Friday, November 30, 2007

Aren't we friends on MySpace?

I grew up knowing what a bully was, and who the bullies were - both in my neighborhood and in school. I tried to avoid them, whenever possible, and learned to stay off their radar in general. I wasn't always successful, but usually found new ways to walk home, or which halls in school to avoid. The type of bullying changed as I went through school. In elementary school and junior high, the bullies were those hulking boys who were too big (and often too old) for their own good. Sometimes, they were girls who were too big (in other places) and too old for their own good. In high school, the bullies were often the more popular kids, who found great humor in putting down those of us (and yes, I was not that popular in high school) who were somehow lacking in the social graces (or in the bustline, or in the ....whatever. You can fill in the blanks)

As my own children were going through middle school and high school, the bullies began appear. This time, however, they were more technological...they were cyber-bullies. MySpace started out as a nice little social application, where my sons could chat with friends and share interests. They could meet girls, and could keep in touch with students from other schools. Slowly, I started hearing about kids saying terrible things about each other, using MySpace and Instant Message. My youngest son experienced quite a few episodes of cyber-bullying in high school. He learned very quickly how to block messages from those who were trying to pick fights, or say nasty things about him. (I'm sure there were those who chose to block him, as well. I was born at night - but not last night)

Anyway - I wrote previously about a fight that broke out in the hallway right outside my classroom door. Turns out, it was precipitated by some MySpace interactions. The weekend before the incident, one boy started messaging the other - making threats, calling names, casting aspersions. Of course, the other boy responded in kind. Eventually, they agreed to fight when they got to school on Monday. One boy proclaimed he was going to 'f**kin' kill' the other. So, when they got to school, they started looking for each other. They found each other outside my classroom, and fought.

How do I know all this? Because I just left a meeting where we read the back and forth emails that started the fighting. Horrible language. Violent talk. Over nothing. As a result, several teachers are hurt (I think there have been at least 3 worker's comp filings from this fight), one boy is being charged with a felony for threatening the kill the other, and both boys may be facing expulsion from school. All because they had unsupervised access to computers, and had nothing better to do than post threatening messages to each other.

They never learned to find a new way home, or a way to avoid each other in the halls. And no one ever showed them how to block someone on MySpace.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Answer: What you gonna do about it?

Question: What's the first thing I heard a student say in the hall this morning?

Backstory: I live on the Freshman hall. There are a ton of Freshmen this year, and they all hang out by their lockers before first bell every morning. They come on the hall starting around 7:40, and the bell rings at 7:55. Socialization time is good, right? The teachers on this hall are greatly outnumbered - 6 of us to a bazillion of them. A couple weeks ago, I had to help break up a girl fight. This morning, it was the guy's turn.

I 'm standing outside my door, monitoring the hall. As usual, there are groups of kids hanging out by the lockers, talking about their Thanksgiving holiday. A HUGE kid (never seen him before - he doesn't belong at this end of the alphabet) comes up the hall, stops at the group of kids standing nearest to me, pushes another kid and says, "What you gonna do about it?" He got his answer pretty quickly - fists started flying.

I yelled for Mr. D (Biology teacher who was at the other end of the hall), and ran in my room to push the button. (2nd time this year I've done that - a new record!) We don't have phones in our rooms, so the only way we can contact the office in an emergency is to push this black button on the wall. When you push the button, people come running. After the button pushing, I went back into the hall, where the fight was continuing. The teachers not actively involved in breaking up the fight start herding the spectators to their homerooms. Finally, one other male teacher pulls one kid (the pushee) into his classroom, and locks the door. The other guy is still fighting, trying to break down the door. He finally gives up and heads down the hall, Mr. D in pursuit. All of a sudden, the hall is peaceful again. And here comes the office cavalry - onto an empty hall. Walkie-talkies in hand, in combat mode. Looking around for the fight that isn't there.

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Stanardsville Moment

This morning, I went to the Greene County Veteran's Day ceremony. I've been part of the Greene County Singers this year, and we were asked to sing the National Anthem to open the ceremony. That went fine - really nice acapella arrangement of the anthem. Although - Suzanne (our director) forgot her pitch pipe, so she improvised with a child's hand bell filched from a local Sunday School class. It was a very patriotic lime green.

As part of the ceremony, several people were there in uniform, representing the various branches of service. In Greene County, there is also a fairly large group of people who do Civil War reenactments. (They re-stage the Battle of Stanardsville every year.) It so happens that the representatives of this group who attended the ceremony were all in Union blue. One of the women who sings with us is also one of the reenactors. She was there, wearing her blues. As we arrived for practice, she asked if anyone was offended by her presence! We all assured her she was fine - and could she please stand in the back? :)

During the ceremony, there came a time when those in uniform presented arms, and gave a rifle salute. I'm not sure how many times they shot into the air, but it was enough to impress us. We would have remained impressed, if not for one little old man on the end of the row. When the shooting was done, the commander the American Legion (who had been giving orders like: "Ten-Hut!" and "At Ease!" all morning) gave the order "Safeties On!" Evidently, this one guy didn't know how to do that. He squeezed off several more shots, while the commander told him "no, the button down (BLAM!) there, yeah - below the (BLAM!) trigger. Fred, can you (BLAM!) help him?" Very funny stuff.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Who is this gray-haired old woman, and why did she eat the owner of this blog?