It’s summer! That glorious time of year when we can re-group and re-connect with that part of ourselves that needs a brief respite before the new school year begins. As Catholic educators, our commitment to our students goes far beyond their academic success. We influence their hearts, enrich their spirits, and guide them towards their best selves. Our culture is anchored in compassion, forgiveness and tolerance.
For many students, summer is a time of fun and adventure, when they can get together with friends and enjoy these sweet couple months of freedom from homework and schedules, and indulge in social activities. For other students; however, summer is a lonely stretch that feels like forever. There are two types of bullied students: the overtly bullied is the child who is bullied in all the obvious ways; the invisible student is the child who isn’t necessarily targeted, he or she is simply overlooked. Those students who don’t fit in during the school year are experiencing an even deeper sense of isolation over summer break, that’s almost hard to describe. I know first-hand. As a survivor of school bullying who now works inside our Catholic schools to motivate change, I hear the stories from these students, stories just like mine, of how they’re dreading summer. Can you imagine dreading summer when you’re a kid? As much as summer represents a break from the bullying, it also means waiting for invitations that rarely if ever come.
I’m an adult now and I’ve turned my pain into purpose by dedicating my life to anti-bullying, speaking in schools, writing books, and helping administrators create compassion inspired curricula that integrate life-lessons into the classroom based on core Catholic values. Despite how rewarding that work is, when it’s summertime, I can’t help but feel the pain of the students who are like I once was, and it’s with that thought that I’m reaching out with this post right now.
When I give parent and faculty talks during my school visits, I always stress that providing a lonely child hope of making new friends is one of the best things that we as adults can do for that isolated, sad student. So often, the focus tends to be on appropriate punishment for the bullies, so much so, that the victim’s immediate needs become lost. The best form of triage for a bullied student is helping that child find fresh social outlets where they can bond with other kids the same age, with whom they don’t attend school. There are so many options—park districts, community centers, teen theater groups, rock fantasy camps, sports clubs, dance studios, youth library groups. The list is virtually endless.
While we may not be able to offer the same hands-on attention and love to our students during summer break that we can from the classroom, there is something we can do right now, that can make all the difference in the world. Set aside some quiet time during the summer to research organized activities for youth in your area. I always recommend looking a few miles away or perhaps the next town over where your student is more likely to meet fresh, new faces. Print out what you discover and keep an ongoing list. Then, when school reconvenes, and that lonely student, desperate for hope, reaches out to you for help, you’ll be ready with wonderful ideas that you can share with them and their parents.
Remember, you are not only an educator. You are a guardian angel. Summer is the best time to nourish your wings.
Be sure to check out Jodee’s Anti-Bullying Survivor Series (ABSS) to include:
About Jodee Blanco:
Jodee Blanco is the author of four books on bullying, including the New York Times bestselling memoir, Please Stop Laughing at Me…. She is also the author of the NCEA’s new Anti-Bullying Survival Series. Jodee travels to schools, sharing her story to save lives, and has spoken to over a half-million people worldwide. For more information on Jodee Blanco and her in-school anti-bullying program, please visit www.jodeeblanco.com or email her at Jodee@jodeeblanco.com.