BULLY

Bully reviewI had been putting this movie off for weeks. Yesterday it seemed to be screaming at me so I finally decided to watch it. My resistance was coming from an all too familiar place that I knew this movie was going to take me back to. I pushed play, and after an initial scene where the filmmakers show us the most horrible place where bullying can lead to, the movie continued (or rather began) with a camera inside a school bus while we listened to an incredible school choir version of Wheatus’s song ¨Teenage Dirtbag¨. Powerful stuff from the beginning, especially if you have ever witnessed the horrible difficulties some kids face during that ride to and from school. I always knew that bullying was a very big problem in the United States, and it certainly seems to have gotten out of hand there, but trust me when I tell you this is a global problem. Kids in every school, in almost every country in the world have witnessed the actions and effects of bullying at one time or another. Even here in Spain where for some reason I assumed this matter was under control I’ve heard my share of heart wrenching stories.

Things are probably a lot worse now than when I was a kid. There’s certainly a lot more diversity when it comes to families, traditions, religions, and there’s nothing a bully loves more than a glimpse of something different. If kids are teased simply because of having curly hair, run of the mill clothes or a funny accent, imagine what it’s like for children that are gay, have a physical or mental disability, a different religion, a different skin color. What has always shocked me the most regarding bullying is that the schools, where all of these acts of serious violence are taking place, do little to nothing about it. It took the parents of children lost many years too young due to bullying, to come together with these filmmakers to try to make a difference in their communities. It’s an absolute must see if you’re an educator, a parent or have any kind of position in a school or educational environment.

Bully took me on a very sad bus ride with a few kids, down very sad hallways with others, down a psychiatric prison ward and even inside their safe bedrooms at home. Now, thanks to the internet and texting, there’s simply no safe haven for kids that are being harassed.  Bullying is a serious issue and little has been done about it because school authorities continue to label it as usual ‘boys will be boys’ behavior. Even though girls are no exception, I’m not talking about sex here, this is a violence issue, it is serious and it should be taken as seriously as any other issue involving education. Many parents and teachers who see their kids day in and day out don’t even know that they’re bullying other children the minute they step outside their home or classroom. Many kids who are suffering from bullying say nothing at all.

This was the strongest part of the movie for me. A young boy, who had been severely bullied for years realized that becoming a bully himself was the only solution to his awful situation. If this isn’t an example of the now proven fact that many of the victims of today become the perpetrators of tomorrow, I don’t know what is. Here’s one of the hopeful things that I got from this film, a lot can be done not only by telling someone what is going on, but by standing next to those kids who are quiet, lonely and suffering severe aggravation from others. Many of the parents and classmates of children who committed suicide over bullying have said, that if aside from the bullies, their child had had just one friend or better yet a group of friends, a sense of community, their horrible tragedy could have been avoided. I urge you to watch this film and to not only leave it at that, share it with fellow parents and teachers, sit down with your children and talk to them about these issues. Abuse can come in many shapes and forms and can be where you least expect it. Open the floor for discussion. A school bus, a schoolyard or a classroom should never be a place of fear or pain. It breaks my heart when I see a child suffer and it’s often so hard to end suffering when it’s caused by an adult or parent, but to end it when it’s caused by another child? Shouldn’t that be easy? They are all learning and growing and becoming who they are, that’s why we’re there for right? To explain the difference between what is right and what is wrong? To show by example that differences are a part of life and give the world its color? Why is this issue such a huge and violent problem and why has nothing been done about it?

With a heavy heart I urge you to watch this film. I’d love to know your thoughts on this in the comments below! This is Bully. 

 

OH TEACHER, MY TEACHER

first day of schoolI’ve been reading a few articles on using creativity in teaching lately and if you’ve been reading the blog for a while you know that’s what I’m all about. The beauty of the internet is that one thing leads you to the next and it’s easy to get lost in an endless array of information. Recently, I stumbled upon an article that not only talked about getting more creative in your teaching but about actually developing creativity in students, especially children. The article came with a whopping 24 tips that would help any teacher start doing that immediately, and it just took reading the first one for me to have a serious ‘Eureka!’ moment. Robert Sternberg and Wendy Williams, authors of the article “Teaching for Creativity: Two Dozen Tips” mention modelling creativity as the first one on their list, saying that teachers shouldn’t focus so much on how to teach creativity, but that being creative themselves seems to be the key. Ah yes, the eternal search for a role model, we all have it, and it’s a good thing!

This is where I had my serious aha! moment, with an itty bitty memory from many years ago: the first time I read Animal Farm by George Orwell and The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. Yes these were written by literary geniuses, but that wasn’t it, I read these under the incredible teachings of someone I will never forget. The pages seemed to come alive more and more each day when the book was sent for homework while we talked about Stalin and Lenin and gave presentations about the Russian ballet and were expected to share some Russian cooking with our classmates during school hours. The world of the Chinese farmers was opened up to me by watching movies and looking at incredible pictures and stories about China and the Asian cultures. The images that came to my head while I was reading these books after having such crazy creative classes in school have never left my mind. My teacher, Lisette, was not the first of my incredibly talented teachers, but certainly the most memorable and a role model for creativity if there ever was one. My mother and the rest of my family always said I was incredibly creative and that it must have been in my blood after coming from a family of artists and writers, but I know that genes had little to do with it. At home and in the classroom, great creative things were expected of me, and when things are expected of you as a child, you simply rise to the occasion.

My first exercise when getting certified as an English teacher was to think about the teachers in my own life and what had inspired me. Regardless to say that images of Teresa and the day she totally shocked me with photos of Biosphere number 2 and explained what that was came rushing past me. Nora and her very unique way of teaching us Shakespeare made an appearance, Herminia and her humor and love of literature came to stay. Carlos G. and the way he taught me how to love the magic of creating something with your hands and laugh at yourself when things went wrong also knocked on my door. Eduardo and his incredible and mesmerizing lectures were there because they simply never left. Lisette was center stage and will always be (as she has been since then) an incredible role model for high standards, creativity and a passion for teaching. So yes, what is the first thing you should do to actually get creativity to show up in the classroom? As the experts say and as my experience taught me, you must lead by example.

I’m so glad that all the research I do to take my lessons to the next level creatively might teach more than just possessive adjectives and modal verbs! I’ll go through more of the tips with you soon, but if you can’t wait, here’s the article. 

What more can I say of these and so many other incredible teachers, other than thank you. What would happen to the world if all teachers were this passionate and creative? It would be pretty great wouldn’t it?!

My mother used to always have a surprise for me on the first day of school and that’s what you’re seeing in the top photo. Me and some beautiful blue balloons that to my amazement that day were filled with helium! My oh my!