Posts Tagged With: Education

Sticks and Stones–Bullying and What We Can Do to Help

My first grader came home from school the other day to tell me about a boy who hasn’t been very nice. “He doesn’t want to be my friend, Mom. I was trying to be his, but he doesn’t want to. He never wants to pass the frisbee to me. He just isn’t nice to me and I don’t know why.” My heart broke. I’m pretty sure I held back tears as I thought about what a tough world he was now a part of. And then a moment came to my mind from many years ago. A day that I probably had filed in the back of my mind to be forgotten. But as we walked up our driveway, the thoughts came flooding back.

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I can remember the moment vividly. I was a senior that year, and my assigned seat in Mr. M’s class was just a few back from her and her friends. In front of her sat a larger guy, someone I guess you wouldn’t call “cool.” In fact, to put it bluntly, he was a geek. He had bottle cap glasses, pimples, his clothes were old and baggy, and he ate lunch at that one spot in the commons area with all the other dorky kids. I don’t remember his name, but I certainly remember hers. Everyone knew her name. She was one of the most popular girls in school. Pretty, athletic…she was what every girl wanted to be, who every boy wanted to be with. As Mr. M wrote on the board the room was silent with scribbling pencils. Just ahead, I saw her pull out a quarter. Getting the attention of her friends, she smiled and leaned forward in her desk. In front of her, his pants opened like a plumber’s, giving just enough space for a quarter to slip through. Her friends stifled laughs as the quarter dropped from her fingers. His head jerked up. As he ran to the bathroom to retrieve the object now located in his britches, she smirked as several laughed at his expense.

And life went on. The boy was humiliated, the girl got a good laugh, the cycle continued. No one stood up. Not a classmate, not a parent, not a teacher.

Even while writing this my heart races with the memories of those days. Honestly, I was just a bit scared of her. Of all of them. And so I kept my thoughts to myself. If only I could go back. If only I had the courage in those days to stand up for those who were torn down. If only I’d put myself in the lines of fire to save someone else’s self-esteem, image, and heartache.

…But I didn’t.

Maybe by watching and not doing anything My lack of action was just as bad as what they had done.

“When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following:

Stop it!

It’s that simple.”

–Dieter F. Uchtdorf

I have no idea what the answer is. Listening to my little boy broke my heart, and I desperately wish I had an answer. But the more the story brewed in my mind, I did have a few thoughts. Maybe we can still change the tides of bullying. It’s worth a shot.

  • How do we talk about others in front of our children? They listen even when we don’t think they are.
  • Do we show them courage by standing up to others who rip those less fortunate (or more, jealousy is a strong emotion) down with gossip?
  • Do we actively encourage our kids to treat others with kindness and respect? And do we show them every day how that looks in our interactions with friends, family and strangers alike?
  • Do we happily serve others and encourage our kids to do the same?
  • Do we encourage our children to play with others who are different from them and encourage them to include those who aren’t being included?

I’m only a mom to small children. I know the teenage years will prove to be much more difficult in these regards. But maybe if we start now. Maybe if we try to teach them while they’re young, it will stick. And maybe it won’t, but it’s worth a shot.

IMGP0419Looking back, I struggled with situations like these, not so much because of the girls who thought others were less than them, but because the adults around us didn’t seem to notice or care. In some ways it was even encouraged, without them knowing, of course. It was discouraging as a kid, and now as an adult I continue to watch it from this side of life. A bully doesn’t always attack with fists. In a majority of situations, bullies attack with word and deed. And they hurt. These predators are often charming, charismatic, lovable, pretty or handsome, seem to be well-liked, athletic, and smart. But what they do to classmates “less” than them is devastating. If we as adults joke around with them, put them on a pedestal and treat them as if they were high and mighty, try to be their friend, and laugh at their seemingly harmless jokes, the cycle will continue. Do we really want that?

We don’t have to be mean. We don’t have to stop treating them with respect and kindness. But let’s try to be more watchful. Let’s try to bring those up that otherwise might find themselves down. We must be conscientious of how we treat all children, charming, funny, cute…or not.

I wish I knew the answers. I wish I could go back and stand up for others instead of idly standing by. I wish I could change unkind words I have said in the past to and about others. I wish I could protect my son from those boys and girls that don’t want to be his friend and who don’t want to be kind. I wish so many things, but for now I will hope that we can encourage our children and do better ourselves. Let’s stop the bullying, no matter how old we happen to be.

