Posts Tagged ‘bully’

Just when you think it’s safe to go back to school

October 1, 2008

Boy’s week has started out rough. 

Sunday night he cried at bedtime because he’s afraid of the dark despite the landing strip night lights available throughout the room. 

Monday night he cried at bedtime because his tummy hurt and his feet hurt because he ate too much and he’s afraid of the dark.  He may have eaten too much as we’re celebrating Big Sister’s birthday and cake and ice-cream were eaten after dinner, so I assumed maybe that was the issue. 

Last night at bedtime (Tuesday, marking three nights in a row), he cried because his legs hurt and his arms hurt because he ate too much and he’s afraid of the dark.  He continued to cry when I told him to go potty one last time and nobody would turn on the light for him. 

“Come here,” I said. 

He walked over with his head down and tears running down his face (I swear if I could make myself cry as an actor like he can, I’d probably be doing some serious paid gigs). 

I reminded him he could turn the light on when he was three and now that he’s four, he ought to be able to turn the light on by himself. 

While he was in the bathroom my wife told me he’d exited the bus that afternoon crying.  Someone “grabbed and twisted” his ear.  The bus driver knew the perpetrator and responded, and an apology was given from the offender, but I’m worried about the excessive crying and its root (not that little boys shouldn’t cry, but the more a little boy cries the bigger a target he paints on himself), and I’m worried about returning to bullying in preschool.  Is the crying symptomatic of not wanting to go to bed because waking up represents going back to school where we’re not having as much fun as we thought we would? 

Is it simply symptomatic of not wanting to go to bed and a fear of missing out on all the fun mom and dad might be having without him?  

Is he just overtired as he falls asleep within seconds of opening the bedtime book?   

So I have some reading to do: 

For empathy:  “Another Preschool Bully” is an Indianapolis’ mom’s reaction and reader commentary.    And for possible exploration (I haven’t had a chance to explore the whole yet:  the Pupil Transportation Safety Institute’s website looks like it has some resources. 

Luckily, we are in a school now that is both accredited and within the public system, so the network of assistance we have available is vast as evidenced by the bus driver’s immediate handling of the situation.  I just want to find out more.

Clarity and indecision

August 19, 2008

This event happened nearly three weeks ago, but it still haunts me.  The event haunts me and my immediate response haunts me because of what each represents.   

My parents live just north of Michigan City, Indiana in Long Beach.  I grew up and attended elementary school in Long Beach, and all the time I lived there — about 11 years – I never saw the kind of behavior I witnessed August 1st. 

My wife and I and our three children visited my parents for a final beach excursion before summer ended and I had to start teaching.  As big sister and I tested the shallows of the sandbar I saw a boy on the beach swing a paddle from the ground into the air and run to his friends shouting, “Did you see that?” 

Behind him I saw a flash of white.

“Did you see that?” he called again proudly.

The flash of white became a gull.  The upswing of the paddle was a return from a downward swing.  The boy had clobbered a seagull on the beach with his paddle.  The gull stood and stumbled and tested its wings.  No luck.  

I swam big sister back to her mother and asked if she saw what I’d witnessed.  The boy made similar inquiries among his peers as they made their way to a beach house. 

My wife had not seen the event, but she watched the wounded bird with me, as I scanned the other families on the shore, looking for another inkling that there was another witness.  As I agonized over what I was to do about this, my wife and I watched the bird hobble about the beach.  How strange that my decision making probably took longer than the boy who actually hit the gull.

The bird was not going to be flying anytime soon, and I appeared to be the only witness.  While gulls can be annoying, this one could no longer care for itself.  Escaping a predator would prove as difficult as foraging for food.

Was I to confront the boy?  Was I to ask for his guardians at the home?  Who was responsible for this boy?  Why did I feel so responsible for this gull?  What would I do if he actually killed it?  Would that be, somehow, better?  Should I call Animal Control?  The police?  Isn’t there a law? 

Two grown women came down to the beach from the same house and threw rocks into the lake as I imagine they contemplated what to do themselves.  They watched the bird, threw rocks, and talked.  I felt some relief to believe there was an admission of the crime in the house, but I wanted to know the punishment.  This bird was now tied to them.  They watched him hop on his one foot and flap his useless wings as they chatted with neighborhood friends.  Then two young boys on a walk decided to add injury to injury by throwing stones at the gull.  The women said not a word. 

I had enough and laid into the two boys who did not necessarily know they were throwing rocks at a wounded animal, but who ought not to throw rocks at animals, period.  All this time I felt I was watching the slow development of three sociopaths.

And all this time I was frozen with indecision.

And all this time my children were watching me and learning. 

I called the police.

I was told there wasn’t anything the officer on patrol could really do. 

As I watched the gull hop his way south, I convinced myself I’d done all I could. 

I see now there were other options.  At the time I knew there were other options. 

Why can we see with clarity what we should do, and why can’t we always do what’s right?

Universal Preschool

February 14, 2008

What did you learn in Kindergarten? 

If you’re like me, that was a long time ago.  There are moments frozen in my memory, but what’d I learn?  I don’t remember.  Of course back then, the idea of a full day of kindergarten was unheard of.

