Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Cut Above: What #StandWithJetta Teaches Us About Resillience and Anti-Bullying

By now most everyone has heard about the selfless act that 10 year-old Jetta made. She had 14 inches of her hair cut off to make wigs for children with cancer. What started out as an act of kindness turned into a bully fest. 

All About Jetta

Imagine the little girl at the center of this "feel good story", who was taken out of school for two weeks, because of the ignorance of some children, parents and ill-informed administration! As a teacher, I was appalled. For children to learn appropriate behaviour, parents and other adults need to model what is acceptable and what is not. 

I was nothing short of astonished when I heard that the principal wasn't doing anything to address the situation which was spiraling out of control. We've all heard the adage, "it comes from the top". It became very clear that something that should have been celebrated by all had turned into the ugliness known as bullying. 

Pat, before and after being bullied.

 Anti-Bullying Teachable Moment

I am an early childhood educator. When I was going to school, I had to do a practicum with children aged 6 to 13. The activity I chose taught about bullying. 

The children sat in a circle. Each child was asked to say something unkind about a paper doll named Pat, while crumpling it up. After each child had had a turn, I compared a second, pristine Pat and the Pat who had been "bullied". 'Pristine Pat is what Pat looked like when they came into school this morning,' I explained. 'They looked happy and healthy. Crumpled up Pat is what Pat looked like at the end of the day. That's what goes on inside when you're bullied. Your tummy gets in knots and it feels like the hatred has taken over who you are. It's hard to stand up tall'.

When I taught JK later that year, it became shockingly apparent that bullying was occurring even with the younger children. I took this same lesson, and with a few modifications, a teachable moment was born.

We talked about name calling, physical bullying and cyber bullying. A dialogue was building between parent and child, teacher and community. 

Missed Opportunity for a Teachable Moment

What ever happened to "catch a kid doing good"? Had Mr. Principal or a teacher given a shoutout to Jetta for doing something wonderful, be it on the announcements or in a school-wide memo sent home, this conversation about bullying would not have taken place. Instead of kids focusing on how Jetta's hair looked and becoming part of the mob mentality, they could have acknowledged the fact that she was 'special' and got a shoutout, and decided they wanted to support Wigs For Kids, too.

Much positivity has exploded since Jetta's mom started an anti-bullying Facebook page. As of today, 87,000+ people have liked the page. A t-shirt campaign, appearances on the local news, as well as a news show in the Netherlands, flowers from an admirer, and a message from a super model have all come Jetta's way. A beautiful act of generosity turned into an ugly situation, but now is beautiful again. Jetta is a role model for anyone who has ever been bullied.

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