Inspiring Man and Movie 8

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Front of the Class is the story of Brad Cohen, a teacher who has Tourette’s. I love this movie for several reasons and I highly recommend it. I believe it should be required for teachers to help them understand how teachers can devalue a child when they should be inspiring them. This movie resonated with me since my daughter had a vocal tic when she was younger that a teacher actually made worse after we told her to ignore it.

The movie starts prior to young Brad’s diagnosis with Tourette’s and follows him as he interviews for teaching positions at multiple schools where they fail to see his potential. One of the interviewers tells him, “You must have had inspiring teachers.”

He responds, “I had an inspiring Principal. My teachers really only inspired me to be the kind of teacher they never were.”

She asks, “What kind of teacher is that?”

He responds, “One who makes it possible for a kid to learn even if he’s different. In a way the best teacher I ever had is my Tourette’s.”

Later he tells his students, “Never let anything stop you from chasing your dreams.”

I am grateful to Brad Cohen and others who continue to pursue their dreams and work to change the world to a place of tolerance and acceptance of differences.

Wishes and Dreams 10

We were a happy family in the spring of 2001. We were in the land where wishes and dreams all come true. Yes, I mean Disneyland, but I also am talking about our hopes and dreams for our family too.  The future looked bright.

Traveling was difficult at times even then, but we managed. That was before my daughter started kindergarten at a highly competitive school. It was prior to the diagnosis, prior to the bullying, and a decade before the term “social combat” was heard. If only, I could go back to that spring and somehow shield my daughter from all of the mistakes that followed, I would in a heartbeat.

Of course, I cannot, so instead I try to educate you so hopefully you can avoid our mistakes and the world can remain innocent for your children a little longer.  I have learned the hard way that highly competitive schools and parents who push their children to always be number one at everything inadvertently encourage “social combat.”  I want to help put an end to this.

I interact with many on Twitter who are working to prevent bullying and I keep trying to get the word out locally.  Still, it feels like I am hitting my head against a brick wall and I am not sure for what anymore.  My son already attends the school that I think is the best in the state at preventing and addressing bullying when it happens and my daughter no longer attends a brick-and-mortar school.  I am not sure if anyone even listens to what I have to say except for those who already get it.

I am not giving up, but at times I do feel like I am giving out.  I get frustrated because I have been trying to get through to people for five years and we still only have baby steps to address the problem.  I get impatient with the experts who make it sound like the latest study is “groundbreaking” when the study only confirms what I have known all this time.  Please world wakeup!  Become kinder, gentler, more supportive, and more empathic.  Save our children.  They are our future.

Critique of “Bullying It Stops Here” 6

Let’s Really Stop It.

I could not find the time to post about last Sunday’s Anderson Cooper’s “Bullying It Stops Here” until now. We still deal with the aftereffects of bullying everyday at my house. Yet, I hear how surprised people are about the study done by University of California sociologist, Dr. Robert Faris. Some have even called it groundbreaking. I laughed when I heard this and then I screamed at the television.

Does anyone ever listen to the parents of children who have been victims of bullying or to the victims themselves? The only new thing I got out of the whole show is a new term, “social combat.” I have been referring to it as the “mean girl” syndrome in our case. A syndrome that ironically began after the girls watched, “Mean Girls,” the movie inspired by Rosalind Wiseman’s book, Queen Bees and Wannabes.  

I know the book was not intended to have this effect, but in our case it did. I do believe Rosalind Wiseman’s other books including, Owning Up Curriculum: Empowering Adolescents to Confront Social Cruelty, Bullying, and Injustice, are more helpful and I do like how she now realizes the importance of the bystander’s and the teacher’s involvement in combatting bullying. I just think we need to go further than that if we really want to end the problem. 

Overall the study did not take some things into account. For instance I paused the video when they showed the survey questions the kids answered. Every child had a chance to identify someone who had been mean to them by student ID number and by initials. Now I know for a fact that the bullies identified my daughter as the mean one even though she was not. They even convinced others that she was mean. She was merely responding to the way they treated her. That is not meanness; that is self-preservation. These are two very different things. That is not to say that there are not children who are both victim and bully, but I would argue that this needs further investigation instead of taking it at face value in every case.

It is important to note that you cannot decide to put the victim and the bully in arbitration until you help the victim to heal and become empowered, and you cannot decide that they both need social skills training either which is what Dr. Phil suggested. They both need help, but social skills are not what the bullies lack. They lack kindness, empathy and in some cases humility.  

They overlooked other things too. They focused on “social combat” and bullying as it related to gay or perceived to be gay students at a school where the district has banned the term so that the victims cannot report the bullying without getting in trouble themselves; however, they missed other groups of victims. Basically any difference even medical health issues like allergies, diabetes, cerebral palsy and cancer, as well as those with learning disabilities, or any diagnosis are often victims of bullying to some degree.   

I think it is also important to educate teachers about how their own choice of words and/ or the way they talk to their students can set some children up for bullying. They need to understand the long-term effects of bullying too. Again, I am speaking from my family’s experience regarding this. You can read more about this in my previous post, Teachers Please Inspire and Support Our Children « Delightfully Different Life.    

People who believe bullying is no worse than it was in previous generations confound me. I strongly disagree and believe me I do know that many of my generation still carry scars of bullying. The biggest difference is society’s apathy about the bullying, leaving many of these children feeling they have nowhere to turn for help. My parents would never have allowed my brothers or me to be so blatantly mean, yet some parents today turn a blind eye, or are in denial. Add in the Internet, cell phones, and game consoles that too few learn to use responsibly and you have a recipe for disaster. Thus, the increase in suicides.

I am grateful that more light is shinning on this issue and I do hope more people are paying attention. I also hope I will have more opportunities to educate others about ways to help with this cause. Today I am grateful for every step in this direction no matter how small, and I am especially grateful that I got  a chance today. You can view it here: Keiki Talk – anti-bullying book. Thanks again Olena! 

The Right Thing to Do 6

Today I am grateful for support and understanding. Thank you to all of you who have e-mailed Fox and blogged about the recent Glee episode. I sincerely hope they respond in some way and try to make things right.  

I want to make clear that the opinions I express on this blog are my opinions not my daughter’s. There are times we see eye to eye and there are times we do not. Therefore, I ask that you do not try to drag her into the campaign to e-mail Fox. She is choosing to stay out of this and I ask that you respect her wishes.

Now, I know there are those of you who will ask why I am doing this if she is not on board with this cause. My reason is simple. I cannot be a quiet bystander when I feel something is wrong and my views of the world as an adult are different from my views at age sixteen. This is not to say my daughter is wrong and I am right for that is not the way I see it. Rather what I see is that in our generation there were people who thought Archie Bunker on All in the Family was funny and there were people who found it offensive. Some who thought it was funny still find it humorous and others no longer do.

Everyone has a right to their opinions. However, laughing at a group that is vulnerable should never be okay in my book and Allen Frances’ very public opinion that many with an Asperger’s diagnosis do not really have it and those who make very public comments that people with Asperger’s use it as an excuse for bad behavior makes this group vulnerable. Therefore calling someone “self diagnosed” does not negate the harm done to those with a diagnosis of Asperger’s. The writers of Glee need to show tolerance for this vulnerable group.