“Don’t use those kinds of letters”
-things I never thought I would say as a teacher
In today’s world, it seems that every phrase has some time of alternative meaning or negative connotation. When kids tell me that another kid said the A, B, S, J, C or F word, I have to pull them outside and ask them what word they are even talking about. Sometimes it’s what you’d expect, sometimes it’s something like crap, shut up or jail – all words their parents have told them are not nice.
With so many taboo words, some that I have always considered taboo are not anymore. For example, somehow “bitch” is now a compliment to people. With that word out the window, there’s a new B word in town: bully.
First of all, I am not here to dispute that bullying is real and a problem. Bullying is real. It is something to be taken seriously. It is heartbreaking and needs to be stopped.
On that note, though, I think it’s time to take a serious look at a use of the word bully. You see, when a word is thrown around so often, it loses meaning. When everyone is a bully, no one is. When everyone wins an award, what’s the meaning behind the award?
Merriam-Webster states that the definition of a bully is “one who is habitually cruel, insulting, or threatening to others who are weaker, smaller, or in some way vulnerable.”
It’s time to stand up to bullies without calling everyone a bully.
A kid doesn’t want to play? Maybe rude, but not a bully.
Calling someone names? Mean, but not a bully.
As a teacher, I cringe thinking about my sweet, innocent, perfect little girl going through school and being teased. I hated it, and I want to protect her to the ends of the Earth. In reality, though, she needs to learn to stand up for herself and know how to handle those situations, because the truth is I can’t protect her forever. I want Campbell to know that it’s okay to tell a kid no and it’s not rude. I want her to know it’s okay to be harsh and tell someone she doesn’t like how they are acting and there’s nothing wrong with that.
A true bully will be persistent and pick on those weaker than him or her. This is when adults need to intervene. Adults need to teach kids what bullying is and that it is not okay. It is okay not to be friends with everyone, always share everything you have, or play the game someone else wants to play all of the time. It is not okay to be forceful and pick on someone vulnerable or unable to defend themself.
It’s a very fine line, one that is talked about a lot these days. Is it important we teach kids about bullying and how to deal with it? Absolutely. Is it also important that we not throw the word bully around like it’s no big deal? 100% yes. How kids view and handle bullies is up to the adults. So before using the new B word, think about what’s happening. Teach kids how to react. Then stand up to the true bullies, to teach them how wrong it really is.