classroom expectations, safety, students

Yes, We May Be Shocked But Let’s Not Pretend to Be Surprised

English: this is my own version of what bullyi...
English: this is my own version of what bullying looks like (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After the video of Karen Klein, the bus monitor who was relentlessly bullied by middle schoolers, went viral, the world is shocked.  How could these children treat another human being this way?  How could these kids get away with it?  And we show our outrage by donating money to give Karen a vacation, to get her away from her job, as a way to apologize for the torment she was subjected to at the hands of children.  We show our outrage by sending death threats to the children involved, swearing that this time, it has to stop.

And sure I find myself shocked as well, shocked that children once again prove just how cruel they can be.  Shocked at the level of bullying these kids stoop to.  Shocked that they talk about stabbing her and gang up on her and never stop.   But I am not surprised.  And neither should anyone else be.  This happens every day, on busses across our nation.  Whether it is kids turning on each other other or turning on adults, this is our reality.  We talk about bully prevention but forget that the minute our children are out of sight from us, they make their own decisions.  As parents we hope that the decisions they make will make us proud, rather than mortified.  We hope that we have raised them right, to be decent human beings that do not harm, that do not torment, that do not bully.  And yet, the moment we send them out of our door, they make their own decisions, good or bad.

I see this with my 3 year old when I pick her up from daycare.  How rather than solving a dispute she hits another child, and I stand there mortified.  Shocked even, that my loving child, hit someone else when she didn’t get the toy she wanted.  Yes, it is a stage, and yes, she is only 3, but still…we have raised her better.  She knows she is not allowed to hit.  She knows what the consequences are.  She knows our expectations, and yet, her arm raised and slap, making the other child cry.  Far cry from the bullying that happened to Karen Klein, but the same nonetheless.  The hurting of another human being.

So what can we do?  We talk about training against bullying.  We talk about awareness of what makes a bully.  We monitor our children, our students, we talk and talk and talk.  We share videos, we enlist celebrities, we punish, and we talk some more.  And yet it doesn’t seem to make a difference.  Kids continue to be kids, and kids continue to bully.  So let’s continue being outraged, but let’s not be surprised.    Surprise means we are not aware and that is a luxury we no longer can hide behind.

22 thoughts on “Yes, We May Be Shocked But Let’s Not Pretend to Be Surprised”

  1. Pernille, you are on point here. After all of the discussions about cyberbullying, how to handle bullies, how we shouldn't be sharing our private information, how we need to be careful when we talk to strangers on the Internet and to NEVER meet them face to face without an adult, no matter how much we use social media tools to practice these things, I still had a student who was talking to a much older person on FB and set up a face to face meeting without her mother. Luckily Mom found out and stopped it, but when our kids are not with us, we can only control so much. For that reason, I'm sure the comments on that video about the lazy, good for nothing parents that let their kids act this way really sting.

  2. I think it's in our culture's nature to be surprised because that surprise acts like a security blanket. Think of when a huge national tragedy occurs and how many people say that our country as now "lost its innocence" and if you think of history how many times that "innocence" has been "lost." It's because we don't have to think about it. We can be surprised until the next news cycle and then worry about the Kardashians or something.I couldn't bring myself to watch the video because it hit too close to home. I have a four-year-old myself who is the sweetest kid and whom my wife and I really try to bring up to not be the sociopath on the playground. Furthermore, I've been through that as both a kid and an adult and it absolutely sucks. My wife agreed with me when I made the off-hand comment that "this is why teachers go off on students and also why they quit."I know that sounds really cynical and I apologize, but this just hit me the wrong way.

  3. I feel horrible for the parents whose kids are on this video. What if that was your own kid and you had done everything in your power to raise them as a respectable human being and then this came out? Truly one of my fears as a parent.And Tom, the video is incredibly tough to watch, I don't blame you. we lose our innocence many times a year it seems and get no closer to a solution, I wish we would.

  4. We expect better out of our kids, but allow very similar behavior among our peers. If our kids talked about others the way commentators on CNN, MSNBC, or FOX do (albeit using a much better vocabulary) wouldn't we be just as horrified? Yet not only do we allow it, we often champion it when follows our own political (hopefully not personal) views. What can expect from a culture that pretends to hate vulgarity, sexuality and violence yet glorifies them at the same time.Why do we expect our kids to be better than ourselves?

