Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Questions without Answers

I had a different post waiting to be written for today. One more in line with the programming (and occasional book review) aspects that I normally talk about on Tuesdays. But I've been struggling with something for most of the day and so I'm going to attempt to think it out here. Thinking things out has never been my strong suit or a big draw for most people, especially for people who aren't librarians, so if you want to skip today and come back next week (for DIY pinatas!) do so with my blessing.

For everyone else a little background.

I left work early yesterday, I'm doing outreach Wednesday morning and God forbid I work more than 40 hours a week. And when I got to work this morning I had an incident report on my desk and an e-mail from my co-worker detailing an almost fight that occurred late last night in the children's room. We've had a problem with bullying lately, one girl in particular was getting picked on in Teen Space and so we were letting her use the computers in the children's room, but now the older kids in our room have started picking on her as well.

You read stories about kids who have been bullied and you wonder where the adults are. And why they would let something like this continue to happen. It's not that hard to stick up for the underdog. It's the right thing to do. It's the only thing to do. One of my greatest fears is that someday I'll be one of those adults that everyone wonders about. How could she be so blind or so intentionally passive?


My sympathies, or at least my likes, lie with the bullies. I like those kids. They are smart and tough and clever. They are interesting and engaging. They make me laugh. Most of the time. I don't approve of their behavior and when I'm there I try to shut it down as soon as I see it start to emerge. I try to engage them in discussions about why they pick on her and why it isn't the right thing to do. I do try. I just don't know if I'm trying in the right way. Or if I'm trying hard enough.


 I do not have a lot of patience for the girl. She is needy in a way that I find intentional and manipulative and she instigates things with her bullies about half the time that I see things about to go down. She's just outmatched- physically and mentally- and can't stop what she has started. I don't think that moving her to the children's room was the right solution; I just think it makes her even more different from the other kids and makes her a bigger target. But I don't know what the correct solution was. I don't know if there is one, but I think there's probably a better one than what we've come up with and I want to know what it is.

There are other factors here too, of course. My co-worker (Hi Ms. E) and I have different approaches on how to handle problems and potential problems in the children's room and both of our philosophies differ greatly from those of our manager and security guard who aren't in the room to see what's happening. We try to keep things as consistent as possible but a lot of the time I feel like I end up playing the bad cop. Which is not something I mind in and of itself. I know I'm not bad. I have standards and I try to enforce them as consistently as possible and I am much more vocal about nipping things that I see as problems in the bud. And once kids realize that I do this all the time and with everyone, they're usually on board. The problem arises when the kids see that the disciplinarian is gone and feel like they can act out. And I read the report. I think it would have happened even if I was there and I probably would have handled it almost exactly like Ms. E did. But people who weren't there wonder out loud, which I don't think is helpful. And I wonder to myself, which I also don't think is helpful. But still I do.

And in all of this I keep coming back around to the bullies. The ones I like. Because they're... not victims obviously, but they're caught up in the same cycle as the girl. And I just want to make them understand what took me years to figure out in my own life. I want to say to them "Someday you're going to want something. To get a job, to go to college, to move to a different part of town or to a different town entirely. And when you do want something, it will be so much easier to get what you want if you know how to talk to people. If you make them want to give you what you want. And so I don't care if you don't like someone, you don't have to like everyone, but I want you to start practicing. I want you to start practicing not telling people that you don't like them. I want you to start practicing not taking the bait when someone says something to you. I want you to practice apologizing when you offend someone. Not because you think you did something wrong, but because you offended them and that should be enough to make you stop and consider if what you said or did was hurtful."

So these are the things I've been thinking about today; through making templates for summer reading programs, through my bike ride home, through washing the dishes and through my phone call with my dad. I told him that I struggle every single day with not caring enough and caring too much. I'm not naive (regardless of what my manager thinks) and I don't think I have white guilt (again regardless of what my manager thinks) and I definitely don't have a savior complex. But there has to be something I can do, otherwise nothing anywhere would ever change.

I guess I didn't really ask any questions. And I certainly don't have any answers. I don't even necessarily want advice. I want a dialogue.

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