“You’re not wearing a blue shirt.” The comment, coming from a Junior in her own blue shirt, was something of a test, and I got partial credit by cringing and saying, “Oh, no! I totally forgot!” At least my response showed I knew that wearing a blue shirt on that particular Monday was meant to draw attention to National Bullying Prevention Month. I did manage to wear purple on GLAAD Spirit Day to take “a stand against bullying and show [my] support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth” (GLAAD), and kept a blue pinky for a week in response to a tweet by @beinggirl; my photo even earned a retweet from the “Secret Mean Stinks” campaign, among others.
For the Humanities 7 unit on “Why do people judge other people and themselves?” one of my students did her individual Focus Question work on bullying. She designed her presentation as much to stimulate conversation as to present information, and she succeeded admirably: the discussion lasted over 45 minutes and might have continued even longer if class hadn’t ended. The students were not without empathy for bullies, coming quickly to general agreement that often, they simply didn’t know better because that was how they were treated, or perhaps they had deep-seated issues of their own and the bullying had nothing to do with the actual victims.
(title credit from a song in the Disney movie Aladdin and the King of Thieves)
As an option for weekend activities, I offered to take students to a GLSEN conference on April 5. (GLSEN is the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network.) Unfortunately, two of them ended up with conflicts, but the third student cheerfully said she would still like to go, and so we headed east to Madison Park Vocational Technical High School in Roxbury. After passing through the metal detector for “males,” an extremely un-GLSEN moment all around (though I don’t think it was switched on), and stopping at the registration table, we walked up the stairs to the opening celebration, where we were enthusiastically welcomed by three cheerleaders of various genders.
Eliza Byard, the Executive Director of GLSEN, welcomed all of us and spoke movingly of the experience of speaking (for two minutes, precisely timed by the TelePrompter) at the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. Given that Bayard Rustin, one of the organizers of the March who also served as a speaker, had been excluded from a meeting with President Kennedy out of the fear that J. Edgar Hoover, the homophobic Director of the FBI, might be upset, Ms. Byard’s participation was all the more moving.
In the echoing silence, I thought I could hear closet doors that had opened a crack softly but quickly shutting again. We were at a faculty professional development session on supporting lesbian and bisexual students, and an earnest young houseparent had just explained to the facilitator that we didn't have any issues around sexuality among the faculty and staff because no one was gay. Seriously? I thought to myself. How could we even know? Just because no one has dared come out?
Filed Under: Middle School, Teaching, gender, day of silence, LGBT Support, On Education, Bill Ivey, Gay-Straight Alliance, diversity, In the Classroom, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Anti-Bullying, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Education
Spirit Week is always one of the highlights of the SBS year, from the traditional "Pajama Day" on Monday right through the traditional "Color Wars" skits on Friday. Wednesday is usually "Spirit Day" (we wear blue and white and/or SBS clothing). Tuesdays and Thursdays, however, change around from year to year, providing a nice blend of tradition and routine on the one hand, and freshness and innovation on the other.
Filed Under: Middle School, School Happenings, gender, On Education, Bill Ivey, community, diversity, Feminism, In the Classroom, LGBTQIA Support, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Anti-Bullying, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School
My apologies in advance for including original quotes "as is"; sometimes, softening ugly words obscures the true ugliness of the message they were meant to convey.
Tires screech as a car full of teenage boys swings around to get a closer look, barely decipherable bellowed comments ringing across the parking lot. I clutch my small bag of groceries a little more tightly, willing myself to maintain a blank face and an even pace, wishing for the first time in a number of years that I didn't enjoy parking far away from the store entrance so I could get in a bit of a walk. My stomach clenches with the familiar tension, and I wait for the usual relaxation. It doesn't come. And suddenly I know why.
Filed Under: Middle School, Grades 7-12 and PG, gender, LGBT, hate crimes, LGBT Support, On Education, Boarding and Day, All Girls Education, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, The Faculty Perspective, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Anti-Bullying, Education