Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tears are not enough, what happens after a tragedy?

I have been thinking and wondering about all the conversations that I have been involved in, listened to, seen on the internet and read on Twitter about the tragic loss of Amanda Todd.  There is a lot to think about, especially based on the publicity, the presence in social media and the reporting in all the media.  The ones that have struck me the most have been under the #RIPAmanda hashtag on twitter.  I have seen so many people sharing the story, saying how it reduced them to tears and being emotional about how the story impacted them.  This has stirred some fear in me and a question, what happens when the tears stop flowing?
As I started to think about a "What next?" question, the Northern Lights song "Tears Are Not Enough" popped into my head and it struck a chord.  Crying over something but not doing anything about it unfortunately accomplishes very little.  What are you going to do differently?  How are you going to act differently?  How are you going to treat people differently?  If we do not learn as a society, and more importantly as individuals from this, then unfortunately we risk to have it continue.

We must become the person that doesn't add to the mess.  It is time to do something about the tears that have been shed, the bad memories that have come back, the thoughts that we could have done something or just the feeling of hopelessness.  There must be a phoenix to rise from these ashes.  There will be programs brought in, speakers hired, panels set up and other ambitious goals will come out of these conversations.  There are all important steps to take, but not everyone is able to do something on a big stage.  In my opinion it starts much smaller.  Every person who has been touched by this story needs to do something small.

There is a small group of middle school students who have approached their principal, with request for anonymity, with a goal of doing random acts of kindness for students that they know are struggling.  There are high school students who are making an extra effort to spend some time at middle schools doing after school sessions specifically targeting at risk students.  Everyone can do something.  It means doing something extra, doing something different.  It means talking to your friends who are making one person the butt of their jokes.  It means cutting out the cutting comments.  It means not losing it on the poor telephone service operator who in all likelihood had nothing to do with your cable not working.  It means not making a rude comment when some poor person is digging through their wallet or purse trying to find the money to pay for the groceries and you are being inconvenienced by a few minutes.  It means taking the time to listen to that family member who can be a drag to listen to but that you know really needs someone to listen to them.  It means take a few minutes of your time to make someone's day a little better, not worse.

Tears are not enough for this tragedy.  There must be a significant shift in behaviour.  The phoenix that must rise is how we respond to what has happened by altering our actions, our attitude  our treatment of others and the respect we show ourselves, others around us and the environment we live in.  Let's take a memory of a tragedy and do something about it to have some positive light come from this.  It would be great to move from #RIPAmanda to #InMemoryOfAmanda and then mentioning some small deed you did to make the world a better place.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Time to look in the mirror

There are times where the topic of bullying becomes more rampant than others.  Amanda Todd's tragic story has brought it to the forefront, and rightfully so.  There is much work to be done, and done with care and that is a topic all on it's own. There are many points to consider such as what is bullying and what is bad play or social emotional difficulties?  Each one can be damaging, but each one also needs to be dealt with differently.

There is another important aspect to this that needs to be considered as well.  What I am finding frustrating is the number of individuals coming out and talking about how we need to stop bullying and yet are publicly demonstrating similar behaviours to that which they are denouncing. It is also usually around this time that we will read comments about how awful the kids are today, how they lack respect and are becoming a lost generation.  Truth be told it is at this time that we probably need to start looking in the mirror and thinking about what our actions, what we celebrate, what we watch and what we say around the children and youth around us and thinking about how our behaviours might be impacting them.  Far too often it does appear to be "do as I say" and not "do as I do".

As we are in election year in the US and the provincial Liberals in BC are trying to stay in power, the attack ads are running.  The same politicians who are denouncing bullying are supporting ads and social media driven agendas that essentially demonstrate what could be perceived as cyberbullying.  They are directed at one person. repeatedly, targeting them sometimes mercilessly with a goal of humiliation, embarrassment and essentially trying to destroy the public image.  In these ads, or ads in the past,  personalities are attacked, mistakes from 30 years ago are aired and other points are raised trying to seemingly convince voters of the ineptitude of the opposition.  At times it feels as though political parties have private investigators looking into finding as much dirt as possible on the opposition and ensuring that it is leaked, broadcasted and streamed via social media.  It doesn't seem to matter if lives are destroyed, it seems to be all about winning regardless of cost.

