I saw the movie Bully Last night: one of the few folks in my circle who waited this long to see it. I mean I am an anti bullying consultant, and I should have been waiting on line to see it sooner but last night was the night. I will say that I received a great deal of feedback from friends and colleagues who did see the movie, and the big cry from all and I mean all of them was that in the schools where the movie was shot, where all of the harassment and intimidation took place the teachers, and the administration from top down did nothing to stop the nightmare of bullying that these kids were experiencing. This is not a movie review; you can get that somewhere else on the net. This is a review of how the problem was handled in the schools where the movie was filmed.
In one of the very first scenes of the movie the assistant principal whose name was Kim was addressing a few kids who just arrived at school that morning. They came to her with a problem that they were having probably on the bus, don’t remember, not sure, doesn’t matter. When she was finished speaking with the students she walked away talking to herself and made a comment that was so telling about schools and society in general. Her comment was “Tell me how to fix this.” I will add one more word myself that wasn’t said; “Quickly.” In other words get me the quick fix.
When I first started out in administration nearly twenty five years ago I did not want one problem brought into my office. Whether it was with a student, a teacher, or a parent, I would at all cost avoid a problem, and a confrontation. A good day? No problems. I knew myself well, or at least I thought I did. If a problem arouse I just wanted it to go away, very similar to the assistant principal in the movie. Soft pedal and just make it through the day. It was not until my second year as an administrator that things started to change. I had a huge confrontation with a parent, and I was balled out, really balled out. I knew it was going to happen, she was one of those parents that you just hated to see coming. My nerves were shot knowing this. Her son was disciplined and in her opinion to harshly. In some way, shape, or form I stuck to my guns and didn’t rescind the consequence. She left in a huff, and I sat back in my chair and asked myself this question; if getting yelled at by a parent is the worse that is going to happen to me today, than what am I afraid of? I took out a composition book and documented the incident. That composition book became what I called “My Life Notebook,” anytime I had a problem going forward, I documented the problem and the steps I took to solve the problem. There are no quick fixes, none. We all need something that I call equity in life. I have defined this as developing the ability to solve a problem for which we don’t have a reference point. In other words we never did it before, but we need to learn how to do it.
School administrators today are pressured even more than I was. They fear many of the same things I did. Why didn’t I want a problem brought into my office? Because I didn’t know how to solve a problem. I believed that I had to please everyone and we all know that is just impossible.
Well we have a problem now, it’s called bullying. It can’t be fixed, not quickly anyway. In schools where anti bullying programs are in place and enforced consistently we reduce bullying incidents by about 50%. All parents want anti bullying rules to be enforced until it’s there kid who is accused of bullying. Then the discussions start and the fear of the confrontation builds to a point that administrators take the path of least resistance. The assistant principal in the movie was so filled with fear and lacked such professional equity that all she could hope for day to day was that the problem would just go away. It’s not going away. If anything it will get worse if schools and society don’t learn how to handle…….the adults. Yes, the adults. Adults are the mess not the kids. The adults produce these kids, and teachers, and school administrators are all adults. Aren’t they? Help me fix this.