  5. I'm glad you wrote on this. It has been stewing around in my head the last couple days.As a middle school teacher, I'm not surprised by the actions of the kids on the bus. That age group can be especially cruel and impulsive. They can also turn around and in the same day be kind and thoughtful. I must respectfully disagree with a couple of your statements. Of course, many people were genuinely surprised by the Karen Klein video. As a (American)culture, we don't tend to mix age groups. We are often times blissfully unaware of what is going on outside of our own bubbles. Social media is particularly good at popping that bubble and giving us a window into other worlds. Furthermore, I believe that the current efforts in bullying awareness are working. There are certain aspects of human behavior that can be influenced by culture and training. Ms. Klein comes from a "sticks and stones"generation where you were taught to just "ignore" bullies and "take it". Schools and certain media venues are teaching kids how to more proactively defend themselves and against bullies. Increasingly, it is no longer considered "weak" to publicly raise red flags on bullies. While, I can't admit that I would fair much better than Ms. Klein, nor do I diminish the pain of her experience; I do believe that should something similar happen in twenty years, the attacked person would be better equipped to handle the situation.

  6. Excellent observations Katie. I agree that we are moving in the right direction as far as bully prevention, no longer is it considered a rite of passage, but is it enough? As far as Mrs. Klein And her generation, I still do wonder how many adults from our generation would also just sit there and take it biting our tongue. I am not sure I would have been as stoic as Mrs. Klein which is what makes this video even more heartbreaking, but then would people have been just as outraged?And if people were surprised by this video, then I fear what rock they have been living under as far as newspaper articles and general societal discussion.

  7. I heard a fascinating piece on NPR this week about bullying. We don't want children to do it and yet it is glorified and profitable reality television to create and produce. Our culture wants to have its cake and eat it too. Unfortunately that kind of hypocrisy has consequences not only for individuals but the whole society.

  8. Chris, I totally agree with you. What kind of examples we are (hopefully good) vs. what kind of examples we allow our children to watch on TV (probably not so good) can give children mixed messages. Even if it's just a sitcom and not "reality" shows. Mrs. Ripp, I watched about a minute or two of the video. I didn't feel like succumbing myself to watch that kind of behavior. Middle schoolers can be so mean. I do agree she probably comes from a "sticks and stones" generation, but that does NOT excuse the bullying behaviors of those children. As far as schools helping to educate students about bullying, I think there needs to be more of a focus on how to prevent it, not solely on how to identify it or how to deal with it when it happens to oneself. I found this GREAT article from Empowering Parents that talks about why bullies act how they do. Basically, they don't know how to deal with social problems. There should be more teamwork and problem solving skills taught in schools. And more accountability. And more workshops for parents. My children are 5 and 8. They tease a lot and sometimes hit. I'm going to go home tonight and have a talk with them. I'm implementing some new rules and consequences to help enforce behavior they know is wrong and that I do not approve of.

  9. This whole idea of bullying is something that I have been pondering quite a while, and I find it in the same category as the obesity epidemic in our country. We are spending a lot of time making people aware of bullying and stopping bullying after it happens, just like people are spending millions and millions of dollars to get skinny after gaining pounds and pounds.What if really put the focus on raising kids (and retraining adults) to follow the golden rule and treat others and we all want to be treated ourselves. I agree that there are some wonderful parents out there whose kids just make dumb choices sometimes. I was one of them. But sadly there are an equal number of kids, if not more, who are not learning valuable lessons about treating others kindly and working together in their homes.We are making standards that show the academic skills kids are to learn as early as the age of three. What if we had standards that we had to follow to teach kids how to be good people? I know some people will say that it's not the school's or teacher's job to teach kids values or character education, but we all live in this world together. Isn't it everybody's responsibility to make sure that we can all care about and live with each other in a respectful manner?There have been bullies of ALL ages since the beginning of time, and as William and Chris both stated, it is glorified in all types of media on a daily basis. I just hope that some of the work I do in my classroom makes a mark the kiddos I see so they spend more time spreading positive than negative.

  10. Here is what I am having trouble with…she is the bus monitor. She is the voice for a kid who gets bullied on the bus. Where was that voice when the the bulls-eye what placed on her? I wish she spoke-up and showed every kid on the bus who does get bullied that they do not have to sit there and take it. If she was allowing that to happen to her, I wonder what was happening to other kids on the bus. I hate that I wrote the above…not blaming the victim, I just wish she had stood up and showed other kids that they do not have to be a victim.A good book on this topic is "One" by Kathryn OtoshiBasically it just takes one to stand-up to a bully, I wished she was that "one," or decided to get help from some"one."

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