If you’re looking for a nice and neat lesson idea, I strongly recommend that you go to a different blog today. Because this is definitely not the type of post you’re looking for. Warning! This post might even turn out a little depressing in the end.
A couple of weeks ago, a secondary school English teacher collapsed after one of her lessons and she was taken to hospital, where she eventually died. This happened after she had been consistently bullied by a group of her teenage students.
Not only was she threatened physically and mentally for several months, but all the bullying was recorded on mobile phones and the videos were uploaded on YouTube for everybody to watch. Of course, I’ve never seen them and I’m never going to, but based on what I’ve heard from friends and read in the papers, they must be horrific.
Another thing I’ve often come across anywhere I go is the law that protects students – physically, mentally, emotionally, etc. No one ever talks about protecting the teacher. If students can be bullied, teachers can be bullied too.
The above case is on the severe side of the bullying spectrum. But I believe there are other, ‘softer’ ways of bullying. I’ve deliberately put softer in inverted commas because 1) softer can’t possibly collocate with bullying and 2) because even though they may appear softer or harmless to some, they can be equally devastating in the end.
I was shocked when I first discovered that there is an option that allows anonymous posting on Facebook. For example, and this is quite popular in the Czech Republic these days, a student sets up a Facebook group where other students (or basically anybody) can post virtually anything totally anonymously.
So these days, most secondary schools have their anonymous FB pages where the students share their ‘deepest confessions’, mostly about the teachers and administrators, of course, but also about other students and stuff.
As it’s recently become part of my newly assigned job to look into problems connected with cyberbullying, I occasionally check out some of the pages, ours included. Some of the posts are quite funny and clever, but I’m sad to say that many of them are just offensive rubbish. Also, there are posts which may seem innocent to an outsider, but which are pretty insulting if you are somehow involved, i.e if they are about you or somebody you know.
Now, lots of questions pop into my head.
- What does it say about the state of education? What makes our students say nasty things about us teachers/administrators anonymously? Does it mean that there is not enough space provided for them to say things out loud? Of course, if your school is not too big and you know most of the students well, you can tell who posts what. So it also makes me wonder if the students realize this and if they are fully aware of the consequences of their actions. What kind of atmosphere does it create? Hateful, negative, tense? I mean, you can feel that the tension is there, but you can’t prove it so there is no way to solve it through communication.
- What does it say about the legal system? Why is something like anonymous posting allowed at all? For economic reasons? For various platforms to attract more users (customers)? Because I can’t find any sensible reason for anonymous posting on social media, at least in a democratic society, and I would personally ban it out of hand. Is my reasoning totally preposterous?
- What does it say about our society in general? Why don’t people feel more compassion towards each other? Where does all the hate/indifference/negativity stem from? Where did we go wrong as parents and teachers?
- And finally, what should we do as teachers and/or parents? Monitor these things silently but stay alert all the time? Ignore them completely? And if we ignore them, will they disappear or become even worse? Should we be selective, i.e. if something appears really threatening, should we step in somehow? Or should we see these things as an inevitable aspect of our profession and believe that the kids will finally grow up and regret the nasty thing they once did? Could we possibly take them as learning opportunities?
If you happen to have answers to any of my questions, please share them with me. I’d like to know what you think.