I have to thank Selena Gomez for helping me achieve a recent feel-good moment. Her song,
“Who Says,” lent itself to a lesson I created about bullying. For those of you less strangely in tune with the world of Disney Channel music than myself, here are her lyrics:
“I wouldn’t wanna be anybody else
You made me insecure,
Told me I wasn’t good enough.
But who are you to judge
When you’re a diamond in the rough?
I’m sure you got some things
You’d like to change about yourself.
But when it comes to me
I wouldn’t want to be anybody else.
The girls did not know what I meant by bullying. Besides the fact that this is a strange English word (if you say it enough times you will start to feel that you are speaking gibberish), they did not know how to identify bullying’s basic components. Why? These components are built into the everyday school life of these girls. I’ve watched one girl pinch another into submission. I’ve overheard conversations about excluding a girl that is not as well liked. I’ve grown impatient as the girls who always listen when their friends speak in class deliberately talk to each other while another who never shares finally gets up the courage.
There is not anything particularly sinister about these incidents. These girls are eighth graders; middle school is famous for being one of the most difficult times of adolescence. We’ve come to know and love all of our students and I’m 100 percent confident that each one will grow to be a thoughtful and compassionate adult.
What does bother me is the institutionalized nature of bullying in our schools. The brightest students tend to be favored to an extent that can squelch the chances of others to thrive. While I was able to find a few campaigns against cyber-bullying in India, I struggled to uncover any anti-bullying efforts or resources for schools. Ten minutes into my lesson, I realized I was in over my head. How can you teach anti-bullying in a twenty-minute rotation when its basic premises are just not the norm? At the end of the day I felt quite discouraged and fairly certain that the only part of the lesson that worked was Selena’s peppy video. Imagine my joy at coming across this original story in one of the student journals the next day:
“Once upon a time there was a garden. There were many flowers with beautiful colours except the Datura Flower. All the flowers in the garden teased Datura Flower. Datura Flower felt, “it’s not my fault to be like this!” All the flowers are colourful and they tease the colourless flower, saying “dirty flower,” etc. But one day God appears and takes the Datura Flower. All the other flowers say, “it’s not a colourful flower.” God said, “oh, I know but it is a good flower. This flower is not bullying any one.” So good people do not do bullying.”
She also included this drawing:
Sometimes the surprises are the best part about teaching, and these little gems are what make any moments of doubt seem irrelevant.
(Disclaimer: be prepared to play Selena’s video more times than you thought possible if you ever decide to show it to a group of girls in a school in India!)