It’s the first day of the new school year and Jimmy is nervous. He’s ten and this year, he’ll be in a new class around people he doesn’t know. Arriving early, Jimmy sits at a desk waiting for the substitute teacher to arrive. There are a few other kids in the room. Jimmy doesn’t recognize any of them. One of the girls turns around and says suspiciously, “Who are you?”
Fast forward a few weeks and things have gotten worse. Jimmy finds himself up against the wall at break time surrounded by a mob of children teasing him. He feels so small, trying to shift his body to protect himself but unable to block out their taunts. It has been a tough couple of weeks. What had started with hostility, became teasing to what felt like full-fledged bullying. A playground teacher comes to the group and asks, “What’s going on here?” Automatically, one of the mob answers, “We’re playing.” The adult looks at Jimmy and sees no wounds or bruises. Jimmy look back silently.
Before long, the situation gets worse and Jimmy is sent home. This time he has bruises and is visibly in tears. He regrets coming to this school and joining this new class. He hates every moment of his day and not knowing when he’ll next be attacked. The school knows what’s going on but they don’t have a clue what to do to help. How could they make the kids get along? Surely, detention would just make them nastier.
Then, the homeroom teacher returned. He had been away on vacation only to return to the news that a new student was being bullied in his classroom.The school told him all the details and he thought about what he should do. The next day, during break time, the teacher rounded up the gang that had been bullying Jimmy and sat them all in a room. They sat in a circle and the teacher began the discussion asking what had happened.
After a while, he asked, “How do you think Jimmy feels?”. The entire room froze. It was never something they had considered. They wondered and began to realize what they had been doing. One boy said, “Like he has no friends,” and a girl responded, “Like he doesn’t want to come to school anymore.” The teacher agreed with them. He talked through what Jimmy felt and asked them whether they thought they did the right thing when Jimmy joined the class. None of them even looked up when faced with the gravity of their actions.
Jimmy came to class the next day and was met with a drastic change in atmosphere. The other students scowled at him when he walked in. They didn’t come looking for trouble at lunchtime. Strangely, the kids offered him some of their snacks. They listened when he raised his hand in the classroom. They invited him to play ball with them at recess. From that day onward, Jimmy realized that being in a new class was not so bad and scary. It was fun.
Points to think about
- Why did the other kids pick on Jimmy?
- Where was the kindness in this story?
- What allowed kindness to grow?
- Why was it hard to stop the bullying?
- What changed in the classroom and the school?