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Friday, September 9, 2011

Back to school means back to cruel? Some words of encouragement...

It's September, and for many here in the United States that means back to school. For some kids though, that also means back to cruel - back to the bullies, back to the teasing, back to feeling out of place and alone. I've heard so many stories from my friends these past few weeks about incidents of teasing and such that it's made me sick to my stomach. I hate that my friends' kids go through that. I hate to think that my kids are going through that. I hate to think that my kids might go through that when they get older. My anxiety was cooled somewhat though when I went to my son's connection night at his school. Connection night is sort of like a curriculum night where we meet the teacher and find out what the kids will be learning that year. But it's a lot more than that. Part of it is learning about the school's (and the teacher's) philosophy. I can't convey to you how relieved (and proud) I am to know that our school is actively committed not only to enforcing rules about bullying but also to preventing it in the first place. I was thoroughly impressed with everything my son's teacher had to say, and I'd like to share some of these thoughts with you over next few days.

One thing that really struck me was when Mr. Hanson was talking about the old saying, treat others the way you want to be treated. I've heard this quote a million times, as I'm sure everyone has, but I hadn't heard it put quite this way before:

Treat others the way THEY want to be treated.

Huh? Wait. What does that mean, you ask?? How am I supposed to know how someone else wants to be treated? Well, you don't. Not for certain, and that's kind of the point. Wording the phrase this way takes the focus off of YOU, off of self, and puts the focus on the other person. When you inherently focus on someone else, you begin to realize that people are different. They have different needs, different ways of thinking, and different ways of reacting. And all of that is just as important as how you think and act.

Some examples:
1. Maybe if you're angry and upset, you need a hug. But for someone else, maybe they need space and distance.
2. Maybe you wouldn't take offense to being told your clothes look funny. But for someone else, hearing such a comment can be devastating.
3. Maybe you wouldn't care if someone criticized the way you throw a ball, maybe you'd even appreciate their honesty. But someone else might take such criticism to mean you don't like them.
4. Maybe in your culture it's common to compare your accomplishments or monetary status (I know some cultures where this is very common, particularly for parents to brag about their kids). But others may think this is extremely rude.

The point here isn't to be so afraid of offending someone that you don't say anything at all. Rather the point is to increase your sensitivity to those around you, and one way to do that is to take the time to get to know other people (and other cultures) better.

Which brings me to another point that my son's teacher made. It's not enough to say that we will treat all people the same or that will "tolerate" others who are different than us. A better philosophy to adopt is that we will celebrate the differences and see them as something fascinating, unique and worthy of our time to study.

I don't pretend that hearing these mighty words will change everything. People are people, kids are kids, and in some sense we're fighting against nature (survival of the fittest) here. But I like to think about the other component of nature, that diversity drives evolution. Without diversity our world wouldn't be such a fascinating and beautiful place to live in.

Think about it.

ETA: Please tweet if you like this post - just click on that little birdy at the bottom there. Thanks!


Krista Ashe said...

Great post, Angie! Very timely and true!!!

Wish everyone could live by it!!

E.J. Wesley said...

Beautiful words and sentiments, Angie. World is hard enough without heaping garbage on others.

To quote a favorite author/line: "Words are wind." Which is certainly true, but wind can be very destructive when they're focused.


Heather Dougherty said...

Great post! I'm going to share this one with my kids when they get home today. I really like this sentiment.

:) thanks for sharing!

Melanie said...

Amazing post, Angie! I really LOVE the philosophy of your school and your son's teacher. I wish it was a an instilled philosophy through out all the nation's schools. it totally should be.

lots of love and hugs to you and your family!

Chanelle said...

Great post!

Angie said...

Heather, yay!!

EJ- so true. I love that quote.

Thanks so much for all the comments guys!

KO: The Insect Collector said...

here here! Love this post angie.

Rachael Allen said...

Very nice post, Angie! And just the right time for it!

Nomes said...


awesome post.

(although we are not back to school here ;) only 2 weeks until holidays ~ really cannot wait! ~ i am off to bali for 12 days just with pete, out first holiday in over ten years with NO KIDS)

(sorry to get off topic ;)

Angie said...

Oh wow, Nomes. That is just too sweet!! Have a good time!

thanks Rach and KO for the comments. :)



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