My advanced class has only 16 smart, motivated students. They are usually so good that I could probably leave campus, have lunch, and come back to find them still working on their assignment. Today, we were all happily doing review problems from the textbook. (Except one group, which was distracted trying to find the square root of 1,681 without a calculator, which they ACCOMPLISHED even though you can’t make a factor tree. It is 41.) Suddenly, one girl started whining that a boy hit her.
Turns out the boy had called the girl a whore. Her friend defended her by saying, “Well, at least she can get a boyfriend.” The girl then defended herself by adding in, “Hey, he can get a boyfriend too” and pointing to his one friend in the class. He got mad and hit her as he walked by. SMART KIDS, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?!
Unfortunately, we now had a case of both violence and bullying. I sent both of them to administration, but only after I talked sternly to each of them. The boy is frequently bullied and was really angry, and I had to explain that I took her words very seriously but that he still isn’t allowed to be violent. Then the girl was mascara-down-the-face crying because she thought I was taking it too seriously and was terrified of getting in trouble. I had to tell her that what he did was wrong, but I gave her a huge lecture on bullying and why we can’t make others feel unsafe in my classroom. Then I called both of their parents after school to tell them what happened. I still can’t believe this happened…especially not with my good kids.
This incident is sticking with me more than normal because of everything in the news lately about Phoebe Prince, who recently killed herself after being relentlessly bullied in school. Her harassers have been indicted and her teachers are being heavily judged by the community for not doing enough to stop it. Honestly, even in the perfect setting (like 16 well-behaved students who allow me the time to talk through issues one-on-one and respect me enough to cry when I’m angry) bullying is hard to stop… YOU try changing teenagers’ social patterns. I imagine those teachers tried more than they are getting credit for, and that makes me nervous about how much I maybe should be doing. I wish teaching didn’t turn into life-or-death situations so often.
I need some training on bullying prevention, please.