I was trying to make a new page labeled "Parenting" and was hoping to post this under that title but I have not figured out how to do that yet. So everyone is treated to the same post.
I wanted to talk about the bullying I refered to before. Partially because someone commented on it on Google + and because it deserves closer examination.
I mentioned in a previous post that I ultimately left the Arctic because my daughter had been bullied in the small village we lived in for two years. It's true and it was one of the worst things I have had to experience. The feeling of helplessness that a parent experiences when her child is bullied is profound. As a result of that experience one of the first things I do as a teacher now is make clear that bullying will not be acceptable in my classroom in any form. I outline what bullying looks like in a classroom and what the consequences will be if it occurs in my own class. Every year. With every student. Because I believe talking about it will help. I even go into why it is so important to me and why it can never be 'okay' to bully. So now I will tell you:
I do not think there is a great deal of difference between bullying in a regular mainstream class and bullying for racial reasons in a Northern classroom against a 'quallunaat' child. Both are done to children who are a minority in some way and both are done to children who cannot change the 'way they are' in order to suit some vague ideal of normal that the children have decided is acceptable. That being said, I am trying to say that racism and cultural misunderstandings were the reason my daughter was bullied but she could not change being a Quallunaat any more than a child can change being overweight, weird, different, an outsider, or the other million justifications that people use to feel better about what they are doing/allowing. The end result is the same: feelings of helplessness and worthlessness on the part of the bullied child. Feelings of power over the bullied by the bullies and the bystanders. And a feeling of helplessness by absolutely everyone else who is involved; including administrators who rarely know what to do, teachers who feel powerless to stop it and parents who are heartbroken over it when their child is the one that is being victimized.
I know what happens at this point in the conversation. Since we all don't quite know what to do about bullying in the classroom and at school, we start to shut it out and say 'Well she turned out alright in the end' and "things turned around eventually so it's alright." It is NOT alright. My daughter was suicidal when she left that small village. I had to fly her out in an emergency flight in order to save her life because the kids up there had managed to erode her self worth so much that she didnt think she deserved to live anymore. She was nine years old. She was still in counselling and therapy at 13 years old for depression caused by low self worth issues. It is NEVER alright to allow children to bully one another!
When it was happening, one of the teachers who had been on supervision told me that my daughter should 'get tougher if she wants to stay in the north'. The principal told me that it was her own fault because she 'refused' to change. (Being a Quallunaat child, she should have changed her own cultural glasses in order to fit in, I suppose) I only share this with you because it's what parents come up against sometimes when their child is being bullied. Denial and pointing blame at the victim. My daughter was afraid to tell me for months while it was happening because she thought it would get worse if she told. And she was right, it did get worse.
My daughter left to live with her father from November to June while I stayed in the Arctic to finish out my contract with the school board. In that 6 heart-breaking months without her, I decided to make good use of my time. I quit smoking (a personal goal I had not been able to reach before this time) and I started a committee to inform and educate everyone on what to DO when a child is being bullied. I got federal funding for the committee, filled out a million papers, got teachers, the principal, th e youth center, social workers, and police involved and we talked about how to build a more positive atmosphere in the school and community. We created a 'bully court' where the kids were the judges and juries and bullies were brought before the court to defend themselves. We talked about creating projects where people had to work together in order to learn to get along. I really hope my work there on the Aragutaq (meaning Rainbow) Committee did some good. I know it helped me understand what to do when the bully was in my classroom.
Share your thoughts on bullying if you wish.