Have you seen this video about bullying? A boy who went through a difficult time with his family earned the nickname Pork Chop which was really a way to make fun of him. A girl with a birthmark on her face is labeled with a sign: BEWARE OF DOG. Another boy whose parents died gets teased about his depression.
It is heartbreaking to me that people are mean to each other. Often, it seems, that people notice differences about each other and point them out. Why is it so difficult for people to celebrate and honor the differences? The bullies continue to alienate others by focusing on what makes them different. It is a way of capitalizing on the target's insecurities. Sometimes bullying is physical, but I think more often it's emotional. Mean words and actions, laughing at others, alienating people, acting like what makes them different makes them bad.
I can remember junior high and high school. I remember cliques and attitude. I remember how important it was for me to "fit in." I have been laughed at and teased because my mom couldn't afford to buy me new clothes. I am not proud to admit that I have also had some experiences where I was the mean girl. It can be a powerful feeling to think we are superior to someone else. I wasn't even conscious at the time that all this was happening. It's easier to see when looking back.
Now I know better, so I am obligated to do better. I speak up when I hear someone say something hurtful or offensive. I practice using kind words and actions. I share things about myself that are different to show that it is okay not to be the same as everyone else.
Collectively, we must make a commitment to lift others up rather than put them down. Avoid the temptation to laugh at (or be afraid of) the differences in other people. Together, we make up a beautiful tapestry. We all have value and important roles to play in the world.
I am excited to get to know all my new students and learn what makes each one of them different, special, and valuable.