The Best Way for a Bully to Learn is to Drain Their Small Pond…or Just Throw Them in the Ocean.

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Over the past several months, I’ve not so much been the victim of, but have witnessed quite a bit of bullying.  As a teacher and a mother, it’s probably not a surprise that I’ve seen bullying recently, but most of what I’ve had to watch, read about, or hear about, is less of kids bullying other kids, but adults bullying other adults and even adults bullying adolescents.  GROW-UP.

The common denominator that I’ve noted with most of these adults, who possess the mentality of a big child and still can’t get past the fact that they are not 16 years old anymore and the glory days of earning respect by flexing, laughing really loud, and or belittling someone else with unintelligent and derogatory remarks are over, is that they never seem to leave home or go very far from home/where they graduated from high school or if they do move away from home, it’s to a very small town where their occupations allow them to be at the top of hierarchy ladder in terms of annual income.

There are plenty of nice, wonderful human beings who stay in the community where they were raised, because they feel pride and loyalty to the town and want to continue to make the community great for their children, and I respect that.  Honestly though, when I reflect on the individuals who’ve been downright mean and obnoxious to my family whether it was a classmate, boss, relative, any type of peer, the majority of them fit into the denominator explained above.

There is that minority of bullies that do turn it around.  These are the individuals who were bullies as teenagers, leave home, realize no one gives a rip in college/real world if you were prom king, on the dance squad, had an impressive ACT score, etc. and they do change, but those are the ones that left the small pond they were capitalizing on and thus were humbled about what they learned about themselves: that being a jerk for the rest of your life is a pretty sad and pathetic existence.

I get that many bullies are actually really unhappy people, but do not expect me to feel sorry for them, especially the adult versions I’m focusing on today.  Again, GROW-UP.  Sadly, it seems to be a never-ending epidemic.  A solution?  I know, I know.  You’re probably thinking: Stop always pointing out the problems, Laura, and offer a solution.  To be honest, this problem is so incredibly bizarre to me, that right now I don’t have too many ideas for fixing it, besides walking up to the person and telling them to their face how much they suck….which could be interpreted as bullying and thus making me a massive hypocrite.  Wait….there is one thing…..

I have learned a lot from my parents, who work their tails off, and have gotten where they are today because of hard work.  Period.  Like them, I’ve never schmoozed, connected with any type of “inner circle” at work or socially, nor have I participated in any type of pseudo sorority rush.  I’m happy with what I’ve managed to accomplish so far, even though I was never a royal candidate for anything in my life, and it’s because of hard-work, but also treating others around me like human beings and never feeling like I was entitled to anything simply because I have a pulse.

I think the best way to aid and making this culture of immature, juvenile adults, who would probably cry like a baby if I ever picked them up out of their safe little pond and dropped them in the ocean with all types of larger-than-life elements, is to simply lead by example.  It’s actually pretty comical to see an adult bully get so incredibly uncomfortable because the person they thought they were going to prey upon is calm, undisturbed, professional, and mature.  It’s pretty entertaining, because an adult spitting out the words, “Shut up!” in public, tweeting/posting derogatory words on social media (I recently witnessed this when keeping tabs on the college sports scene), or making blunt/ignorant comments via email or face-to-face with zero research or content to back up what they’re saying,  is only damaging to themselves.  Unfortunately their skulls are pretty thick that I’m not sure an adult bully always comprehends when they’re making a donkey of themselves, but I’m a big believer in karma and have seen many times how eventually, even if it feels like forever, justice/the good person does win in the end.  Let’s get to the happy ending quicker.

Adults: GROW-UP.  We need to model for children and adolescents the right way to speak to people and work with others in productive, welcoming, and supportive settings.  What a waste of our purpose in this moment to spawn more massive ego-bubbles.  Let’s not turn the real-world into a cheesy 1980’s movie (imagine a bunch of Biff’s from Back to the Future running the planet) that ends in a horror film.  I would think being the president, or even a member, of the National Antagonizing Association would be an exhausting and infinitely depressing existence.  Aim higher.  Grow Up.

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Our Students Don’t Clock Out at 3:30 PM. Why Should We?

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There are a lot of people who complain about how we, as educators, are underpaid.  I agree that those who are truly committed to the profession probably are.  Rather than open that can of worms (and maybe I already did just a little) I want to focus on the time the education profession requires in order to in fact be a great teacher.

Teaching is not a clock in and clock out, your-work-never-comes-home-with-you type of job.  A lot of professions require “after hours”: medical professions, law, real estate, parenting–the list goes on.  If you can’t make teaching a part of your life, not your whole life, but a part of your life outside of teaching, then I really don’t think this is the job for you.

I know people have complained to me, “I have a life too, I’m not going to stay up late grading every night….” and I get that.  From 3:30 – 8 PM I’m a Mom.  The minute my son goes to sleep, the book bag reopens and I’m thinking about next week.  Why?  Because, I really don’t want to stink at my job.  That doesn’t mean I never have a lesson that doesn’t spark something within my students, like I hoped, but at least I didn’t settle for some pre-made, boring crap of an activity that did nothing more for my students than fill time.

As educators we have a lot of meetings, and quite frankly, you need to be showing up for them.  Yes, they’re before or after our “work day”, but it involves your students, so show up.  I give exceptions if you’re double-booked with another school activity/committee meeting/supervision commitment, but if it’s an IEP or SAT, and you don’t have one of the above commitments listed as an excuse, then you need to be there.  Some schools I’ve worked with require it or suffer the consequences while others are satisfied with the minimum one classroom teacher.  The problem with the latter?  It’s always the same teacher coming to every meeting.

I’ve had colleagues ask me on Work Days (and I am forever grateful for the occasional Work Day), “What are you going to DO for the whole time?”  Why is this question even asked?  I’m smiling the whole time I’m answering their question, and on the inside I’m taking slow, deep breaths while explaining (what I think is FREAKING OBVIOUS), “Grading, lesson planning, reorganizing, editing, polishing, tweaking, brainstorming, etc., etc. (LIKE YOU SHOULD BE DOING!!!!!!!!!!!)”.

The job also doesn’t stop outside of the classroom when you’re out in public in terms of the image or behavior you should be exhibiting.  Again, I’ve heard colleagues in the past (I’ve worked in four different buildings in my career, so don’t assume which school/s I’m referring to) complain about how they should be able to be themselves, be free, let loose, etc. when off the clock.  You’re in charge of children.  You’re the poster person for public education.  If “being free” is becoming extremely inebriated in public, posting photos of yourself on social media looking like you’re trying to recreate Animal House, or simply functioning with limited clothing on, regardless of how trim you are…..then you need to try a different profession.

Think about it.  If I saw photos or first-hand behavior of my son’s teacher, doctor, scout leader, clergy member, daycare provider, friend’s parent, etc behaving like a complete juvenile donkey, I would be ending those relationships and cutting our losses…and I’m not even sure the loss would be significant since we’re supposed to be the professionals; the adults that are supposed to model not only proper behavior, but also model what it takes to positively contribute to this planet.

If you’ve chosen your contribution to be education, then don’t expect an 8 AM – 3:30 PM (approximation) schedule.  Our students don’t get to clock out at 3:30 PM, so why should we?