Is it just me or was everyone bullied at school?
The acclaimed author of the Tomorrow books, John Marsden, has caused a furore by saying bullying is often just “feedback” from other students. And I’m pretty sure that’s what mine was.
John Marsden has been a teacher for more than 40 years and says while “pure unadulterated bullying” does occur, most is prompted by what he calls the “unlikeable behaviours” of the bullying victim.
His advice has not been well received and I understand why.
My sister has been teaching for 20 years and I asked her for clarification.
She wrote, a third of bullying is the rough stuff, targeted, repeated and sometimes violent, criminal behaviour, but for the other sixty per cent I totally agree with John Marsden.
As a teacher, it is crucially important that your classroom has a culture of inclusivity – easier for an experienced teacher to achieve – but vital.
Being mean to each other is unacceptable, in attack or defence. Teachers must be consistent and fair with zero tolerance of injustice.
We all love our kids and we should be on their side but part of that means seeing their flaws. Parents see their child in a family (and play date) situation but rarely in the context of their peers. Teachers do and good teachers manage that. But the playground can be tough, people are always going to be mean and everyone finds themselves on the receiving end of that at some stage. If it continually happens – particularly if it happens in a variety of situations – you can guarantee the bullied kid is doing something to piss off other kids.
I think John Marsden is right, we sometimes mistake a social gulf for bullying. Not being invited to a party is not bullying. Just like adults, kids don’t like every kid they come across. Self-preservation is about fitting in with norms and expectations. Once you have identified with the main group that you are ‘one of them’ there is room for difference, quirks and individual behaviours. If you do that without acknowledging the ‘rules’ of the group you will be seen as just weird….and not in a good way.
We all think our kids are the most amazing humans that have been put on the planet – and we should. I am yet to meet a kid that goes home with an accurate account of their role in a school dust up. If there is trouble – it wasn’t their fault. We need to be able to read between the lines. Innocent bystanders are rare. Kids need to be resilient, cop it on the chin occasionally and understand that sometimes you are just on the receiving end of shit. It was just a bad day and there will be more to come but there is more good than bad in life if you look for it.