Bullying is a big news item in Manitoba these days because of Bill C18, a bill which seeks to make schools a safer learning environment for everyone. This morning some bullies were interviewed on morning radio, including one who had done time and then turned his life around as an advocate for victims. It reminded me of a story from my days as a third grade teacher. I’ve changed the names, but the events are true, and remind me of the powerful potential of early prevention.
Tall and strong for his age, Joshua’s feelings were easily hurt. When he felt emotional pain, he lashed out by bullying others. Joshua was feared by many children and knew the principal’s discipline well.
On the other hand, Mark felt sure of himself in a way that made others look up to him as a leader. When Mark and Joshua entered grade three in September, they were not only class-mates, they were desk mates.
Joshua’s size didn’t frighten Mark a bit, but he didn’t like Joshua’s bullying ways. Mark’s mom helped him think and pray about what he could do to help his desk mate stop bullying others. They decided to help Joshua stop acting like a bully.
At recess time, Mark invited Joshua to join him in kicking the soccer ball around. They had a lot of fun, for they were well matched in strength and speed. Before they knew it the bell rang and they had to head back to class. As they walked, Mark said, “You know what, Joshua, I really like you. I want to be your friend, and I want to help you stop being a bully. Will you let me help you stop being a bully?”
Joshua was surprised and happy. “That’s cool, Mark. I really like you, too! I don’t really like being a bully, because then people don’t like me and I get into trouble. Shake, man! I’m ready to change.” They shook hands and put their arms around each other’s shoulders as they sauntered back to class.
Journal writing came right after recess.
Their new friendship and plan for helping Joshua overcome his bullying habits gave them both lots to write about. Sharing it with their teacher got her in on the project as well.
Joshua’s ways didn’t change overnight, but with Mark’s friendship and some helpful reminders from his teacher to make better choices, he had a happy year and made many friends. He forgot what it was like to be sent to the principal’s office and to be feared by smaller children and revelled in how good it can feel to be a friend.