Thursday, August 30, 2012
My Anti-Bully Pulpit
In education, it is my most firm belief that we should be the kind of teachers that we would have wanted to have when we were young. It's kind of like the advice that I received when I worked at McDonald's in high school - if I am sure that I would not serve an item to myself, I needed to throw out the bad food. One lesson that I am proud to share with my students is the importance of creating safe and civil schools for all! We all have our experiences with those who sought to bully others. Their aggressive behavior harms the overall academic atmosphere. We cannot learn new ideas when we are more worried about our safety. Traditionally, teachers' and administrators' focus was on minimizing the impact of bullies because it was always assumed that bullying was part of the natural pecking order in schools. Too many students, however, fell through the cracks because of this social Darwinist attitude toward a serious issue that has resulted in far too many student victims lashing out against their bullies or harming themselves. A few years ago, Linda Bishop grew weary of the negative atmosphere that bullying created at my school. This brilliant colleague of mine masterminded and pioneered an anti-bullying program at my school - Mayport Coastal Sciences Middle School. Working in cooperation with the United Way and the Southern Poverty Law Center, Mrs. Bishop showed our community that we can be the change that we want to see in our world. Before soon, the change manifested itself in new policies and legislation around our state and around the nation that have resulted in real progress toward making education the goal for our schools, teachers, students and families to make strides toward learning and to help every child feel welcome at school. I am not naive enough to think that a simple slogan can solve our problems. It is our job as citizens to promote safety and civility by asking our students to communicate with us whenever they feel that they are in danger. No, it is not snitching, it is building an educational system that works for all! John Louis Meeks, Jr. currently resides in Jacksonville, Florida where he teaches social studies at Mayport Middle School. He is a 1998 graduate of the University of North Florida and a veteran of the United States Air Force.