“The thing I don’t like is, we’re all hatin’ on each other. I mean, like, why?” “To make themselves feel better about themselves… to prove they’re better, or stronger or whatever.” So where do we learn honesty, respect and compassion for self and others? These were the topics of “Teen Truth: An Inside Look at Bullying and School Violence,” the recent film assembly held at both Santa Lucia Middle School and Coast Union High School.
“I’m not here to tell you not to bully — you’re not in fourth grade! I’m here to ask you to speak your truth, to look at the big picture. I’m asking you to spread the love!” J.C. Pohl told our local student body. Pohl is part of the team that put together this presentation of award-winning student films and motivational speaking (http://teentruthlive.com/).
At the high school, where I watched the film, every ear sounded open in the gym. While this group was too young to be familiar with the Columbine shootings, the shooting only two weeks ago at one of our old sports rivals’ schools brought the issue of school violence closer to home. Why is this happening?
What is bullying? How can we address it? The assembly, through students in the film talking about students, to students, pointing out what should be obvious and then the conversations afterward, made us think, “What am I doing that is bullying?”: name calling, saying “you suck” (even jokingly), exclusion of others, judging, knocking around and all the other posturing that people go through like a pack of apes to be alpha (my words).
“How many of you have ever been pushed or shoved ever in your life, even by family members, stand up!” Basically the whole gym did so. “Raise your hand if you have ever been called a name or anything that made you feel bad, hurt or left out.” Mostly everyone. After one or two more such questions, J.C. finally asked, “OK, remain standing if you have NEVER done these things to anyone ever.” Can you guess the motion?
“Listen to your truth. If you feel like saying something hurtful to or about someone, what is the BIG PICTURE? Think about it… you don’t know what kind of day someone’s had, how your words are going to affect them. If you SEE someone being bullied, SPEAK UP! Tell an adult if need be. If YOU are being made to feel this way, SPEAK UP, talk to an adult. You just saw by how many people stood up, YOU ARE NOT ALONE!”
What I heard was to “listen” to your inner voice, to others. Think about what are you feeling BEFORE you say what you’re going to say.
What is it that someone is trying to communicate? Actual footage from Columbine cameras, student clips of a boy saying he hated everyone and that we were going to see the next Columbine and comments like, “loner,” “never thought he’d do it” and similar comments rang throughout.
This presentation challenged people (adults as well as teens) to have a positive influence on others every day. Listen, tell your truth, think about the big picture, lead by example, spread the love. Wishful thinking, perhaps — but it has to shift somewhere, sometime!