Mark My Words – No reason for a child to feel worthless

From time to time someone will post a status to their Facebook page that asks people to read, comment, share or post as their own status to help “spread the word” about a topic, cause or some event.

The most recent one that has popped up within the last week reads: “With school starting I thought it would be nice to remind ourselves to teach our children to be nice and accepting to all classmates. Kids with special needs are not weird or odd. They want what everyone else wants –to be accepted!!! Can I make a request? Is anyone willing to copy and paste this in honor of all the children made in a unique way. Let’s see who has a strong heart. I know what friends will copy and paste!!! Please do not share!!!!!”

First, I hate these things! Not because of the message, but because of lines like “let’s see who has a strong heart” and “I know what friends will copy and paste”. While I totally support the message, if I don’t share it or post it, does it make me look bad? Do I not have a strong heart? Am I not a “good” friend if I don’t?

Anyway, the overall message of the post is extremely important, but also sad. It is sad that we have to REMIND people to be kind to one another, especially those with special needs.

However, for me, the main point of this whole thing is making sure we are teaching our children to be kind and accepting to ALL classmates/children.

It seems so simple, doesn’t it? I will admit, as a parent, I have failed my children from time to time. I have said things that are not appropriate for their young ears and I have made comments about people that are less than flattering. Yes, I admit I am a flawed person!

When that happens though, I do explain to my children that I was wrong in what I said and that while it is perfectly fine to get mad, it is not appropriate to say mean things to or about others, regardless of what they say to you. Be the bigger person. It is not always that easy,though, is it?

As a teacher, I have heard way too many comments made by students to or about other students that are not acceptable.

In fact, this past year I had finally had enough. After hearing a few students say some unflattering comments about another student to their face, I gathered my class in our reading corner and we had a heart to heart talk about bullying, name calling and how we treat others. Every teacher reading this is probably nodding in agreement as they have done this a time or two as well!

I started off by telling my class what I heard in the hallway and how sad it made me feel. My students were not involved in this particular incident, so they had no idea who or what I was talking about, which made it possible for me to be more open in our discussion.

The beginning of our conversation was the same as I would give to my own kids. We touched on all the normal talking points, but then I changed gears slightly.
“It hurts me to hear students making fun of other students because of their weight or the clothes they wear,” I said. “There is no reason in the world as to why any of that matters and it is certainly no reason to tear somebody down because of it.”

The class was quiet. I then commented on how we do not know what is going on in the lives of everyone in our classroom, let alone all of the students in our school. The last thing we need is for students to come to school and worry about being made fun of or bullied. In my mind I was thinking of the lives that some of our precious children endure on a daily basis. It breaks my heart to see such pain and despair in the eyes of the young. Their view of the world around them is, at times, being shaped by those who tear them down on a daily basis. And for what? What is the purpose? What is the point? What does one gain by destroying another person mentally, physically and emotionally? I could say the same about adults as well.

It was then something happened in my class that never happened before.

My eyes filled with tears.

I had to pause for a minute. Part of the reason I became emotional was because what I was saying impacted me and the other reason, well, I was surprised it affected me the way it did. I thought I would be able to push through without any issues because I was so mad at what I was hearing other students say. However, the impact on those who were being bullied far outweighed my emotions at that moment.

I ended our talk by telling the students that they don’t have to be friends with everyone, but they at least needed to treat each other with respect. I implored my class to be friendly to each other because not only will they be seeing each other every day for the next nine years, but after high school, some of them may not see each other again, so make the most out of every day in a positive way..

Name calling and bullying have been around forever and always will be. But that doesn’t mean we have to just accept it as a way of life and be done with it. We can talk about it, explain and promote a better dialog with our children on how to handle these situations both as a bully and the victim of it..

Children are killing themselves over bullying and hateful speech and that is a tragedy. As parents, I am encouraging everyone, myself included, to think before we speak and to take action to stop it. We can’t continue to brush this aside as a “part of growing up”. Growing up means learning how to deal with the situations around us and how we react to them not shattering the lives of others based on silly things like size, shape, color and wealth, or lack thereof.

There is no reason for a child to feel worthless when they in fact are WORTH everything.

Submitted by Mark McGlothlen

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