Unintentional Bullying? Halt!

Unintentional Bullying? Halt!

Unintentional Bullying? Halt!

Unintentional Bullying? Halt!

Unintentional Bullying? Halt!

Sometimes unintentional bullying takes a toll on students’ lives. Whenever a new student is seen in any school or college, old students want to have some quick fun which can eventually take an ugly turn resulting in a sordid state of affairs. Unknowingly innocent students are emotionally tormented. We all have experienced this at one point in our lives. The situation in schools and colleges has however improved and the administration is attentive and alert to curb negative happenings. We do not appreciate ragging or negative behaviors. Manav Rachna International Schools are always with all their students. Our mentors walk the extra mile to connect with their students to help them emotionally. Let us read a heartwarming, soulful revelation of an MRIS Mentor!- Editor

A Mentor’s Revelation: I have worked as a teacher for 14 years up till now and feel that nothing about students can surprise me. But then, at this point of my teaching journey, I met V (name changed). V is a new joinee at MRIS Noida in grade XI Einstein (Science stream). I don’t even take his classes; my interactions are restricted to corridors and substitution classes. I remember saying, “hello1 New here?”

“Yes ma’am. Just joined. I am V.”

“So how do you like it here?”

To that he smiled, and said feebly, “it’s fine ma’am.”

Being talkative, I usually end up talking a lot with students, and among those interactions, I realized that name of V would generally slip in, either with a tone of sympathy or ridicule. Initially, I didn’t think much about it, considering it as a teenage phase, but then the word ‘bully’ seeped in. I was alarmed and decided to check on him.

So, I asked a few students who I consider sensitive and compassionate. Rather than beating around the bush, I decided to be blunt. I caught P.

“Good morning, ma’am.”

“Good morning P, how have you been?”

“I am fine ma’am. It’s pretty much same every day.”

“I meant to ask you something P. Please do talk honestly.”

“What happened ma’am? Please go ahead ask me anything.”

“Is there anything going on in class that shouldn’t be happening?”

“Mmmmm…. I am lost ma’am.”

“Are your classmates bullying someone in class, my child?”

“I am not sure if I would say it’s bullying but children do tease V. A lot.”

“So, what are they saying? I asked.

“Ummm… in general about various stuff. I think it would be better ma’am if you talk to him. I don’t think I am the right person to comment.” P said.

“I get it, kiddo. I will talk to him, but I want your POV.”

“Hmmm… if you ask me, I felt it was just a phase since he is the new guy, but it has continued for a long. They call him a weird one. He is actually a calm and composed person, but anyone can get irritated. Even I got irritated and told the boys to stop. I don’t know ma’am; sometimes it seems it’s going overboard, and sometimes it feels as if V is ok with it since he doesn’t voice up.”

“Thank you, P. Thank you for talking to me. Go ahead, don’t let me take up all your break time.”

“Ok ma’am. See you around.”

This was not the first brush with bullying I have encountered in my profession. Years ago, I have seen students take pride in ragging and bullying their juniors. That was a different time and different social circumstances. I thought times had changed and apart from sly remarks, usage of slang, quirks and mocking each other, I had never witnessed any bullying case –ever,during my stay in Manav Rachna International School. We, faculty take the utmost care to provide congenial atmosphere for our students overall holistic growth.

I decided not to approach ‘my person of interest’ immediately but rather wait and watch. Numerous things were going on in my head. Should I tell the ‘Heads’? What if it is a petty joke and I am mocked at for creating a mountain out of a mole? What if the situation is not so as projected? What if the child doesn’t confide? What if it escalates? Should I talk to him? Will he open up? I let days pass by, keeping a close watch on the class. Although, I did not witness anything disturbing, but jest and jokes continued, which would subside in the presence of a teacher. However one thing which hit me was more than comforting ‘V’, I had to counsel the group which was mocking him. They are also teens and have to be guided.

An opportunity presented itself during the break when I was talking to a group of students. While others left, V was the last person standing. I decided to casually approach the subject. I really didn’t want to alarm the kid.

“So… all fine?” I asked“How have you done the PT?”

“It was ok, ma’am. Managed to clear all the subjects. I am just an average student.” He answered.

“Do you find anything challenging?” I tried to go deeper.

