Wednesday, October 10, 2018

On Bullying - Part 2

I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left.”  Margaret Thatcher

On June 27th I wrote and posted to this blog, “On Bullying - Then and Now.”  It is part recollection of my own experiences being bullied as a child and part reflection on the ways in which bullying can and sadly does continue to raise its ugly head into adulthood.  To date this post has been viewed over 1,300 times by people from around the world.

A number of readers shared how they found the post helpful, instructive and even inspiring.  Some shared their own experiences with bullying and the strategies they’ve found useful in dealing with it. Still others reached out to ask for advice, ideas or guidance in navigating bullying situations themselves or on behalf of their children.  As a lifelong learner and teacher, these opportunities to openly and honestly share experiences, perspectives, fears, challenges and triumphs, have been wonderful.  I claim no particular expertise in this area, but I am happy and eager to do what I can, even if it may only be to listen and knowingly acknowledge the pain.

Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, my first post on bullying was not well received by all.  In fact, it has drawn out of the shadows and into the light, some of the very adult bullying behavior I referenced. The relentless personal attacks against our Board of Trustees, administration, community members and me, have reached a level beyond absurdity, with entire smear blogs and social media campaigns devoted exclusively to the promulgation of narratives that at their best are untrue and at their worst, libelous.  Even a couple self-proclaimed journalists joined the bullies’ fray, with their poorly written, ineptly researched and factually inaccurate “news" stories.  All of which underscores one of the main points in my original post ...

This is what bullies can and sometimes do when they are called-out and when their power is challenged.

I think there is an important lesson here and it extends far beyond the local histrionics of people who anonymously post their hateful vitriol or hide behind bogus pledges to justify their endless tirades.  It is a lesson that everyone who has ever stood-up to a bully, learns the hard way.  The lesson is that bullies often fight back and in the process, they say and do whatever it takes to restore the status quo they once enjoyed.

We just witnessed this lesson as it played out on a national stage, over a seat on the highest court in the land.  But it also plays out on much smaller stages, in countless ways, in countless places and throughout every generation.  In each case, sacrifices are made when bullies are confronted and that is a reality to be thoughtfully weighed and assessed, so the situation is approached with eyes wide open.  Call it a "cost-benefit analysis" or whatever you wish, but each of us must decide for her or himself, how much we are willing to tolerate when or if the bully pushes back.

What I've personally endured over the years through various encounters with bullies, pales by comparison to what so many others have experienced, suffered and lost.  But the bully's bite, no matter how small, still leaves its mark.  From my perspective, it is how we cope with those bites and the marks left behind, that enables us to go on, to thrive and to succeed.

In our case and in the decades-long bullying situation our community has endured, coping with the bites and the marks left behind is accomplished by maintaining focus on all the great work our teachers, staff, leaders, community and students, are doing each and every day.  It's accomplished by knowing our community supported and passed a much-needed parcel tax renewal, with a record-breaking majority and only a three-month, grass roots campaign.  It's accomplished when one talented, thoughtful and utterly student-centered human runs unopposed for a second term on our Board and another runs unopposed for an open seat.  It's accomplished when I watch our teachers being leaders, our leaders being teachers and all of us being students. It's accomplished every time a student demonstrates that he or she understands, not by just getting the right answer, but by understanding why one and often more answers can be right.  It's accomplished by knowing we stay the course and continue doing what vast experience, research and data tell us will yield the greatest impact for our students.  It's accomplished by having, what Jim Collins famously describes as, "the right people in the right seats on the bus."

Last night I was once again honored by our Board of Trustees, to have my contract extended for a third, three-year term (through June 2023).  As I drove home I reflected on what our Board's action means and I believe that it too, reflects how we endure the bullies' bites and the marks left behind. All the cut-and-paste blogs, social media rants and amateurish "news" stories, cannot and will not minimize how far we've come or deter us from where we can now go.

The bullies, as Margaret Thatcher said in the opening quote to this post, "have not a single political argument left."

EPILOGUE:  I've received a couple of comments regarding the quote I used in this post.  Specifically, some have questioned my choice to use a quote by Margaret Thatcher, who some have characterized as herself being a bully.  That comment raised my curiosity and I've done some research which leads me to a wondering ..... would people refer to Margaret Thatcher as a "bully" if SHE were a HE?  I realize this raises a whole other topic and perhaps a post for another time, but still, I do wonder ...