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Good Morning Families, today is Wednesday June 3rd, 2020 and it is now time for a moment of SEL.
Today we continue learning about bullying. Learning about bullying and having language to understand and express emotion information brought about by bullying behaviors is very important for students because it helps kids participate and engage in the current social conversation, happening in our country. Today we are talking about a very important part of what defines bullying by learning about physical bullying.
Physical bullying is hurting or threatening to hurt another person’s body. It can often involve using your body like hands or feet, or it can involve using some other object. Before we get too far along talking about the physical action, let’s first talk about the threatening part.
Physical bullying can involve just using words to either threaten someone’s body or to try to influence other people to hurt someone’s body. In schools we call using the threat of physically harming someone, intimidation. The intimidation is most often used to try to control another person’s behavior. By threatening someone with physical harm, that is intimidating them, they will become scared and do what you say, or else. A really good recent example of this type of bullying can be read in the tweets of President Trump. He used intimidation when he threatened should the American citizens who were using their constitutional right of peaceful assembly and using the SEL skill of social engagement breach the White House they’d be met with “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons”. In other words, “Get off my lawn!”
By the way, intimidation also happens in social bullying when someone says they will spread rumors or make up lies or tell someone something that is private, in order to make you act in a way they want. But in the world of physical bullying intimidation is most often related to threatening someone’s body with harm. And another very recent example of intimidation can be seen in the behavior choices made by Amy Cooper.
Amy Cooper took her dog for a walk in a park. In the park she decided to not follow the rules of the park, by letting her dog off the leash. Christian Cooper (no relation to Amy) was there birdwatching. He asked her to follow the rules of the park. She refused. He got out his cellphone and started recording her breaking the rules. She did not like this and as emotion information increased and then spilled over Amy decided to threaten Christian with calling the police. But what would she say? “Hello, yes I just wanted to report that I am in the park breaking the rules and another citizen is asking me to follow them. I’m refusing and he’s recording me breaking the rules.”
What would the police say? “Great, please do follow the rules and thank you for calling.” But that wouldn’t change Christian’s behavior. I suppose she could have also decided to either leave or follow the rules. But she didn’t choose to leave, and she didn’t choose to follow the rules. Instead she turned to intimidation to threaten him in order to change his behavior of filming her breaking the rules.
She threatened him by saying that she would tell the police that he was threatening her life. This wasn’t true, but if the police thought she was in physical danger, they would come to help her in a very intense way. I mean, that’s their job, to protect and serve. They would have been doing their job, not knowing they were being lied to, arriving at the park believing that someone was in terrible physical danger. In that way Amy was trying to use the job the police were hired for as a way of intimidation in order to scare Christian that his body could be hurt. She was using this bullying in order to make him behave in the way she wanted.
Think about that in our school. Suppose you saw a student acting in a way that could lead to other people being hurt in the original way Amy was acting by not following the rules of the park. Dogs are on leashes for a reason. After all, dogs sometimes do bite people, and, as a dog owner, I can tell you that you never know how the people behind the dog have taught the dog; so it is right be cautious. Particularly if someone is already showing you by their behavior choices that they are a “super special snowflake” and rules don’t apply to them.
But think again, to our school. Suppose you saw someone writing “Mr. Manzo sux!” on a locker with a sharpie. Now suppose they saw you see them, and they said to you, “You better not tell. Snitches get stitches.” That’s called intimidation. They are saying that if you do something they don’t like, they’ll hurt your body. That’s physical bullying.
In the case of Gregory and Travis McMichael they also used physical bullying. When they chose to use their bodies to confront Ahmaud Arbery who was out running they used their hands and legs and a weapon to do so. When people engage in physical bullying their brains are often flooded with chemicals and emotion information that can really make it hard to make good decisions. In this very sad case, Gregory and Travis were not seeing clearly and all of their decisions increased the level of physical bullying eventually leading to the death of Ahmaud Arbery. That is why it is very important, that we all learn how to interact with very strong emotion information. We need to know how to manage it, because we cannot risk acting on it. All bullying is very serious, but physical bullying carries an additional immediate threat of hurting someone beyond their ability to heal. You only have one body, and once it’s hurt too badly, it doesn’t come back. Which is also what happened to George Floyd because of the choices made by Derrick Chauvin. Which we’ll talk about more on Friday.
For today, we should start practicing how to interact with very strong emotion information. Here’s one way. Do you have a brother or a sister? The reason I ask is that you may be able to most easily recognize and interact with intense emotion information that may make you want to get physical when you think about them. Have you ever used your body to change their behavior? Have they ever used their body to change your behavior? Don’t worry if you have, it doesn’t mean your evil or a bad person, them either, in fact, it most likely means, your family. It is often only in the safety of family that people feel the most comfortable to act their worst selves.
That does not mean it’s okay to be being hurt. It means that it may be a place to recognize intense emotion information related to the desire to get physical. If you don’t have siblings, that’s okay you can still practice this. Think of someone or some belief that you really disagree with that you would like to change, and I mean REALLY like to change. Try to recognize what your thoughts are when you feel escalated. Ask yourself how you feel in your body. Ask yourself how you want to express yourself. Ask yourself how you can express yourself. Check your expression, does it hurt others? If the answer is yes, take a deep breath. Take another one. See if you can find something about that idea or person that you have in common. Just look for one thing. Maybe you don’t agree with them, but maybe you both love your families. Maybe you don’t agree with them, but you both love our country. Maybe you don’t agree with them, but you like the same music, or the same show. Something. Anything. You’re not trying to agree with their ideas, you’re just trying to see them as a person, as you are a person. Then see if you can think of a way to express yourself that does not hurt others. When I was a boy, I owned the Donald Trump board game. It was like Monopoly but in the millions. I loved playing it. I bet he loves that game too. If we ever met, among the many things we might talk about I would tell him about his board game and how much I enjoyed playing it. That’s something we have in common.
By checking in with yourself you can start to recognize how you are feeling and what your desire for expression is, you’re actually building the skill of having a choice about how you act, so that you don’t find yourself hurting others or threatening to hurt others. And, as always, if someone is hurting you or threatening to hurt you tell them to stop. If you think telling them to stop would make things worse then please tell a trusted adult in order to get help.
Okay, we look forward to connecting with you in whatever way we can tomorrow. Until tomorrow may your thoughts and feelings be with you.