- Yeah, I’ve been beaten up, but I’m not beaten. I’m not beaten, and I’m not quittin’.
- The Blackboard Jungle, 1955
What makes a bully a bully? Why are some bullied? What responsibility does the school administration have beyond the lip service of their “No Bullying In This School” (and other such worded programs)? What happens when students are found guilty not by proven facts but through association? What role do parents play in all of this?
Those questions, and more, have entered into my ongoing Process Drama with a couple of 7th grade classes that I am the Teaching Artist for. Taking my jumping off point from the books “The Outsiders” and “The Bully”, I was asked to create a 9 week program that would engage the students on a deeper level. My apologies for using some Wikipedia as defining some work here and there: it’s just the simplest explanations I could find.
We just finished Week 7. I have to tell you up front that I call my Mondays at this school my Pleasure Days. I love the work the students in these and my other classes have done. They’ve risen to the challenges of the art form and really have surprised me often. That’s a good thing. They’ve made intuitive leaps, shown creative and critical thought, have overall proven themselves to be active listeners, passionately engaged in the material, and struggle to adjust to a world that is and isn’t their own.
The one thing that’s sad is that they sometimes don’t see the bullying that they do without thinking. It’s so ingrained in some of them. How they put down each other: mostly ribbing, but there are some cutting remarks. I had a visitor today observing me: an Asian woman, who heard, upon entering, a disparaging remark about her heritage. I did not find out about that until later, and will use that the next time I see them. They don’t get verbal bullying as the power it has.
From the beginning, I had planned this day. Previously, the class had been split into Five groups: The Bullies, The Bullied Students, The Parents of the Bullies, The Parents of the Bullied, and The School (Principal, VP, Guidance Counselors, Teachers). They’ve been in role all these weeks. Today was my day to really mess with their minds (a remark I made on Facebook that got a lot of fun responses to):
I switched their roles for today, changing their POV: The Bullies became the Bullied, and visa versa. I moved the “adult” groups around: The Parents of the Bullies became the The School; The Parents of the Bullied became The Parents of the Bullies; The School became The Parents of the Bullied (might be hard to figure without a scorecard/graph, but you’ll get it). No one had the same role they’ve been playing for so many weeks.
The outcome: both classes got into it (the second class I was more focused and it went smoother); there were some interesting comments from the POVs; some still kept up the persona they had in the other role, but spoke IN the new POV; some were obviously confused in this, but added some great information in the confusion.We ended with a discussion about how it felt to be the “other side”, what difference does it make in seeing things from a different point of view. They gave great answers. BTW..their teacher is a wonderful cooperative collaborative teacher. I’ll ask him another time if he minds if I name him. But..a great partner.
The shame of all this is it’s only 45 mins once a week. They really are going full bloom..and we have to stop. Part of the ongoing work of this is that they have to Journal after every session, IN CHARACTER VOICE, and what’s been written really shows how deeply some of them are thinking. I’m always jazzed when I leave the school, wanting to come back for more.
The bigger shame: some people don’t see any worth in Arts In Education. I wish they would come to my classes. I have something to educate them on.
Doubter/Naysayer In Role?
What do you think?