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A great 10 minute video. Definitely worth the watch!

Bullying–Stop It by Dieter F. Uchtdorf

And here’s just the talk:

The Merciful Obtain Mercy

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Categories: parenthood | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Our Most Precious Commodity (a thank you to teachers everywhere)

Nine months ago I held my little five-year-old’s hand and led him up the stairs to a new phase of life. I squeezed it tight and held my breath, because secretly I was just as nervous as he was. His Thomas the Train backpack bounced full of glue, crayons and erasers with each step. Was he really old enough for this? He suddenly seemed so small! Was ready for this? I certainly didn’t feel like it. I gave him one last long hug and watched as he disappeared behind the kindergarten door. Books lined the wall, the letters of his name already  printed across the desk on a colorful tag. I left him that day as a shy, timid, scared little boy without anyone he knew and in an entirely new world he’d never experienced.

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As I waited by that same kindergarten door nine months later, I could hear that little five-year-old voice chatting with his friends about the spider trap they’d made on the playground and how today would be the lucky day that they’d get something good (they had bated it with some nice, fat, dead flies they’d found, so of course they had high hopes! Oh, the joys of having boys). I could hear his teacher calling them to the rug for last minute directions before they walked out the door for the summer. The walls that had over the past nine months been covered in pictures and stories written and illustrated by those young and aspiring authors and artists were now bare. As we walked to the car I held that same boy’s hand, but he wasn’t the same little one I’d kissed goodbye months before. He’d grown. He’d made friends, learned how to read,  found confidence, bravery, and strength. Something magical happened in those nine short months.

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As we walked to the car, we passed the buses full of students anxious to get home and celebrate the beginning of their three-month break. The sidewalk was filled with teachers waving and jumping at the children they’d just spent the last school year thinking about, planning for, stressing over, helping, teaching, and loving. Hands waved back from inside the buses, and, I admit, I got a bit teary-eyed as I looked on. I cried because THIS was the magic I witnessed every day for the past nine months. A teacher that cared. Who saw my shy, quiet, timid boy as so much more, and helped him find his confidence, unleash his creativity, and fed his desire to learn. But she didn’t do it just for my son, she did it for all that walked through her welcoming kindergarten doors each week. Each one came out of her class that final day as more than a first-grader. They walked with friends, a backpack full of stories, journals, pictures, and crafts, minds brimming with knowledge, a hunger to learn, tenacity, spunk, and spirit. Can you really put a number on that?

Each year we send our most precious commodity behind those brick walls. We expect them to walk out each day loved, mentally nourished, disciplined, and emotionally cared for. We expect them to succeed, to grow, and to learn life skills. Teachers may have summers off, weekends to rejuvenate, fall, winter and spring break to relax, but for nine months they dedicate their lives to our most precious commodity. They think about them tirelessly. They spend many sleepless nights fretting over lesson plans, grading papers, furthering their own knowledge in order to meet the ever-changing needs of the classroom, and just plain worrying about our kids (probably this more than anything else!). For nine months we trust our loved ones in their care, and they know it. Time and time again they rise to the occasion, often without the help and support of those that should be backing them every step of the way.

I’m sure we can all look back on our years within those classroom walls and think of at least one teacher that touched our lives. That changed us for the better, that believed in us, trusted us, read to us, taught us and loved us. Are they not heroes? Did they not leave this world a better place by the hundreds of little humans they taught? For my son, his teacher changed his short, little life. She gave him the wonderful gift of a love for learning. She boosted his self-confidence, helped him see his potential, and gave him a solid foundation that will benefit him for years to come. She put up with his five-year-old goofiness and that of his classmates (which, I can testify, can be a bit overwhelming at times!). I can’t thank her enough for all of her efforts on behalf of my child.

Teachers are simply amazing. Our children are the future, and they, along with parents, are shaping them, molding them, and loving them into what they must become. Is there a more important work than that? To all those that educate and love our children, thank you. You do so much for so little. You really and truly are heroes.

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I owe a thanks to good old Pinterest for the apple idea (craftgawker.com), but the rest were different things that represented highlights from R’s year with his awesome teacher. I thought it turned out kinda cute! Gummy worms=learning about worms, packets of flower seeds=growing plants, balls=motion, granola bars=snack time, monkey stickers=recess, chocolate balls=shapes, Pete The Cat Old MacDonald book=field trip to the farm, plastic fish=learning about fish.

