Yesterday, I talked about the ongoing Process Drama I am running with 7th Grade classes in upper Manhattan. The theme I was given to work with was Bullying, basing the work on books the students have been reading/talking about (for more about this: Process Drama: Integrating Current Events and The Blackboard Jungle). A lot of very interesting things have occurred during the process, with yesterday’s discussions totally centered around Problem Solving.
The students had been asked, all along, to journal IN character their thoughts and feelings about the storyline we were acting out. I work with them on Mondays, so I asked their classroom teacher to have them write, over the weekend, about problem solving ideas so that we could discuss them on Monday.
They did a great job! What was really nice to see, and gratifying, was that they did think about it, they did contribute to the dialogue, and they were engaged. Yes, there were a few judgment noises, faces, body postures. I did my best to have them understand that they don’t have to agree, but that they should listen. I feel that they did. One girl brought up a point, with a specific story to back up her point, that was contrary to what a few believed. They humphed and sat back..but..I was watching. They were really listening.
I wish you could have seen the amount of bodies leaning into the circle (I had them move all their chairs and form a circle so we could all see and hear each other). It was fascinating to see what they were putting into this, even the silent ones.
I gave them only one “rule”: the problem solving should be non-violent. Otherwise, it was up to them. I split them into small groups, let them discuss it, then brought them into a whole class discussion. Overall, what it all came down to was this: Talking it Over, or some sort of separation and/or incarceration.
Talking it over was by far the majority response. Sitting down one on one with the oppressor/offender and really creating a dialogue, was what the students felt would work the best in changing the attitude of the bullies. The other side felt that only getting them out of the general population as “punishment” would work. Some took the middle road, saying yes, remove, but instead of at home suspension/expulsion or reformatories, that the time out of the school is used in creating that dialogue mentioned above.
We did discuss: what about a hardened, unwilling to listen bully (using Bin Laden as a prime example), and the students who felt communications were key in modifying behavior said they’d have to agree with the others.
There is no true black/white cookie cutter answer. Bullying is NOT just in the schools, but that is what we focus on. We have bullies in the workplace, families, political arena…in all social structures, and we accept AND resent the bullies, but…
What do you do about bullying, on any level? Are you a bully?