“On Wednesday, Amanda Todd’s body was found in her home, police in the Vancouver-area city of Coquitlam said. She took her own life.
She was 15.”
The quote comes from the article, “Bullied Canadian teen leaves behind chilling YouTube video” written by Lateef Mungin, CNN on October 12, 2012.
My oldest son turned 12 in August. As a dad I worry about bullying. About the mind field that schools can be. Last night at dinner my oldest daughter, who is in second grade, shared how she lost a friend during recess. Second Grade! And we are dealing with friendship drama.
I know that friendships have cycles to them. That growing up is not easy. Discovering our talents, strengthen our beliefs, dealing with peer pressure. These are things we deal with throughout our lives. But how did it get so deadly?
What can I do about it? What can anyone truly do about it?
The first step is the most important. Create a classroom environment that is safe. We can’t change “the world” but we can change our world. As a dad, as a teacher, I can only be a buffer against the cruelty of the world. I am the role model of behavior, of strength, of what it means to be a person of character. No one will ever be perfect, but as a dad and an educator I have an important job beyond the books or the paycheck: to show by living out the greatest aspects of this life. It’s not easy, and I have failed too many times. But no child, no son or daughter, no person deserves to be treated so bad that life has no meaning anymore.
The second step is education about digital citizenship. For all that technology can do to enhance our lives, it brings out the darker side of society to our screens just as easily. What was once written in the bathroom stall is now broadcasted on Facebook. Thousands on YouTube now view a humiliating stunt at lunch. A mistake is not forgotten in this digital age. Digital citizenship needs to start in elementary school right along with sharing and fair play.
The third step is to make a stand in some way before things get bad. Our stories, our expertise, our smiles can be a catalyst for a student. Last night I finished the book, “Season of Life,” a part of the story is about Joe Ehrmann’s program called Building Men for Others and it’s effect on the Gilman football program. It is about the “why” of life. And as a dad and a teacher (and when I was a coach) I have the blessing to share that why with my family and my students. We all do. We all should because without a deeper foundation the cruelty of life can crush any of us.
Here is a list of sites to find more information.