Bullying seems to be one of those issues that we know exists in our schools but nobody seems to be doing the bullying. I had the opportunity to address this issue with Anderson County High School in Garnett, Kansas today, and if you were to look at the amount of respect these students showed during the assembly you would never guess that they had any type of problems with bullying. They were respectful, involved, participated in the program and I would guess that they have fewer problems associated with disrespectful behaviors than most schools. Keep in mind this school is like most schools and just because we don’t see a lot of it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t address it.
The constant barage of negative media, reality tv, online social interaction means that we need to be proactive in addressing respect in schools. We see so many people getting paid (reality stars) for creating drama on tv, twitter, facebook etc. that bullying seems to be the new norm for how to interact with each other. It seems that everyone from The Jersey Shore to The Real Housewives of “any city USA” have been promoting that the only way to get to the top is to degreagate everyone in your presence. Asserting your power whether it be your physical presence or using your social capital to get “one-up” on someone else seems to be the new way to gain status in our communities. Finding a solution begins with defining the many problems associated with bullying in our culture.
BIG PICTURE vs little picture Thinking
My friend and professional speaker Craig Hillier http://www.craighillier.com/ always says,
“Will remember you based on what you did for them or what you did to them.”
I call this the 4-2 Principle. When you spend your days walking the hallways of your school asking the question: What can I do for you instead of what can I do to you then you gain a lot of respect among your peers in the big picture. I think we would all agree that we would rather be remembered in a positive way, and if that is the case why would anyone bully another human being. Are some people just bad? Are some people just “born to bully”? I don’t think that is the case, but I do believe that people get a reward for bullying in the short-term (little picture). The bully thinks in the “Little Picture”. When a bullying behavior is initiated there is almost always some cheering, laughing and approval from bystanders. Bullying has its’ own little picture or immediate gratification reward. This immediate gratification from bystanders gives the bully a reason to bully again as a way to up their social status among their peers. In my assemblies after I have defined bullying, and students have seen that most of us have been guilty of bullying on some level I ask the question, “What happens to you internally after you have had some time to think about your behavior?” Most students agree that they are saddled with the pain of regret from their actions. You might think this doesn’t make any sense, if I regret my actions why would I ever bully again? The reward for short term status is VERY powerful. If we get a reward, even if we know that we will regret it later, most people will continue to seek the reward.
Big Picture Thinking is much more difficult and the reward is not as immediate or as intensely satisfying in the short term. Let’s face it being kind and respectful is not as dramatic or as intense as being negative. Sure you might get a thank-you or a pat on the back but it as not nearly as exciting as the reward that comes from a group of people coming together through the pain of another individual. Couple that with all of the negative behaviors that we see in the media and the act of gaining status through cutting another person to the ground being positive just doesn’t seem to be the behavior of choice.
How do we get students to buy into Big Picture Thinking?
In my assemblies I challenge students to realize that you will leave some type of legacy in your school. You will be remembered, the question is: How will you be remembered? In the short term, getting students to commit to being positive is fairly easy. Let’s face it most people get it when it comes to understanding that they want others to see them in a positive light. The challenge becomes how do we continue to make positive choices when we are further removed from positive influences. This becomes the role of student leadership training in our schools. We must address positive behaviors on a regular basis and take on the challenge of making it a regular part of our culture. If we leave it up to chance the culture will almost always go negative. Did you read “Lord of the Flies?” That is what happens. The hallways of our schools has become the “Lord of the Flies”. We can’t leave it up to chance. We must make a continuous effort to have our coaches, teachers, organizational leaders, student councils, bus drivers, cooks, and custodians be on a mission of always reminding students to think in the big picture. The point is we need to address it. My suggestion is to begin with an assembly to address the issues, get your athletes and student councils together to regularly discuss what they are seeing duing student free time. Get your student leaders to commit to a positive social media presence. (That is, if it is not clean powerful and positive don’t post it). Teach your students to act with courage when they see negative behaviors. If one person has the courage to intervene the negative behavior can be curbed. Give your students ownership about the direction of their school and the quality of their school experience.