Before I begin, let me make a couple things clear. 1) Whether or not I have an official say in my sister’s school/schooling, I will leave the direct addressing of issues to my parents. 2) I have extremely little contact with any of her classmates or their parents. 3) As such, the following has never been uttered to the people I am generally addressing here.
So. My sister and I were simply cleaning up a bit of baking stuff when she suddenly sighed and wondered aloud why one of her friends doesn’t play with her any more. (Said girl is known for changing her mind about which people are friends or not friends within twenty-four hours, by the by.) I asked if her friend is avoiding her. No, she’s not and they like to talk together and stuff still, but she has a “group” (read: clique) which is against the rules and she obviously favours some kids over others. So… hang out with your other friends. But I’m still friends with her. Yeah, I didn’t say you had to stop being friends; but if she’s gonna exclude you like that, just find someone else who’ll play with you.
Yeah, well that led to talking about best friends vs close friends vs normal-level friends, changes in friendships, changes that come from growing up (or at least growing out of things) at different rates, changes that happen over time, concerns about my sister’s friend dynamics next year, and then… wait, someone did what to you?
First, someone put dandelion seeds in her hair before school pictures, but she got those out before pictures happened. Then, later in the day, a boy hit her on the backside, at which another girl laughed and then repeated the action. Then, when my sister told a staff member about the swatting incident, the teacher (from what my sister was able to remember) sounded like she dismissed it as playful interaction.
Now, I don’t know if this teacher later addressed this quietly or even if she was dismissive as my sister indicates, but “playful spanking”? Excuse me? Maybe so as a gesture of male camaraderie (and even then, isn’t that done by overgrown boys on sports teams or something?), but that is an inappropriate action especially between the genders! I don’t care what was running through that boy’s head when he did it. The school curriculum rules include something called “the six-inch rule” (ie: no physical contact between girls and boys). Hmm, I wonder why that rule was set in place. Oh, and by the way, this same boy has had at least a couple people talk to him about pushing/swatting girls around in the past. My dad was one of them, followed five minutes later by someone else, followed months later by the mother of some of my sister’s friends. Enough with the wide-eyed dumb act, kid, take a hint and smarten up! As for the adults in his life, are you aware of this? Because I don’t care how prominent his parents are in the church or how much of the life of the party he is or how much anyone favours him. It is wrong and someone needs to get that through to him (and trust me, you don’t want that someone to be me).
And then my sister tells me that this same boy, on another day, asked her if she was fat. My sister says she doesn’t care about this query (and she related this as an afterthought after telling me about something else), but wow, seriously? What’s the point of that? Keep this up, kid, and you’re going to seriously hurt a sensitive girl and/or maybe start her on an unpleasant path.
That question, again, disturbed my sister less than another, this time a girl asking her, “Can I kill you?” So many lines crossed there, I can’t even begin to list them! And by a girl who, I don’t think, is even a preteen yet! Not to mention that this is a Christian school with multiple Christian influences.
Am I coming off as too mama-bear yet? Just be glad that I’m leaving the parent-teacher stuff to the parents.
School is where lives are shaped for the future. It is where kids interact with each other, learn many things, and pick up habits. How often have cliques, amongst children or adults, been beneficial to anyone? How many females out there are questioning their looks because they’re asked questions such as “Are you fat?”… and then becoming obsessed with losing weight? How many little girls who liked to dump dandelion fluff on someone have since grown into gossips and backstabbers? And how many overgrown boys have taken a swat to the backside and run way off the deep end with it? Yes, people can change. But also, yes, the goings-on at school will making a lasting impression on these lives.
School staff, I acknowledge that it’s hard sometimes to tell apart teasing from the early stages of bullying or natural groups of friends from cliques. But keep your eyes peeled, especially on the popular and highly-favoured kids. (And maybe instead of making bully’s dance skills or popularity/”leadership” a central thing at award events, elevate the other kids who actually display good character. If I am going to be subjected to hearing about a stranger’s kid’s accomplishments, I want to have something to actually praise.) And please, address these issues when you’re informed of them. Yes, there could be two sides to a story, but when a problem comes up multiple times… well, there’s a hint for you.
Parents, teach your kids. If you train them up right, there is less chance for issues. Yes, I know some kids end up ignoring all of their good upbringing, but it’s also not always the case. What they’re surrounded by everyday will affect them. How you teach them to choose good friends, how you teach them to stand up for themselves, what you teach them about treating others, what you let them watch/read/listen to – all of it will effect them. And, parents, communicate to each other and the teachers if there’s a problem and be willing to listen to what is said by the other party. These are your kids and you need to both inform and be informed.
Bullying victims, don’t let anyone make you think that telling is tattling or that you’re less than you are or that you’re alone.
And bullies, shut your yaps and open your ears, especially if you’re getting the same message from multiple people. If you need to cut others down to make you feel taller, you’re no less a short stalk of corn. If being mean/rude/inappropriate is your source of fun, find a hobby. Maybe one that doesn’t involve trash on TV or violent video games or books with kid characters that set horrible examples. You’re not just hurting your victims. You’re hurting yourselves.