Thursday, 24 March 2016

Insidious bullying: struggle to be "Normal"

Sudden silence. Apathy. Cold eyes. Whispers. Giggles. Everlasting nightmare.

For a teenage girl, conformity, being a "normal" at school or the sense of belonging means a lot. Perhaps the crave for the sense of belonging accelerates online communication among the teens. I see kids desperately try to reply someone's comment on LINE everywhere. It may look ridiculous to ones who have already passed the phase. However, for a teenager, being a member of a group is her priority in her school life. It can be the way of survival from constant parental and peer pressures. I admit that this crave for human contacts is not only for teens. We all do no matter how old you are. But when you are young and inexperienced, living in the tiny world called a school, those classmates or schoolmates matter more than they should be. So, who can stand strong amongst total apathy in a classroom where everyone seems to pay no attention to your presence? Who can possibly say, "Be strong! or Hung in there!" when the person struggles to breathe every single second in the classroom? Having being a victim of insidious bullying in school days, I certainly can not say that but to cry with her, my sweet girl, knowing my action will only aggravate the condition and no words can comfort her. 

Back in high school days, I eventually gave up on going to a university due to insidious bullying. Nothing physical, nothing apparent, no teachers can understand the underlying meaning of the constant giggles and whispers among those girls. No school policy of anti-bullying works. No one including those bullies know how and when to stop such cruel and cowardice actions. Breathing can be a struggle in such a condition. Lunch break is the worst hour to cope with. The world looks full of dark mallice. The worst of all, you feel absolutely ALONE. Then the helplessness falls and covers even in the slightest light you see. All the senses will be paralysed and you feel stuck in the hell. Sometimes it takes only the shout to the boss bully, "F%## off, You hideous bitch." But it is impossible to do that when you can not even breathe. I survived by skipping classes. It was the hardest and darkest time I have ever experienced and I have no interests to go back there even if it means no wrinkles and spots on my face. 

Here I am, expressing total respect to my own daughter. Because she has been fighting against bullying on her own from the beginning of the second semester until the end of the academic year without any supports. Only the bravest of the brave can do that on her own. Her grades are dropped to the bottom and her eyes lost her blinding glitterings. Yet she has fought and survived without telling anyone. To me, she is nothing but a champion, the coolest and bravest girl I've known. For her honor, I will breathe deeply and suppress my rage and the strong temptation to give the same amount of psychological pain to the bullies. 

Bullying in any forms including psychological ones DEPRIVE someone of pleasures, motivations and energies to live. A life is precious and also connected to each one of us. Each life is valuable regardlessly. Once you realize that we are all interconnected to each other like a big family, it will be impossible to treat others unfairly. Yet, there are so many young and precious lives destroyed because of irrational hideous actions such as bullying. Bullying can start from just a bit of misunderstanding, jealousy, insecurity, hatred or rage which is from nothing but your own darkness. For teens, the world looks full of contradictions and inconsistency. It must be overwhelming and intimidating. Life ain't easy and solvable like a math equation. That's why we need others. That's why we crave for connections. That's why we need to help each other. That's why we must develop our empathy and compassion. One has to get over numerous hardships and unpredictable disasters. How can you be strong enough to survive when you feel alone?  How would you feel if you were this girl eating lunch alone at the corner of a corridor ? How would you feel if nobody talks to you all of sudden for no specific reason you can think of ? Can you really say it is nothing to do with you? Can you really say you are not one of onlookers? And what would you do if you were the girl standing alone? What would you do ? 

Friday, 18 March 2016

Spring: the season of changes

I had the last meeting at the city hall with the other ALT yesterday and paid my school lunch fee as my last task to complete as an ALT at primary schools.

This morning as I got up sneezing ( Hay fever), I said to myself, "Ok. Time to reflect." So here I am at the morning table trying not to nag my teen daughter but to focus on reflecting on the days at primary school.

In 2013, the first year past so quickly as I struggle to figure out the most comfortable and effective ways of team-teach with homeroom teachers. Lesson planning and preparation were nightmarish in this period since no teaching materials or instructions were provided. I had to figure out where teaching materials were stored, what to do and where my classes were. I run around the schools like a chick without its mum, feeling totally lost and panic. I remember the exhaustion after work.  I was also on MA program at Aston university, studying research skills A to Z for the weekends. On top of that, I tried to look after my own private classes and troubles that my teen brought. I would not have survived without losing my mental sanity if there were no supports from my family and mates. The motto I have acquired from some of the wise mates, "One step forward at a time and keep forwarding." worked really well when I needed to push myself to complete all the tasks within a day.

The second year, I felt more relaxed as an ALT due to all the lesson prep and familiarities I built with co-workers. I also knew which classroom I needed to go and what to do by then. I got used to the heck tick lifestyle and even managed to find time for some yoga sequences. Plus I started to gain confidence to finish my MA within provided period of time (Three years without paying any extra costs). Due to the Action Research I did with my private classes, my practice improved and I learned a lot about theoretical aspects of TEYL and essential background information of my private students.

In 2015, as soon as I heard that I would be awarded the Master of Science degree from Aston, I started wondering what can be the better role for me to improve English education at primary public schools. Private schools usually have their own program hiring specialists for English education. But I strongly believe reforming public education system will help more children develop language learning as well as social skills. If language learning is an area of social science, all the children should have the equal right to learn. But private schools can not offer learning opportunities for all the children due to the financial burden for their guardians. My urge to do research on some troublesome features of teaching practice at public elementary schools increased over the three years.

On March 18th 2016, I am here in the kitchen feeling anxious and thrilled at the same time in the face of my new challenge. From April, I will go back to the classrooms in primary schools as a researcher and observe English classes for a year. I'm not sure what kind or when but I will get more stories to tell.