The state of Indiana – the state in which I teach — is working on requiring full day Kindergarten, and the state of Michigan – where I reside — requires all students to attend Kindergarten.  With such laws, do they require preschool?  Of course not.  Nevertheless, I’m torn about preschool. 

When I was growing up, preschool was called play school.  We probably worked on colors, and if Mom’s reading this, she can certainly correct me on what we did and didn’t do.  I vaguely remember taking little trips to the post office to see how things worked and to the fire department to check out the trucks, and there was always reading going on in our house.  But it seems to me that preschool’s a necessary element to a child’s readiness for Kindergarten these days, and Emily Guevera of the Beaumont Enterprise helps explain why that’s the case. 

Seems to me that if we’re going to require students to attend Kindergarten, and if we’re going to expect children to be able to sit through a full day of school who’ve never had a schooling experience, that these states need to invest in stronger preschool programs.  But I’m not really just talking to the states here.  Senator McCain, what’s your plan?  Senator Obama, what’s yours?  Governor Huckabee, how will you support preschool programs nationally?  Senator Clinton’s got the Head Start plan, but is she also prepared to support moms and dads who need childcare/workplace assistance in assuring their children can attend preschool?  In 2003, 1/3 of at risk children in the state of Michigan were not receiving the services they needed.  With all the talk of universal health care, perhaps we should consider universal preschool too. 

   

    

A bully update

February 11, 2008

It’s a bad weather day.  No school for Boy, Big Sister, or me. 

I do, however, have an update on Boy’s plight.  He’s in a new classroom, with a new teacher, and he’s making new friends.  Same school though, so that means Boy and O (his friend that bites and hits even though “friends don’t hit”) have lunch together.  I figure there can be safety at lunch, because all the adults are present watching over the little table. 

Then again, just last week, according to my wife (who I trust not to fabricate stories of this nature), O grabbed a beater from the counter (yes, the kind you would find attached to a mixer) and hit a younger kid’s arm with it as she and Boy were hanging up his coat.  O is evidently still not suspended or expelled.  But if he is, what happens to him? 

Some folks probably wonder why I should care.  A lot of folks have wondered what the deal is with the preschool itself, but I keep coming back to this other kid’s parents. 

I recognize that one solution is communication.  But for a lot of preschoolers I keep hearing parents and teachers demanding that these children – bully and victim — “use their words.”  Clearly they don’t have these words that we want them to use.  And have you tried holding a conversation with one of these kids?  Do you recognize how easily persuaded they are?  How easily you can get them to say what you want, or how easily an idea can be put into their heads?

Until the kids are old enough, you’ve got to work on educating the parents and continue teaching the kids as best you can until they’ve reached the developmental milestone that helps them control their own behavior. 

There have to be programs out there, and I imagine there’s funding through grants that would support bringing programs in, but how do you make parents attend?

Though how hard would it be, really?  If you’re a private school, make it a condition of enrollment.  If you want your kid to go to our preschool, you — the parent – have to participate in our sessions.  At http://amy34.livejournal.com, there’s the tale of a co-op preschool that requires its participating parents to attend various seminars.  One such seminar she attended was on anger and bullies, I’d love to have all parents where Boy goes attend that one.  But the ultimate solution the seminar had for bullies saddens me as much as it does the author.  Sometimes you just have to hit back.  Amy’s not the only one to make such a suggestion either — not that she makes the suggestion as it came from the presenter of the seminar.  A famous children’s book author’s suggested the same, and at one time I was appalled, but I’m not as strong in that conviction anymore.               

Riddle

February 4, 2008

Here’s a riddle for you:  How does a preschool child handle a bully?

He doesn’t. 

A preschool child doesn’t know what a bully is. 

Case in point is the story out of Fargo about the Frohliche Kinder Preschool, “Troupe busts up school bullying”.  Children in the article suggested ways to counter bullies:  “Don’t let the bullies hit” suggested one.  Or as my son has learned in preschool:  “Gentle touches.” 

The story discusses one way to address bullying in schools, and that’s educating children early through drama (or in this case a puppet show). 

The script has one puppet warding off his bullies with pillow and helmet according to author Mila Koumpilova, and his puppet friends suggest telling an authority figure instead.  The show is followed by discussion between actors and students about ways to handle bullies, and sharing information with an adult is urged.  As I’ve indicated before though, getting any information, let alone accurate, out of a child about his day at preschool can be daunting:  “‘At this age, you can’t just sit and talk to the kids,’ says Kimberly Larson, owner of Brighter Beginnings Preschool in Fargo, where the ‘Safe at School’ group performed to riveted crowds in January. ‘When you have the puppets and the music, they can comprehend it a bit more easily.’”   

But preschool bullies are a problem according to the article, so I’m not necessarily overreacting.  “Wendy Troop-Gordon, a North Dakota State University child development professor and expert on bullying, says full-blown bullies occasionally crop up as early as preschool. Generally, though, kids at that age act out as a way to communicate or test the limits of appropriate behavior, not to intimidate and terrorize. Still, she thinks, preschool would be a great time to start an age-appropriate discussion.”

 Children this age tend to assume bullies all use physical violence, according to the article, but what happens when a young child threatens physical violence, and how does the other young child tell the difference?


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