WILLIAM RUTHERFORD: Be kind, work hard

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The antibully message has lost its luster. STOMP Out Bullying, Stopbullying.gov, Kids against Bullying, the Antibully Ambassadors, the Antibully Alliance, The Bully Project, Teens Against Bullying, Project Anti-Bully, The Golden Rule Solution to Bullying and the Antibully Squad all offer great advice and suggestions to stop bullying. The work done by these organizations is meaningful and purposeful.

The struggle is, when an organization uses the word ‘Bully” in its title, people tend to disregard the message. Many believe they understand bullying, know what it feels like to be bullied or do not participate in bullying so, why should they listen to an antibully message from an expert in the field.

Most believe they are experts themselves having witnessed, participated in or been the victim of bullying. Many feel they have seen, felt or been physically or emotionally damaged by bullying and have little interest in reopening wounds long or recently forgotten.

The work to prevent bullying is difficult. Advice stating one should look the bully in the eye and say STOP; that one should be an up-stander and not a by-stander; and to be the voice for one who struggles to find one’s own voice when being bullied, can be tough to follow. The receiver of the message decides the work sounds too difficult. The receiver often turns down the external antibully noise and intrinsically or extrinsically, decides the message is not for him or her.

I believe we need to change the message. The goal is to end bullying in our schools, playgrounds, worksites and neighborhoods — but the message is simply to be kind.

In the past, I have shared my thoughts on kindness with the staff of the Coeur d’Alene School District at the all-staff, Back to School Breakfast. Following is my speech.

“Be Kind, Work Hard. We can only eradicate bullying in our schools by building a culture of kindness — teachers being kind to kids, kids being kind to kids and kids being kind to teachers.

Student will remember — for the rest of their lives — the teachers who affect them, positively and negatively.

One unkind word, sideways glance or dismissive response to a child often creates a lifelong memory for that child of a teacher who is unkind.

But, students will also remember — for the rest of their lives — the teacher who offers a kind hug when the child feels the world is unkind. The student will remember — for the rest of his or her life — the teacher who celebrates that child’s success, motivates that child to learn, even when the child does not want to and the child will remember — for the rest of his or her life — the teacher who builds a culture of kindness in his or her classroom.

I don’t remember my fifth-grade teacher. I can’t recall his name, don’t remember what he looked like and can only recall little bits and pieces of my fifth-grade year but, I do recall sitting in class for nine months feeling insignificant, unimportant and defeated. My fifth-grade classroom was not a kind place to learn.

But I also remember and loved my third-grade teacher Ms. Bretz. Ms. Bretz convinced me that I was a math genius (she was wrong), she taught me to eat and love my vegetables and made me feel my voice was important. Ms. Bretz created a culture of kindness in her classroom.

Besides my fifth-grade teacher, I can tell you the name, describe the face and sometimes even name the type of perfume worn by every other one of my teachers grade kindergarten through high school.

I remember these teachers because they made an impression, because they cared about me and because they were kind.

Seneca, the Roman philosopher offers, “Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.”

Amelia Earhart adds, “The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves.”

My challenge to you is to create 30, 60, 100 permanent positive memories this year and when you’re struggling, feeling grouchy, suffering the effects of a cold, tummy ache; when the sky is gray in late winter and your soul and body wishes to be curled up on the couch with a warm blanket and a great book remember, your students probably wish the same thing for themselves. Kindness can’t take a vacation. Have a great year and, Be Kind and Work Hard.”

• • •

Send comments or other suggestions to William Rutherford at bprutherford@hotmail.com or visit pensiveparenting.com.

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