. Regurgitated Alpha Bits: Easy Target

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Easy Target

Like most teachers, I have little patience for bullies. I despise hearing of students picking on each other.

I get especially hot under the collar when I hear about students bullying our visually impaired students.

Our school is lucky enough to be the home to the Visually Impaired (VI) class for our district, so that means we have about 12 students who are either totally blind or have significant vision loss. They range in age from kindergarten to sixth grade and all are mainstreamed for part or all of their school day in regular education classes. Some have an aide and all get around with the help of a cane and, at times, an adult or student helper. I am proud to say, we have no shortage of sighted students who volunteer to be a helper to one of their VI peers.

It is a wonderful opportunity for kids to learn from a young age how to live and work with individuals who are differently-abled than themselves. They have grown accustomed to seeing students tapping along with their canes, finding Braille tabs on all room numbers and signage, and seeing a working adult with a guide dog (because the teacher of the VI class is blind as well.) This chance to develop respect and understanding of others is not wasted at our school.

Unfortunately, those kids are also the target of bullies.

In my opinion, only the most desperate of bullies would choose to pick on a blind kid.

And in this case, the desperate bully is Sean.

Sean is not in my class. Throughout the year, he's been sent to me for time-outs by his teacher. We've developed a relationship of sorts, since he's in my room so much, and we even worked out a contract that would allow him to earn tickets from me that he can use to get popcorn on Fridays if he is behaving in his class.

That is until he discovered how easy it is to victimize a kid who can't see you.

If you want to join in on the fun with Sean, you too can run up behind a blind kid and shove him…

and then run away.

Or you could swoop in from the side and rake your nails down his arm…

and then run away.

Or, better yet, you can kick his cane out of his hands…

and then (you guessed it) run away.

And the beauty of it all is in the simplicity of it…

He can't see you to retaliate.

How Sean didn't realize the fun in all this before 3rd grade, I'll never know.

So he sheepishly darkens my door a few mornings ago, heavy-of-heart and note-in-hand from his teacher explaining what he's been doing.

Now, I don't get loud often. I'm more of a whisperer when I'm fuming because the growling whisper is far more fear-inflicting than any yell could ever be.

But I got loud this time.

I could not BE-LIEVE he would do this, which is exactly what I told him.

While I was railing him, my class was shakily trying to complete their morning work and listen in at the same time, which is exactly what I was hoping for because when I said that I was sure that there would be more than one student on our campus who would volunteer to step in the next time they saw Sean go anywhere near the other kid, each one of my students slowly raised their hands to be that volunteer.

I was so proud of them. At that moment, they were everything that is great about humanity.

I had Sean turn around to look at who was going to stop him the next time he attempted to victimize that boy and he was truly humbled.

I asked my class how they planned to do this without participating in bullying behavior themselves and they suggested that they would simply stand around the other student and make a human shield to preventing Sean from getting anywhere near him. They figured their sheer number would cause him to stop whatever he was doing. (I could have hugged each and every one of them!)

I then had Sean cover his eyes completely and had him attempt to fetch a pencil from my desk. He bumped into desks, walked into the closed door, nearly fell face-first over another student, never made it anywhere near my desk, and was teared-up at the end. When I asked him why, he said it was embarrassing to stumble around in front of others.

And then one of my toughest boys said, "You only had to stumble around in front of us, but that other kid has to stumble around in front of the whole world."

A little rough in the delivery, but the sentiment was all there.

So I designed an intensive program for Sean for the coming weeks. Tomorrow, he'll be working with our mobility teacher. She teaches our VI students how to use their canes and their other senses to make their way through the world. She will blindfold Sean and help him to make his way around the playground during recess time, the single most frightening time for a VI student, with only the help of her voice and a cane.

Then he'll be interviewing a blind adult (our VI teacher) and a blind student his own age to find out about how their lives are both similar to and different from his own. Then, he and the blind student will complete a compare/contrast diagram together about their lives. Then he'll research on the internet about blindness and write a report about what he's learned from all his work so far.

Finally, he and I are going to develop a plan for him to become a helper in the VI classroom. I'm hoping that if we make him an "expert" of sorts in this area, he'll become less of an offender and more of a defender of others.

I'll keep you posted on his progress.


Angela Watson said...

You, Ms. Edna Lee, are an amazing teacher. Sean is lucky to have you. On behalf of everyone else who will have to encounter Sean in his lifetime, THANK YOU.

It will be interesting to see if anyone bashes you for embarrassing a misbehaving child in an attempt to teach him the error of his ways (a la' critics at It's Not All Flowers and Sausages). Don't worry, I am ready to fight for your honor. ;-)

Edna Lee said...

Wow, Angela!
Thank you! Thank You! Those were some kind words, and I really appreciate them!

I've had my share of haters, so I appreciate your willingness to fight for my honor ;-) It can get mighty bloody out there!

Anonymous said...

Incredible plan to deal with this student's behavior! If this doesn't steer him in the right direction, I'm not sure what will. Looking forward to hearing how this progresses!

Edna Lee said...

Thanks Jeremy! I look forward to it as well!

Anonymous said...

good heavens! you are a GENIUS! a master manipulator of the best kind.

Sarah said...

Great job! I really hope he learns the lesson. I think the students in your class already have and won't even try picking on them.

siobhan curious said...

Your plan is astounding in its creativity and potential effectiveness.

A few semesters ago, I had a blind kid in one of my college classes. He was extremely intelligent but a bit socially awkward, perhaps in part due to his lack of visual connection to the world. Most of the students in the class were sympathetic and a few in particular went out of their way to help him. Some seemed a bit afraid of him. One kid was simply obnoxious, rolling his eyes or sniggering (inaudibly) when the blind student made unexpected comments or talked too long. I never knew how to address this student's inappropriate reactions (predictably, these were not his only problematic behaviors.) Your story will inspire me next time I have to deal with a similar situation.