This week we are featuring a film about a “young African boy with a haunting back story who starts school in Ireland, and finds out quickly exactly what it means to be the new kid. Winner of Best Narrative Short at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival and nominated for an Oscar.” Let’s check it out …
In its short 11.32 minutes, New Boy vividly illustrates how what we see on the surface of bullying incidents often is only the tip of a much bigger “icerberg” of personal experiences and challenges that can lead to, or play into, those events. Sometimes, as in the case of Joseph, these experiences can provide some form of emotional resilance to bullying; at other times, the experiences can render young people more emotionally vulnerable.
The message here seems to be not only about the often complex nature of bullying (also applicable to cyberbullying), but also, implicitly, how hard it can be for the teacher, or whoever is trying to respond “in the moment,” to do so in a way that is truly effective and not just a “knee jerk, quick-fix” reaction. Educators simply have no way of knowing every student’s life story, nor indeed oftentimes just which student is the most emotionally vulnerable and most likely to be “pushed over the edge” by bullying behaviors.
What seems clear is that we need to focus on finding creative, collaborative ways to establish effective bullying/cyberbullying prevention practices and initiatives within our school communities which help to provide a “safety net” for all youth at risk (research shows that offline risk correlates with online risk), BEFORE they arrive at the ”point of no return” (dropping out of school, making poor life choices, and other self-destructive behaviors) and blame “has to be apportioned.”
For a further, very sad, example of the complexities involved in bullying and the challenges of navigating effective responses, see Emily Bazelon’s insightful piece about Phoebe Prince in Slate.com, and two informative responses by Anne Collier of Net Family News, and Justin Patchin of the Cyberbullying Research Center.