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Help recognize Anti-Bullying Month and Unity Day

By GWYNETTA GITTENS - | Oct 13, 2020

PHOTO PROVIDED Gwynetta Gittens

In March, the world and education as we knew it, was turned upside down. A mandate from the governor should still be our guide, and that is to act with “grace and compassion.” Grace means kindness, and compassion means sympathy or, at best, empathy and understanding. Difficult decisions have and are being made daily to educate our students and maintain a safe environment for them to work and learn.

Grace and compassion when dealing with academic models is a job for all of us. We ask parents to use grace and compassion when making changes to their child’s choice because “it’s not working.” I empathize while listening to parents in tears, not knowing what to do. Eighty-seven thousand families chose a model for their student. Right now there are 43,562 Face-to-Face, 35,066 Home Connect and 5,531 Lee Virtual.

Moving one student from a digital model to face-to-face means providing resources we may not have right now such as changing schedules, creating space in the classroom, and having an available teacher while we face a national teacher shortage. We experience educators and staff working with grace and compassion as they go above and beyond their traditional roles every day. We ask families to use the same when given the opportunity between Oct. 5-16 to change your choice of model.

Remember, our students are facing many challenges currently, and anxiety is high. It may not be the right time to threaten the loss of a phone or favorite activity if their grades are not A’s and B’s. Give them the first quarter to settle in to their new normal. Help reduce their anxiety, and support and encourage them to do their best with grace and compassion. Listen and talk with them.

October is Anti-Bullying Month and Oct. 21 is Unity Day. I challenge adults to join with and encourage our students as they participate in promoting kindness, acceptance and inclusion. It is a fact as stated by W.E.B. Dubois said, “Children learn more from what you are than what you teach.” The 95,000 students we educate come to us already educated in many ways.

It is sad at best that there is an Anti-Bullying Month at all. However, 41 percent of our students who report being bullied expect it to happen again. In addition, 26 percent of students reported being a victim of cyber bullying. I empathize with the frustration of cyber bullying victims, especially when you may never face your bully. The words kindness, acceptance and inclusion are very important to healing the hearts and minds of bullies. Yes, they need our help as well. Many bullies feel that no one showed them kindness or accepted them, so why should they be kind to others?

We have the month of October and beyond to focus on bullying and what we can do about it. Define kindness, acceptance and inclusion for yourself and decide how you can demonstrate these ideals every day. Wear orange on Unity Day on Oct. 21 to remind our students we join with them against bullying.

The most pivotal word to explore is inclusion. To be included is to be equal. Bullies struggle with feeling not equal to others. The true test is not lip service but whether the individual is actually included and accepted. Inclusion is a conscious desire, and effort to share thoughts and knowledge with someone else. If we share our thoughts and knowledge, we are equal.

Gwynetta Gittens holds the District 5 seat on the Lee County School Board.