastes in clothes, music, movies, books, and other media
- Not having an established understood relationship (friendship) that has its own rules and boundaries for ‘trash talking’ and teasing and proceeding to harass or intimidate another physically or verbally
- Systematically shunning someone from a group or social situation
What it is not:
- Differences of opinion or approach regarding a common goal or objective
This is from a discussion thread, and he shares insightful information:
I am sorry to see that this is going on, and a repeated daily matter no less.
The thing that saddens me is that schools ingratiate this behavior and “the person in question” will continue to go with a belief that they are invincible. This will carry on throughout life and unfortunately at some time “the person in question” will do real damage in the workplace.
Schools and companies have been far too risk averse and don’t want to deal with real issues because it takes time and too many resources. But there needs to be the line drawn at any kind of physical assault. The name calling and belittling, unfortunately, will be part of life and that should not be acceptable. While I personally would not condone it as it interferes with your son’s learning process (as you have already demonstrated with the vomiting).
Fortune 500 companies do nothing about a workplace bully on 99% of the cases. Ultimately the target is diminished, emotionally beaten and crushed, their work performance suffers and eventually leads to layoff or termination. The bully will usually get a promotion or move on to other larger projects to help feather their nest.
The rare occasions when a bully is held accountable is when they have done something so egregious that there are too many witnesses or it is so flagrantly damaging that it can not be concealed.
Just moving around and transferring schools is not going to be sufficient. There are always going to be cliques and factions with their small minded people who think they are responsible for choosing who is important in life.
–Allan Rei Tan
Have I ever bullied someone? Yes, once. And it’s a painful story for me to tell, and I pray for forgiveness. I didn’t derive any pleasure or status from the event, but regret and shame.
My plan as an educator is to continue helping students recognize when they’re bullying, or being bullied: to empower those who are being harassed and flip the script on the bully. But it can’t come from a single voice, but that is where it starts.