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Good Morning Families, today is Tuesday June 2, 2020 and it is now time for a moment of SEL.
We continue focusing our SEL lens on bullying by learning about unwanted attention.
Unwanted attention is the part of all forms of bullying, but before we get into that, you need to know that not all unwanted attention is bullying. That is all bullying involves unwanted attention but not all unwanted attention is bullying.
The reason we need to understand this difference is that a large part of learning may involve unwanted attention. The teacher asks you speak up in class in 4th grade, the people you stay with ask you about your day and your friends in 7th grade, your teacher needs to talk to you and your family about what’s going on in math, the principal needs to speak with you about your behavior choices in kindergarten through 12th grade. All of that could be unwanted attention for you. However, when teachers and counselors and family and administrators or any other trusted adults or peers are acting in good faith and with the intention of helping you gain skills, we would not consider that bullying.
This type of unwanted attention maybe cause distress, but it may produce positive results and personal growth. The unwanted attention from bullying most often produces negative results. Those negative results can include a wide variety of painful emotion information.
When it comes giving or receiving attention there are two aspects to consider, intention and impact. Both intention and impact matter. Impact matters because that is how the attention affects the person receiving it. That is very important because at the level of impact is where there can be hurt for a person and a community.
Th ere is also intention. This matters in order to preserve diversity of culture. That is, not all cultures operate in the same social ways. By extension not all individuals understand others’ cultures or experiences. This is why it is important for our communities and our societies to be able to check-in on one another regarding intent of attention. Seeking clarity and being open when people seek clarity from you is how kindness works.
Unwanted attention can be verbal or physical. Unwanted verbal attention can come in the forms of being called a name that isn’t yours and you don’t like or being assigned a derogatory label. That means being labeled with any word that says you are less than human or that you are less than someone else. Unwanted attention is also a big part of social bullying. Social bullying is unwanted attention designed to damage or ruin a person’s social standing, creditability or someone’s personal and social relationships. This is a recurring behavior we can see from President Trump. Most recently, during the expression of the social emotional skill of social engagement, many people used their protected rights to protest things not being fair (remember that’s called equity) or equal (that’s called equality). The President chose to label the protestors as “thugs” rather than citizens. He has also called people the names “clowns”, “dummy”, “phony”, “low class slob”, and “sleazebag”. He also often refers to journalists he disagrees with as “fake news” and in what appears to be kidding/not kidding encourages people to treat them badly because of his personal emotion information. None of this is behavior that we would expect of accept from any of our students.
Social bullying is all about name calling and mislabeling and rumors and gossip spread in effort to embarrass or humiliate. It is using words to make other people view the target of the bullying as less than them or as somehow not a full human worthy of receiving respect or consideration. Words can also be used to try to strip people of their full citizenship. American history is full of this type of bullying. Some citizens believe themselves to be the true Americans and others, who don’t agree with their ideas or culture as un-American. This is one of the foundational beliefs used to justify slavery, Indian removal, Jim Crow, glass ceilings, all waves of immigration, and definitely with a United States Senator named Joseph McCarthy and his chief counsel, Roy Cohn who was a mentor of Donald Trump.
Even most recently this was directed toward Colin Kaepernick. Despite what your views might be regarding Kaepernick’s decision to express himself by kneeling during the national anthem it does not equate to a greater than or less than degree of citizenship.
Here are two ways to spot unwanted attention. First, if the attention you are giving someone is impacting them in a way that is producing painful emotion information that is not likely connected to producing any positive results. Again, arguing or debating with someone when the focus is producing compromise or growth can be very healthy, for individuals, relationships, communities, institutions, and ideas. However, if in the course of a debate or discussion the attention shifts from the other person’s or people’s ideas onto the person or people themselves, then the argument has gone off course and could get into bullying. And actually, there’s a fancy Latin term for this called ad hominem, which means “to the person”. That’s like making a personal attack. Personal attacks on people are examples of unwanted attention. This is something I did. In upper elementary and junior high, I was angry. I was not interested in schoolwork at all and I became resentful toward those who were, angered by the positive attention they received. Instead of having the skills in interacting with my own painful emotion information or being able to manage my own behavior choices I chose to treat students who were dedicated to school badly. I labeled them “nerds”. This was well before “nerd culture” was a positive thing. They were all girls and they were kind and completely undeserving of my name calling and I am sorry for the painful emotion information I created for them.
A second way to start to recognize unwanted attention is if the focus of attention is too much about a person’s body. There is usually an over attention to how someone looks, their shape, their color, their size, their style. That is not to suggest that we pretend not to notice people. Pretending that we don’t have differences in our appearances and cultures is not healthy or natural. It’s when the attention shifts too much to that aspect or stays only on that aspect. Travis and Gregory McMichael did not understand this SEL skill. That is how they saw only the skin color and gender presentation of Ahmaud Arbery. And that is what lead them down a path to physical bullying, which is what we will talk about tomorrow.
For today, see if you can spot any instances of unwanted attention either for you or for others. We look forward to connecting with you in whatever way we can tomorrow. Until tomorrow, may your thoughts and feelings be with you.