Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Killing Bullies With Kindness...

“How would your life be different if…You walked away from gossip and verbal defamation? Let today be the day…You speak only the good you know of other people and encourage others to do the same.” ― Steve MaraboliLife, the Truth, and Being Free

It's part of my nighttime routine.

Before I go to bed and when I wake up I check to see what has been posted to the @EGHSMatters Twitter account so that I can retweet those #EGHSMatters hashtags for the school community and the rest of the world to see the messages of kindness, support and appreciation sent from all of the great teachers, students and community members that we have in East Greenwich sharing their appreciation for our many and diverse talents in the classroom, on the stage, field and in the community.

In just over four weeks, @EGHSmatters has grown from zero to 242 followers. In addition, 475+ messages of kindness and appreciation have been exchanged already within our school community. And we are just scratching the surface.

As you walk the halls at EGHS and look at the faces of our school community, it is easy to discover through other people's eyes that there is something different going on this year. A growing culture of appreciation and kindness among the faculty and students. It's a different feeling in the building. Smiles are greatly increased. Adults and kids are more readily recognizing one another for their successes, contributions and kindness. We are finding that recognizing the things that make each individual special- knowing that building people up rather than making them feel weak makes us all stronger. Appreciating and empowering someone and believing in them can make a difference, change their attitudes, change their lives. And it is making a difference this year. Last night was the best example yet.

While looking over the #EGHSMessages, one in particular caught my eye:

  • When a twitter that could have turned into cyber bullying was created, I think it's great that EG refused to participate
This, of course, required me to investigate further... that led me to another Tweet:
  • so someone started a EGHS gossip page and it's gunna cause drama just like at rocky hill I blocked them
Then another:
  • RIP EGHS gossip 10/1/13-10/1/13, while you only existed for 23 minutes, you will always be remembered as the worst idea in school history
  • No ones taken time to point out that eghs gossip was using askfm the biggest cyber bullying social network in existence to base their tweets
  • Literally what is/was EGHS Gossip I am not comprehending AT ALL
And more:
  • I wonder what attention *seeker* was responsible for the terrible EGHS gossip
  • now my whole feed went from "EGHS Gossip is stupid" to "RIP EGHS Gossip even though you only lasted 23 minutes"
  • My whole feed is about eghs gossip😂 you're all stupid
  • this is just immature.. I'm out
  • i think there should b a EGHS compliment twitter not a gossip twitter tbh 

In piecing together the story of the evening, as the first Tweet indicated, someone tried to create a hateful and hurtful gossip site and our kids summarily refused to participate. They outright rejected the notion. 

In fact, they shut it down completely in 23 minutes flat. 

I don't think that I have been prouder of our kids in the time that I have been here, and the teachers whom I have shared this with have expressed that same feeling.

Bullies need to operate in the shadows to succeed. They use fear, intimidation and social acceptance in order to continue their actions. When a light is shined on them, or even more importantly, when it is socially unacceptable to bully, it stops. 

10% of kids are bullied. 10% are bullies. 80% either accept and ignore it or they have the power to stop it. Last night, EGHS students stopped it. By themselves. Because it was the right thing to do.

There are lots of reasons why people bully, spread hate, fear or try to mistreat others. Jealousy, anger, frustration, attempts to move up in a social circle by trying to stand on top of others... every bully has a story, and we should spend as much time trying to understand them as we do trying to punish or rehabilitate them. Their actions reveal their weakness, not a strength. We need to consider treating them with kindness and understanding too, because that's what our culture is all about at East Greenwich High School.

EGHS does matter. And our kids just proved it once again.

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