One of the first units that I have chose to teach this year, ironically was bullying and social interactions. This unit also focuses on relationships, citizenship, understanding and respect. Regretfully, during this unit a story broke in western Canada about a peer, who chose to commit suicide. Without going into deep detail or putting my own personal opinion on they story, I will summarize it by say a student who made some bad choices, was ridiculed made fun of and bullied. This bullying followed her from school to school and place to place, as more people joined in to the MOB mentality the bullying became so bad that the child chose a path that cannot be reversed.
This was something that I discussed with the my junior high students, but no so much with my elementary students. Needless to say it was a topic that we discussed in length. However, I question if there is a point, well actually I know there is a point and purpose to educating our students. It is the hope that information, education and understanding will either prevent students in engaging in the act or will entice and convince others to speak up against it.
Recently, I really questioned as to whether my message, has the same impact as the media. Obviously, I know that answer to that is, that is depends on the students and the message, but how does one combat media’s influence. By years end I will have taught, spoken to, provided information to and influenced 33 junior high students. In respect to health class, that is one afternoon a week for the entire school year. However, the influence of media is much stronger and more wide spread then my voice. It reaches my students everyday, when ever they are able to tune in or on to it. Media is there projecting information and influencing children. Now I know the arguments that I am going to hear, I don’t expect things to change or for my opinion or view to influence media, I just expect that I can influence the students I work with and hopefully counteract some of what my students absorb from media. Here is the full reason for my annoyance. I spoke with my seven and eight health class about what is bullying, in its rawest form what is it. We established that it was control, bullying is about control. We worked with what other crimes are about control and that condoning one crime or act is in its simplest rational condoning all of them. We listed how society would/ could make changes, how one should act if confronted or a witness to bullying. Finally we discussed some of the current consequences and thought about what some of the consequences should be.
One morning, like many other mornings, one of my junior high students stopped by before class to talk. However, this time it was to ask two questions. The first one was, “Mr. Ram, aren’t comments made that make you uncomfortable, and that degrade someone else a form of bullying” to which I answered “yes”, then inquiring if someone had said something to them. The second question was more of an issue morally and socially. The student asked “You monitor your blog and your Facebook page, and when there is something that is inappropriate or negative you take it off, why don’t other people?” this was a question I couldn’t answer, even though I realized that it was causing my student some agitation. I finally said, that some people are unable to understand the weight of their decisions and the impact their actions or non actions carry. I quickly asked why the questions and the student informed me that a local radio station had put up an article/story on their Facebook page and that people were commenting on the story and the picture, however the radio station had not done anything to remove the comments that were negative or insulting. That it could be taken as the station condoning that type of commenting. I said without knowing the entire story, I could see how this could be accurate, but that with everything there are two sides and many variables.
I told the student that I would look and see and that maybe we could discuss it next health class, they agreed and went off to class. I went to the Facebook page to see what comments my student was talking about, and in relation to what I have been telling my students and what to not accept in peoples behaviors and words, regretfully my student was correct. The comments in respect to the article were inappropriate and should have been moderated, I do understand that we have a freedom of expression, however we should be cognizant of who is hearing or listening to our expression. Am I going to phone the radio station and yell at someone for what they have done or didn’t do, what they allowed or didn’t allow, I will simply talk to my students and explain that like information on the internet, as citizens we have to know what information to accept, and when it is time to change the station. Most of all I am disappointed, that in a time when bullying is at the forefront of news papers, and with all of the work being done in schools, community organizations and in government that there is an influential medium that is marching to the sound of their own drum.
I could be totally off center with this, therefore would like the opinion of my peers if the following comments were on a students blog, efolio or school Facebook page would you not remove them and have a conversation with the poster about why its inappropriate.
But then again maybe we accept the comments from adults because they are adults and adults would never bully another adult. What do you think?