I recently came across this video of Philadelphia's Mayor Michael Nutter, and my first thought was how refreshing this guy is. Finally, someone in a leadership position is not afraid to tell it like it is. He even curses. And no, I'm not suggesting that leaders across America start cursing all over the place. But here, it gets his point across quite nicely.
Bullying. The dictionary defines a bully as someone who uses superior strength or influence to intimidate someone, typically to force him or her to do what one wants. Dan Olweus, creator of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, says that bullying must include three components: 1) aggressive behavior that involves unwanted, negative actions; 2) a pattern of behavior repeated over time; and 3) an imbalance of power or strength. School districts have taken Olweus' definition and created strict guidelines regarding how to handle bullying and its prevention. As a result, my school has begun holding assemblies where the kids hear phrases like "bystanders unite" and "stand up to bullying". I sit there and listen to these monthly gatherings, and all I can think about is what hypocrites we all are. Everyone of us. We are asking kids to tell these so-called bullies to knock it off (without cursing) and then we go back to our own non-confrontational lives. I look at my students' faces and I know they aren't taking us seriously. They have seen us in action and observed how we react in negative situations with our own peers and colleagues. We avoid the confrontation at all costs and then use passive-aggressive tactics to cope. Our behavior is sending kids a clear message: it's too scary to stand up for yourself or someone else.
If we really want kids to stand up to bullies, we need to stop being hypocrites. We need throw away our fear of confrontation and take a hint from Mayor Nutter. We, the adults, need to become models for our kids by saying what we really want to say. And I'm not talking about over the phone or behind the wheel. We're all very good at that. I'm talking about face to face. And don't send the kids out of the room either. Let them listen to the conversation. Let them hear exactly what you say and how you say it. If you need to curse to get your point across, go ahead and do it. Then sit down and talk about what happened. They'll listen.
For more information on Dan Olweus' Bullying Prevention Program, click here.