Bullying has existed in schools for many years now. It is now much talked about. Swapna Haldar shares an anecdote from many years back about bullying in the school she taught at. It tells that bullying is not always a behavioral issue. It is influenced by external factors, sometimes as simple as a TV show or a movie. Children see, children ape. As parents, as teachers sometimes very simple check and balance methods can curb it.
It was sometime in the 1990’s, one morning a fellow teacher anxiously told me, “Take care of your boys(in the classroom). While returning home, they stop by a roadside vendor, have sugarcane juice and encourage younger boys to fight.They make a lot of noise and disturb the residents.”
|A roadside sugarcane vendor in India. These makeshift fresh juice stalls are
I heard her out, but did not give much thought to the matter as many of the teachers thought the tenth grade students that I taught were the trouble makers and the class teacher is answerable to whatever they do, whether in the school or outside. Two days later I got the same complain from another teacher and she also added, “The boys bully the younger students and force them to engage in fighting”. She gave me the name of the supposed leader also. I asked her why she had not stopped them. Her reply was the same – the elder boys don’t listen to the junior teachers (teachers from elementary or middle school grades).
When I heard three complaints, I asked one of the girls about it. She said it is a mock fight like WWF(World Wresting Federation) on T.V. I had no idea about that program, so that night I watched it.
Next day I finished teaching the class a little early, started talking about TV shows, how many hours the students watched TV, what were the most popular programs . Most of the girls said they watched music channels or TV series / serials and the boys watched sports only. Then they asked me what channels I watch. I told them, as they knew I didn’t have much time left after the school and after correcting all their work, my preference was for Discovery and News channels. But the previous night while surfing, I saw a strange channel named WWF, but obviously I could not make head or tail of it (my purpose was served, I wanted to raise the topic without their knowledge).
Many of them said it is a mock fight and few boys watch them and quite liked it, but all this while the supposed leader among them, J, – kept silent. Finally I asked, ‘J- don’t you watch it?’ He looked at me, could read something in my eyes, jumped to his feet holding his ears with his hands (Indian style) and said, “Sorry M’am”. “Are you sure it will never be repeated?”, I asked. He promised and the chapter was closed . The sugarcane vendor was also not seen there anymore.