Bullying, teasing, making jokes. Whatever you want to call it, it happens in every culture.
Recently I had a heartbreaking experience with a student. I was washing my hands in the restroom when I heard a loud pounding sound. As I walked out, a 5th grade student walked out of the boys’ surest room. He had obviously been crying and it was also evident he had been the source of the pounding. I assumed he had had the wall with his fists.
I got down on my knees and give him a big hug. We stayed like that for a long time. I tried to understand what had happened as I knew he had been bullied before. He continued to cry. I told him I wanted him to be happy and not sad. We hugged again. I got a half smile out of him. He could at least tell that I cared even if he couldn’t talk about what had happened yet. I spoke with the Thai English Teacher and had him speak with the student.
It turns out he had retaliated against a bully by throwing her stuff on the ground. He was angry with himself for reacting and hit his head (not his fists!) against the wall ten times. He is the smartest kid in English class so it is hard to see anything bad happen to him.
I wish I could understand more about what the school does for bullies and teasing. There are a few other kids I worry about as well. I try to separate troublesome pairs in classes yet sometimes I come back and they are seated next to each other again. What is it I see that other teachers don’t? Am I missing something? Is it just my class?
Bullying is such a difficult issue. Yes, teasing will occur it’s simply human nature. It happens in the workplace as well and can build a general sense of community when it is understood to be “fun” teasing. But when does teasing go past general camaraderie and become bullying? Ask yourself this next time you tease a friend, coworker, child, sibling, parent, etc. How do they seem to be taking it? Are they actually smiling or are they grimacing underneath? If anything remember – if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.