Saturday, November 15, 2008

I Hate Making my Students Cry

"I made a difference for that one." ~Loren Eisley

I hate making my students cry.


And I'm not talking about the crying that takes place when they get a bad grade, or feel overwhelmed and can't get their work done, or don't get into their first-choice college, though there are always tears in those cases too.

But I hate this one day of the year when I talk about bullying with my education students/future teachers, because I know it's going to upset them and I know it's something we have to talk about anyway.

See, the talking itself wouldn't be bad. But I have this episode of "Without a Trace" that I show, and it centers on bullying and in fact leads one middle school boy to attempt suicide. It's a pretty intense episode, and I always warn my students ahead of time and tell them they can leave if they want to.

But they always think they're going to be fine -- then the end scene hits. The episode does have a relatively happy ending, in case you're wondering, but the bullying/suicide portrayal itself is pretty disturbing, and it always affects a couple of my students pretty hard.

Yesterday a full half of them ending up in the bathroom, crying. And yeah, I felt pretty lousy about it. I mean, it's not that I'm trying to torture them. I think very carefully every year about whether I should show it, and I always end up deciding "yes," because I think the ways it makes them think is important.

We can't always talk about the good things, can we? We have to address the problems and look at the heartbreak in order to fix it. And I think on some level they know that. They're seniors, after all, a scant few months from graduation and the real world. We -- or, rather, they - have to be the difference in the way the future will unfold. They have to know that they can do something, even one thing, as individuals, to stop hurtful behavior, and it will make a difference.

Do you know the starfish story? It's a classic among educators:

The Starfish Story
Original Story by: Loren Eisley

One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean.

Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?”

The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”

“Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!”

After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said…”I made a difference for that one.”


Sarita Leone said...

I love the starfish story. We can all make a difference if we try.

Hope you have a nice weekend.

Dru said...

That was beautiful. It always takes just one.

Liz said...

Never heard of that story.

Too bad they don't show that episode to Middle Schoolers.

Diane Craver said...

Beautiful starfish story. Also great you discuss and show what happens when bullying occurs in school.