hashtagjuststopit

hashtagjuststopit

As the school year draws closer to an end, there has been a lot of talk throughout my school of ‘spring fever’. We all know it, dictionary.com defines it as “a listless, lazy, or restless feeling commonly associated with the beginning of spring.”

Teaching Jr. High for the first time, that’s what I was expecting; lower attendance, sleeping in class, listless stares, etc. Well, let’s just flip over to urbandictionary.com and you’ll see the kids define spring fever as ‘excessive horniness.” Grand, just grand. Here I was anticipating (because of all the time I spent educating myself) a bunch of randy teens that would be sneaking around and I’d hear about it through the grapevine on Mondays.

 

I was incorrect, not entirely, but my expectations were flawed.

 

My boys have been nothing but boys; But my girls! Well, haven’t they just turned into malicious, hell-raising, fire-breathing, cyber-dragons. I have been completely at a loss for what to do about the trivial situations that have truly been taken too far.

 

It all began around Christmas time, I welcomed in the New Year with a parent visit and 4 girls upset because one of them didn’t get invited to a birthday party and decided to be annoying about it. Then, when her friends actually became annoyed with her and told her to stop, she cried bully (wolf).

 

Let us take a moment to actually define what a bully is, this topic really gets my goat as so many people have this dramatic, misconstrued idea of what bullying is. I’ve taken this definition from the RCMP website. (Wow, I’m really on the ball with my referencing today!)

 

WHAT IS BULLYING?

-an imbalance of power

-repeatedly saying/doing hurtful things to others

-individually OR group settings

 

BULLYING CAN BE:

-physical

-verbal

-social

 

CYBER BULLYING is the use of communication technology (social media {twitter, Facebook, Instagram, snap-chat, musical.ly, to name a few})

  • Sending mean or threatening emails or text/instant messages.
  • Posting embarrassing photos of someone online.
  • Creating a website to make fun of others.
  • Pretending to be someone by using their name.
  • Tricking someone into revealing personal or embarrassing information and sending it to others.

 

These are ALL valid, and unfortunately common, forms of bullying. Victims will respond to their bullies in different ways. Some will try to bully back or bully others, some will pull into themselves, some might ignore it, and some will go to friends or adults for help. Bullying IS a problem! I am in no way denying that! However, too often, there are one-time occurrences, or comments that are taken the wrong way, and rather than being supported in ways to address those moments, children are being ‘mama-beared’ into not thinking for themselves.

 

Please keep in mind, this is just my opinion. This is a topic that really resonates with me as I spent many years being bullied and became the stereotypical bully myself as a child. I do realize that each and every situation is different and unique and not all bullies or victims can be painted with the same brush, but I feel like if you have some experience, it’s easier to try on the shoes of others.

 

I have digressed so far from the original intention of this post. Let me just try to bring it back now.

 

After that first day back to school in January, it was like the issues were endless with the girls in my class. Mean comments on Instagram, Musical.ly, and Facebook; one of them was as simple as Mary and Steph posting a picture together with the comment “besties!” and another friend took that personally, believing that meant that she was no longer Mary’s best friend. She got hurt, commented something rude on the photo, and then all hell broke loose. These girls were calling each other bi***es, saying the others parents were drug users and sellers, they’re going to get their older siblings to fight them…It was ridiculous!

 

I was consistently taking time out of my teaching day (thank goodness for an awesome PE teacher who didn’t mind keeping my class for extra time here and there) to talk to these girls, trying to find out the root of the problem, reiterating that each individual was in control of their own actions. And nothing seemed to be helping. After talking with my principal, we made our first of many attempts to have parents come in to the school to discuss all together what was going on. No parents ever showed. This was so disappointing. I did have one mother who was constantly in to talk to me, at first, I was excited to actually have family involvement! Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for me to realize that not only was she instigating a lot (even with the kids) but she also did not seem to be doing anything at home to help. She once asked me what she could be doing, so I told her, “monitor what your daughter is doing on her phone, read through her posts/messages, take the phone away…” And this woman rolled her eyes at me! I didn’t think I was suggesting anything crazy or difficult.

 

I’ll admit, I have no children of my own, I’m quick to address that with friends and family when we’re talking about their kids. Sometimes, though, just SOMEtimes, we child-less adults have some pretty good ideas. This was one of those times.

 

After the sharing circles, parent meetings, and office visits with the principal didn’t prove to be successful, I collaborated with my principal to come up with something different, positive, involved…Girls night!

 

I decided to host one girls night per week where the girls in Jr. High stayed after school to do various activities. The whole point was not WHAT they would be doing, but WHO they were doing these things with. My mantra to all of the children I’ve worked with through my life has been, “you do not have to be friends, but you do have to respect each other. If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” I wanted these girls to learn that they do not HAVE to be friends to be able to work on a project together, socialize, have the same friends, or see each other on social media.

 

During the 4 evenings, I taught them how to make spaghetti sauce from scratch and cupcakes, we treated ourselves to a spa (hair, make-up, and nails), and then had more of a free evening to just talk, visit, and get to know each other. The first night was a hit! They took home huge containers of spaghetti, garlic bread, salad, and juice for their families, and they were SO proud that they had sauce that wasn’t from a jar! Perfect, my plan was working.

 

Spa night was a smaller turnout (keep in mind, out of 18 girls in Jr. High in total, I never had more than 10 show up), 5 girls came with their girly kits and stoked to see my own. Who knew being an adult woman who does her hair, nails, and make-up, would be such a fascinating thing?!

 

Our social night had the most attendees, 10, and this was when some of the girls from the older 8/9 split class finally showed up. We talked about some of the situations they’ve been in, being picked on or picking someone else, about the things they loved about themselves, compliments they have received, what they liked to do, etc. I thought it would be a perfect moment for them to focus on all of the good things about themselves and encourage them to see the good in others.

On the last night, as we baked, there was a confrontation between two of the girls. I had reached my limit of dealing with their ridiculousness! I told them there was nothing left that I could do for them, they had to take the strategies I had taught them and figure this one out. I can only repeat myself so many times! They did end up sorting it out on there own, but there was some leftover hostility the next day.

Now that the weeks have passed, I have been asked more than once when I’m hosting another girls night! They actually enjoyed that time!

Now that we are mid-June, I can safely say that I have had no issues between the girls in a long time. Now, it could very well have nothing to do with my role, but I like to think it has. Sometimes girls are just being mean girls, sometimes they are bullies, sometimes they’re lost…There are many reasons that people might act out in aggressive ways, and reasons people might respond aggressively also. I chose to take the time to listen, I exhausted all of my efforts in teaching them how to find their own solutions, instead of having someone else solve their problems. But I think the way I helped them the most, was just by listening, being there for them to trust, not with secrets, but that I would ‘deal with it’.

We all have a choice in how we respond to the people around us, whether we are personally involved in a situation, or being there for someone else’s. There are teachable moments every day if you choose to see them, and flow with them. Maybe my actions had no influence on the attitudes of my students, maybe they did. Sometimes we never really know how we affect the lives of other people. But I do know how observing and listening to them has affected mine.

I encourage you to find the positive in your own life. I encourage you to not get ‘caught up in the drama’. And I encourage you to learn from every moment.

 

 

 

(Side note – This post may not be completely cohesive, it took a few sessions to get it all out…Hope you followed it alright 🙂 )

 

 

 

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