By Gustavo A. Ramirez, Guidance Counselor / Education Consultant / belizeguidance.blogspot.com
In many of my articles I focus on suggesting urgent changes that should/could be made to Belize’s Education system. I also encourage Education policymakers and educators to stop living in the past, and start adapting teaching methods that are more in line with 21st Century ways of working, learning, and living. However, I realize that being human we tend to be very sensitive, and my repeated promptings, i.e. “we should or should not” and “let us or let us not”, may eventually end up annoying the very people who the promptings are meant to inspire and/or stir to action. Therefore, this week’s article focuses on highlighting positive actions that are/can be taken by many parents and educators in Belize who work everyday with young people. Stressing the positive to our Youth, through our actions, is most effective, and provides them with memorable consequences and lessons that can help them grow and mature. Parents and educators who make concerted efforts everyday to provide positive examples, at home and at school, for young people to follow are Belize’s greatest heroes.
October is recognized as “Bullying Prevention and Awareness Month”. Parents, educators, and students who bravely address this very real and extremely harmful issue, that surfaces almost everyday in homes and schools across the country, strengthen the very foundations of our society. Positive actions against this unwanted, violent, and self-deprecating occurrence that surfaces everyday throughout society, including in politics, can be as simple as recognizing and reporting those who display bullying behavior. On the other hand, standing up to one or more bullies for one’s and/or someone else’s safety and dignity is never easy; we may actually be physically hurt each time we choose to “stand up” and refuse to be a mere bystander to bullying behavior. Reporting or standing up to bullies, nevertheless, helps immensely to create emotionally safe schools and communities. Without physical and emotional safety, learning is almost impossible.
It’s almost impossible to conceive of any one person being born a bully. Bullies, just like difficult students, (not synonymous) can be found in almost every school today, starting with very young students all the way up to adults. However, they are not born that way; as they slowly grow, they learn to mimic the negative, abusive, and violent behaviors around them, starting from in their home environments. Unfortunately, each time we label them, we conveniently place them in unwanted categories, and without realizing it perhaps, enable them to keep digging themselves deeper and deeper into very lonely holes everyday – at home, at school, and throughout the community. Conclusions of many well-documented research studies carried out by educational psychologists show that the more we refuse to be truthful, direct, and positive with bullies and difficult students, especially at school everyday, the more they seem to lose any sense of dignity they may have and desperately want, and the more they keep reaching out in all the wrong ways to try to get our attention. Being positive, therefore, means trying to help both sides: bullies and victims.
Bullying is not just shoving another student in the hallway at school, or physically abusing and hurting another student as a way to get attention. Bullying includes writing nasty notes, gossiping, hiding books from students, and taking their lunches; it goes all the way up to cyber bulling on the internet (now accessible on cell phones and I pads) and outright gang intimidation. Bullying by educators includes aiming unkind and harsh comments to students to humiliate them in front of their peers. It is totally unacceptable that today young students all over the world today are being bullied mercilessly to the point of committing suicide when they can take it no longer. Being positive means choosing to address, not ignore, this behavior! It means not readily stereotyping bullies or victims. It means addressing an actual person and his/her behavior, everyday, not just addressing a label. Most importantly, it means not remaining silent, but being willing to intervene and accept the challenge of working with both bullies and victims to help them (re)gain the dignity they so desperately need and want. It means finding ways to discipline our young people, starting from birth, no matter how challenging that may be, but with dignity.
These articles are not intended to be comprehensive or complete. They are written and contributed in an effort to provide a “starting point” for valuable discussion amongst educators, students, and the community. If we discuss and review students’ learning capabilities and the ways in which we currently try to educate them, then we can learn from our mistakes as well as success. Way to go, fellow educators!