“Yes ma’am. I am not doing well in Math. I hope to do better. Trying so far.”

“Other than that any other concern? Do you get along with your classmates? Have you settled well? Who are your friends here?”

“Ya fine, ma’am. I am friends with N and R. They are good.”

“What about others? Are they giving you a hard time? Do you get along with them as well?

“Ya… it’s good, it’s ok, I guess.” Came the slurred reply.

“Why do I hear that they are teasing you mercilessly?

“who told you that, ma’am? It’s nothing like that.” Eyes wide open, he was visibly disturbed and looked over his shoulder to see if there were any witnesses.

“You should talk if you feel down. I just wanted to say that.” I said.

“No ma’am, nothing like that.”

 He said that, and left. I was perplexed, but my worries were regarding magnitude. Was it that bad that he was so terrified? I lapsed onto this trail of thought again and again. What was it that stopped him from telling the truth? I decided to approach him with compassion and trust. At the end of the day, isn’t it about trust to share something so personal?

I decided not to ask around and speak only with V. How do I win the trust of a teenager? It’s only by talking and talking. So, that was my strategy, no overt assertion or asking him repeatedly. Just strike up a conversation, and sometime later, hopefully he will open up. Slowly and steadily, I kept a watch not only on his but others ’behaviors towards him.  Some poked fun; someone said ‘he is from Thailand’ and some others remarked and sneered. And then not V, but another student (who contributed in mocking) spilled the beans. It was a simple case of jesting and pulling a leg which ballooned to exorbitant proportion. Let’s call this boy, A. A told me that after his arrival to school he revealed that he has recently taken a trip to Thailand and he wouldn’t stop talking about it, so the boys started to ridicule him. All the boys started having fun as he was an easy target, and the jesting continued unknowingly. In fact the boys didn’t even themselves know, they were causing trouble to them. ..

I had to make that conversation with V. I met V, and this time, he was forthright. He didn’t refuse or confirm, and he didn’t name anyone nor complained.

He told me, “Ma’am, I took admission here because I have faced bullying, the whole of my life. Being an introvert has its cons. It had become unbearable in my last school. In the previous school,  no one noticed students like me so when I came here, I immediately attracted people to mock me. Yes, they ridicule me and say, ‘Thailand is my village’ and other things you may have heard about. Sometimes in jest, I also laugh along, and sometimes, I get irritated but I don’t voice my protest.

“I have a simple theory about the whole scenario. The perception of an individual towards these aspects also matters. Bringing anti-bullying into every part of the curriculum can also be very beneficial for us students. For example, we can find required novels/movies that give students an insight into being more empathetic towards others.”

“When students do something bad, they sometimes enjoy the attention, which is another reason why these actions are encouraged. When a student does something good, it is important to bring attention to that as well by our classmates and peers. This shows the classroom that bad attention isn’t the only type of attention which is mistakenly highlighted.”

It irritates me, but I like my classmates. What I consider,  bullying is just a joke for them. And maybe they are not even aware that I don’t like it because I haven’t ever voiced it. It’s very simple at the end of the day, we need also to garner strength that propels us not to get affected by others’ comments. What’s bullying? It’s what concerns us and makes us feel miserable. But as I said, it’s something; I’m pushing myself to become mentally strong so that I can handle it and, if worse comes to pass, withstand it. What I am saying is we need to have strength of character to take it on our stride.

“I am not saying that bullying in any form is ok. But, some amount of bullying will always be there in life. It’s there in the adult world too. I have observed it around us in different aspects too, so I can say some form of it is prevalent everywhere. But the one bullying someone needs to know that it’s wrong, and can be very damaging to the one being bullied.”

“We can only change ourselves and help the individuals around us. “So, no ma’am, I have no problem with my classmates. It’s one of the best places to be and it’s the best school I have attended so far.

I let him go. The child gave me a perspective. Sometimes we are taken up by the popular narrative that we don’t believe some other kind of narrative or attitude is possible. This child taught me in my forties that the most important thing is to have the strength of character.

“Strength of character isn’t always about how much you could handle before you break. It is also about how much you can handle after you’ve broken.”

Author: Ms. Nitumoni Das, PGT English, MRIS Noida.