In sports the trash talker or the agitator is often celebrated for getting under people's skin and getting them off of their game.  We laud the fact that this person has said so much and been harassing the person to the point of getting them to lash out.  A case in point would be the Zidane headbutting of Materazzi after comments were made to him.  This was a defining moment in the World Cup Finals as Zidane was sent off and France lost the game.  Materazzi was hailed for having successfully gotten the French star off of his game and lashing out.  It is such a famous moment in sports that there is actually a statue erected commemorating the moment.  Some football players, hockey players, basketball players and other athletes are known for verbally abusing their opponents to the point of retaliation or playing poorly because of the distraction.  We cheer the fact that they successfully tormented their opponent.  Slashes to the back of the leg, knees to the heads when coming out of a scrum, fingers to the eyes when coming up after a tackle, digging cleats into an opponents foot when possible... What does this teach our young athletes?  How can we tell young athletes that it is OK to verbally taunt, torment or physically assault their opponents and not expect kids to think it is OK elsewhere in their lives. Truth be told, I don't think it has a place anywhere. It does appear that winning, no matter how it comes about is important.  Break a leg, give the person a concussion, verbally abuse them until they react or wilt and so on.  It doesn't matter if you don't have as much talent as they do if you can cheat, steal and physically beat your opponent.

TV shows are also navigating a slippery slope that is definitely going to have a greater impact if the trend continues.  If we look at the TV shows of the 70s and 80s there was an innocence to them.  Many TV shows now seem to be all about snappy comebacks, put downs, setting people up for embarrassment.  The language that is used on a daily basis is language on TV seems to be getting worse.  The sexual overtones, gender portrayals, stereotyping and portrayal of women in videos and movies is sending an embrassingly wrong message to young girls.  There are shows that celebrate people's embarrassments that are shown, all kinds of things put up on YouTube, too often without the person being embarrassed knowing, and especially too often without true consent versus pressured consent.  It doesn't seem to matter what the message is as long as it is provocative enough to get enough attention to keep the show running for another year or to see how many hits you can get on your site.

Kids are told to talk respectfully to adults and yet they will see adults publicly put down and embarrass their colleagues, strangers, friends or other kids.  We tell kids to be respectful to referees and opposition but when they come and watch us play we are berating the official, trash talking our opponents, deliberately hacking away at them to get them off of their game.  We tell them to be careful about what they post on facebook and how they respond on other social media outlets and yet they see important adults in their lives posting pictures of themselves drunk, publicly insulting someone, posting a tweet with violent overtones directed at someone in anger.  YouTube clips of others are posted without asking permission minutes after telling kids to not do the same thing.  Yes, it can be argued that as adults we are better at interpreting social situations than kids, but they see what we do and want to mimic it.

There is no doubt that here is a significant and important teaching quotient that does need to be done to address these issues, but much of it is reduced when kids see adults behave in ways that contradict what is being taught.  If we want the youth of today to make better choices, the adults of today need to show them how it is done.  Perhaps today's adults need to look in the mirror and think about what message we are sending our kids by the way we are behaving, what we celebrate, what we watch and encourage, how we respond to situations, what we cheer for and how we treat others.

If this is a "Lost Generation", then we must examine how we have not done a good job of being guides for them.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Frustration and Behaviour

I was having a conversation today at school today talking today about finding ways to better support students in the primary years.  We talked about how frustrated these learners become as they get older and find the work harder and harder.  They begin to notice that their peers are at a different level.  They are given work that they don't get.  They are asked to focus for extended periods of time.  And so the conversation moved to talking about frustration.

I was thinking about the book I have been reading off and on, Lost at School.  I was trying to put that frustration into perspective during our conversation.  I was trying to put myself in their shoes and it is hard to do.  I have never really struggled in school so I needed to think about other situations.  I am a very even tempered person who rarely gets really upset.  There are basically 3 situations that will usually cause me to swear and become frustrated.  Missing a glorious scoring chance in soccer will usually result in a few inappropriate words and since none of my soccer mates are on twitter I will say that happens VERY infrequently...  Then there is driving in Vancouver.  The last is putting together furniture from a store that shall remain nameless.

The furniture example was the one I chose to use.  It is one of the few times where I really feel like throwing something out a window and tend to use the occasional bit of profanity.  Some of those instructions, in my opinion, are horrible, the pictures are hard to figure out and I usually have to restart a few steps here and there.  Some of these projects should only take around 30 minutes and usually take over an hour.  There are people out there who don't even need to look at the instructions and can just put them together.  Those instructions are easy to follow for some and not for others.  What if those students are experiencing the same frustration that I feel when assembling furniture?