We’ve all seen it or have been in it: The kid in the schoolyard being picked on, laughed at, and disliked for being themselves. It’s an awful feeling being that kid. Some say it toughens them up when they deal with such cruelty. Others say it has psychological consequences. But it’s likely the effects fall somewhere in the middle. Being in school as a student, you either fit into some crowd or you hang around the fringes. Sometimes on those fringes new crowds form, thus groups of anti-cliques begin their parade of “Screw Everybody!” Most of us make friends along the way, so school is probably just a series of dramas and trials for everyone, no matter what category you are in. I can honestly say, my years in school were not my fondest memories because I realize now I was just as much the inflictor of pain on others as I was the “victim” of it. And dare I suggest most of us are blind to the damage we cause others all the time -from our school years to now.
As an adult, I found myself back in school. Not as a student (well, at the University I suppose I was a student), but as a teacher in a classroom. Through adult eyes, it is quite easy to spot the nonsensical nature of kids and their lack of understanding of how their behavior towards others has consequences and side effects. Sometimes I try to explain to kids it isn’t bad to be different, just bad to pick on others about their differences -because at the end of the day, we are all different in some ways. But it basically falls on deaf ears. Students continue to act foolish, continue their reign of cruelty towards one another, and continue to create cliques and groups that exclude everyone else. The popular kids still walk with an arrogant air, the loners still hate the world, and bad kids still go against every grain imaginable.
What is interesting, however, is the following: The same can be said about the adults in the building. There are the arrogant ones that think they can do no wrong and have an attitude about it, there are the outcasts that feel everyone hates them or “out to get them,” and of course there are the troublemakers, the rebels, the loners, the quiet ones in the corner, the snitches, the nerds, and every other type of kid you can think of -only now they are adults!
At first it dawned on me, “Well, this is a school, after all,” but then I realized this happens everywhere, no matter where you work or where you are. If you look around, every day, every one has a story to tell. Every one wants to be a part of something, even if it is within their own private little world. The difference is, of course, as we get older we tend to care less about what others think and more about WE think. That has its pros and cons as well because we, essentially, can become stubborn in our ways and that likely excludes a multitude of people. It may not be as important to “fit in” as it was when we were kids, but it is still important to feel we fit into something.
Perhaps it is best if we try to think outside of ourselves and follow the advice we give to children and be kinder. It’s funny because we are all guilty of advising others to be nicer or calmer or more understanding, yet often we ourselves are not so compliant to such necessities in being “good.” The reality is we all participate in things and “feel” a certain way that mirrors the actions of children. We don’t like certain leaders or politicians because of the way they look or talk, we are quick to judge others based on one-line opinions, we dislike the rich because they have more toys than us, and the list goes on and on…
We are big, sometimes smart, sometimes cunning and well experienced children. Our feelings get easily hurt, we like what we like and that’s it, we tell stories that never happened, embellish our accomplishments, look for recognition from anywhere, go to our superiors when we want more money, daydream about toys, fantasize all the time, gossip about others (and sometimes worse), blame others for our mistakes, get easily agitated when slighted, throw tantrums when things don’t go our way, hate to eat what’s good for us, talk back to whoever disagrees, and on and on and on….
Come on, at least we can laugh about it.