Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The "safe" zone of school

I have read numerous (too many) articles in the papers lately about bullying related suicides. Children between ages 9 and 15 taking their lives because they can't cope with the endless taunting and tormenting at school.

Granted, bullying can take place anywhere, but the majority of it happens at school, and when a child is spending 30+ hours there a week, it is no wonder it grates on their poor hearts. Over and over we hear that schools are safe places for kids to be, but I think this is less and less true. Too many stories (in papers and from friends of my own) of children being bullied, abused, and mistreated in the supposedly safe zone of school.

I had a conversation with a friend on this exact topic on Sunday. She expressed some concerns over her young son, worrying that one day he might find himself a bullying victim. Worse, she was worried that she might never know what was happening during the time he was away from the safety of her home.

I told her that the best thing was to have it on your radar constantly. Bullying is an open dialogue in our home already, and Colin isn't even 6. He talks at times about bullying behaviour from kids at school. Thankfully it is all more controlling behaviour than bullying, but I've got my eye on it, and I'm glad to know Colin can recognize that kind of behaviour and that he is willing to let me in on it.

But let me tell you, I would pull my children so fast from an environment like the ones described by these children who took their own lives to escape the pain. Many of the kids talked about switching schools to try and escape, but these days it seems like schools are nothing more than a social ladder, where everyone wants to climb and the only way up is to drag the person above you down by the scruff of their neck and trample over them as you climb. It's terrible.

I feel like the only way my kids will be safe is if they blend in, if there is nothing that makes them different or stand out from the other kids. But that's not really the type of kid I want to raise. In fact, I want to raise kids who dare to be different, love to stand out, feel free to embrace who they are. How contradictory to the institution where they will spend the next 12 years of their life.

I know these aren't the stories of everyone, but especially during those tough middle school years (grades 6-9) almost everyone feels vulnerable. I almost feel like it would be a good idea to homeschool during those years anyway. I know some people will say that it will "toughen" kids up, or that they need to face that kind of adversity to make them strong, but I say that's crap. There is no reason that during some of the most vulnerable years of their lives they should be thrown into a lion's den. There are many ways they can be prepared for the world without being taught to crush other people's souls before they crush yours. Again, not the kind of kids I want to raise. But maybe for a couple years I can let them grow in themselves in the comfort and security of their own home, developing intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally during those fragile times and emerging on the other side ready to face high school, post secondary education and eventually the work force. When you put the two options side by side, it doesn't seem to be much of a decision, does it?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I, as a parent worry about bullying when my child starts school. Even at his early age now (4) you see bullying of kids when you go to your local playground or watching others at play. I went to a highschool with 2,500 students. it was safe to say no one knew everyone so bullying (as far as I know) didn't really occur much. Being from Miami you see it all. But times have changed, big time. I worry my son might be bullied and hope that we have and can continue to instill appropriate behavior so that he will never be a bully. I see my nephews, nieces and cousins in situations that I was never placed in before. The pressure to do things that I didn't really have to avoid when I was growing up(mostly I think because I chose my friends wisely and was never one to care about others opinions). Question is, how hard is it going to be to show your children they don't have to be followers or make poor choices to still be liked? Will my son care for those things?

It's a viscious cycle.