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What teacher has touched your life and helped you become who you are today?

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My Thoughts on Monkeys and Tests…

Years ago when our oldest son was not quite two I remember having a conversation while eating lunch. It went about like this:

Mom: “…so Daddy is a boy and Mommy is a girl.”

R: “Auntie M a girl?”

Mom: “Yep, and uncle A is a boy. Grandpa’s a boy, and Uncle J too. What do you think Grandma is?”

R: Gramma a girl. Auntie K a girl.”

Mom: “That’s right. What about you? Are you a girl?”

R: “Noooo!”

Mom: “A boy?”

R: “Noo.”

Mom: “Hmm. What are you then?”

R: “Mommy, I a monkey!”

Well, now that we have three kids it has been confirmed that either my husband or I does in fact carry the primate gene. ALL THREE of our boys have inherited it. For better or for worse, our youngest got a double dose of it. Here’s some evidence in case you’re skeptical…

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So let’s be honest. A fair share of moms reading this are probably saying, “Who is this lady thinking she has the corner on the crazy-climber market?? MY kids could out-monkey hers any day!” And they just might be right. I think it’s fair to say that pretty much ALL kids have a bit of crazy in them. And it’s my opinion that its totally fine to allow a bit of the monkey to come out when appropriate. Like PE. Or recess. Or for a few hours in the back yard. In fact I’d argue a little imagination and pretend (even during class), a little climbing and running, even a few bruised knees are part of a healthy childhood. I feel so sad to see kids over-scheduled with no time to imagine and monkey around. Aren’t they kids?? Isn’t that how they learn and grow?

What really breaks my heart is seeing kids tested in school to DEATH. No time to learn through play. Even in kindergarten when that’s critical to their development. No time for recess, no time for an “imagination station,” no time for monkeys because we are too busy trying to make them into robots. Where they all learn the same thing at the same rate and can regurgitate the same facts on testing day. I hate that. I hated it as a kid, I hated it while studying elementary ed in college, and I hate it now as a mom. I want my kids to LOVE learning, but all they are learning is to think school is stressful, demanding, and no fun. You can’t really blame the teachers. They are so pressed to get results. Having student-taught and observed many teachers during college I know it isn’t the teachers. I’m convinced 99.9% of them are saints. Don’t get me wrong, not everything should be fun. And learning is not always games and running around. But kindergarten? Really?? I also don’t believe that learning is just about testing. Kids learn differently and at different speeds. But that deserves a post all to itself for another time.

I want to tell you about someone who I feel gets it. He knows that kids have a bit of monkey in them and it’s vital to their development for them to let that out. He’s a PE teacher at a local school who every few months does a ropes and climbing unit for the kids. Best of all, he opens it up to the public so that children all over town get the opportunity to experience his “Rope World.” My kids might as well be going to Disneyland when they get to go. Ropes everywhere, swings, bridges, a zip line, mats, bars, tubes to climb through… it’s heaven to little monkeys like my boys. What lucky kids that go to that school. Their PE teacher gets it. He understands that there’s more to learning than the tests. He’s even willing to give up his evenings for two weeks straight to give all kids in our area a chance to experience it. He’s a hero in my kids’ books, and I’m sure many others’. Boys and girls need that opportunity. To swing from some ropes. To get a little nervous being ten feet above the ground crossing a single-rope bridge. To climb to the top of the gym and ring a cow bell and hear everyone cheer. I really believe that is as much a part of learning as memorizing math facts or studying for spelling.

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In this day and age where teachers are desperate for students to fill in those bubbles correctly it’s refreshing to know that there’s still people out there that believe there’s more to learning. In this changing educational world those people are critical to our children’s future. There’s so much more to education and development than tests, tests, and more tests. There’s imagination and play. There’s climbing on ropes, getting a little dirty, and exploring. Our kids are boys and girls that can do hard things. Boys and girls who can conquer fears, learn for themselves, and discover. They aren’t robots. And if on occasion they forget they’re boys and girls and think that they’re monkeys, I hope we can remember that it’s all part of learning, developing, and becoming the amazing people they will grow up to be.

Disclaimer: I LOVE my sons’ school, his teacher, and all the staff. They are wonderful, amazing people who do incredible things (as are all the teachers I know). I think all educators are limited and I just wish they could do what THEY felt was best for the kids. I believe that teachers are some of the most influential people and could better shape our future generations if they weren’t so pressed to teach to the tests.

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