Today was Pink Shirt Day – a day we set aside to bring awareness to bullying issues and the devastating effects it can have. This past week, we have been looking more closely at the hidden scars it can leave on people as well as how powerless it can make a person feel. We each have an important role and responsibility if we ever discover someone is mistreating others or someone is being mistreated.
There are four types of bullying: physical, verbal, social, and cyberbullying. As a teacher, I find social bullying one of the hardest forms to deal with. Why? Because most students don’t even realize they are taking part in it. And those that do know what they are doing tend to operate very covertly so it doesn’t bring a lot of attention to it. Social bullying puts a person’s social safety at risk by using the power of a group to encourage teasing, exclusion, spreading rumors, and/or any of the other three forms of bullying.
We have learned that it’s human nature to want to be a part of a group. We are social creatures. But unfortunately, while we seek acceptance “in” a group, one of the strategies to keep ourselves there can be to point out the “out” group. Group dynamics is a powerful force. After watching a video clip of the 1950′s Asch experiment, we were able to see just how powerful group thinking can be. It’s easy to say we wouldn’t be swayed so easily, but time and time again over the years, that experiment continues to generate the same results. Sadly, I see it happening at school too many times to count. Sometimes people conform because they are afraid of backlash from the group while other times they conform to the group because the group convinces them they are wrong.
It’s difficult to stand up to a group of people. No question. Especially, if you don’t feel like you have a lot of power or stability in the group. More than anything, I want the Ripplers to remember that sometimes the right thing to do is the hardest thing to do.