Community is everything. The bullying events that hit the news and glare in our headlines are the tip of the iceberg. For every story we hear, there are a thousand that we don’t. But they have one thing in common;Â at their very core is a lack of community.
As educators, we may think we’re doing our job, but are we really? The quality of the social and emotional fabric in our schools is varied and often perilous. And the symptoms are beginning to show up with students in younger and younger age groups.
When I was working with a fifth grade group in one of the schools in Hawaii, one of the students, Bobbie,Â told me that he had written his will and final letter to his mother when he was 10 years old.Â “I wanted to die,” he said.Â When I asked him why, he responded, “They called me every dirty name for fat until I couldn’t stand it any longer.”
“I found out that some people care about me,” he said quietly. “So I decided to stay.”
- Put downs that turn to constant torment
- Merciless teasing or taunting
- Rumors that take on a life of their own (even when they are stopped)
- Hateful text messages or emails
- The use of coventry or isolation (‘icing’ a student out)
As teachers and principals we need to learn how to build community.Â Maybe we could develop a new master’s degree program:Â Creating a Culture of Caring – How to create the conditions for positive growth, sharing and support between students in the classroom, on the playground, in the hallways and the lunchroom.