Classroom exercise sparks bullying debate

3 11 2011

This one has me scratching my head. Let’s see where you weigh in on the debate raging about a New York teacher’s efforts to enlighten her students about the impact of bullying…

If you haven’t already heard about this (now “viral”) item, it’s bouncing around the online news outlets and the blogosphere with lightning speed.

A teacher in New York was teaching her class about bullying and gave them the following exercise to perform. She had the children take a piece of paper and told them to crumple it up, stamp on it and really mess it up but do not rip it. Then she had them unfold the paper, smooth it out and look at how scarred and dirty is was. She then told them to tell it they’re sorry. Now even though they said they were sorry and tried to fix the paper, she pointed out all the scars they left behind. And that those scars will never go away no matter how hard they tried to fix it. That is what happens when a child bullies another child, they may say they’re sorry but the scars are there forever. The looks on the faces of the children in the classroom told her the message hit home.

So what’s the debate? Well, one camp is applauding what they see as a valuable and lasting lesson about the impact of bullying. The other camp is suggesting that this exercise gives bullies reinforcement for their actions by confirming the hurt they can cause. The former notion is an easy one…make an impression on kids, get them thinking about a serious subject, leave them to ponder their position. The latter, however, would appear to be rooted in a firm belief that bullies are a) not already aware of the effect they have, and/or b) motivated by inflicting hurt or harm. It’s certainly not the most optimistic point of view.

The thumbs-up side (supporting this teacher’s exercise as a positive one) appears to be leading the debate by a substantial margin, judging by the online posts and comments I have sampled. That there is discussion, dialogue, or debate at all is good thing. Feel free to add your thoughts.



2 responses

3 11 2011

Wow. People will complain about anything, won’t they? I had not heard of this. Thanks for sharing.

3 11 2011
James Claims

I find that it is a very interesting way of making the act of bullying concrete. Too often, we view our minds as these fluid things that we can rewrite and reorganize at will. Rather, they’re very susceptible to damaging behaviors and no amount of wishing can make it go away. And as for the incentive for more bullying, that misses the issue of this exercise; which was to stop casual or incidental bullying. Bullies that will do it no matter what is said to them will not be stopped unless more drastic measures are taken. Furthermore, telling the truth to children about the impacts of their actions should never be seen as a bad thing, whether we want to hear that truth is a reflection on us, not the value of the truth of the matter.

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