There was recently a news story about an 8-year-old boy who was horribly harassed for wearing a red backpack with a pony on it. Stories of children getting bullied or harassed are pretty common and it seems like a lot of schools either ignore it or just don’t really know how to handle it. But there are some positive cases out there. A really nice story about a teacher who found a way to teach his students a little something about interpersonal relations has been circulating around the internet recently:
“I decided to stop by the store this morning and buy a couple apples. During our morning meeting (where we sit in a circle and do spiral lessons), I told my class we were going to try something different and I showed them my two apples and asked them to list the differences and similarities between the two apples. They were both exactly the same color and shape… one was a little brighter and bigger, but that was literally the only difference.
Then I held up the other apple that was only slightly discolored and smaller and I said, “Gross. This apple looks disgusting!” and dropped it on the ground. My kids all looked at me like I was INSANE! A couple laughed uncomfortably, but for the most part they thought I had lost my mind.
I then picked it up and passed it to the student sitting beside me and said, “Isn’t this apple just stupid?! You should say something mean to it and do this!” Again I modeled dropping it in front of me. “Now pass it to the person next to you so they can say something mean to the apple, too!”
Long story short, my kids got very into saying mean and hurtful things to this apple and dropping it in front of them. “I hate your skin.” “You’re an ugly color red.” ”Your stem isn’t very long.” ”You’re probably full of worms.” and on and on and on…
So, by the time this little apple made it back to me everyone had had a chance to really rip this little guy apart. I seriously started feeling sympathetic towards an inanimate object… but moving on… I held both of the apples up for my kids to look at and asked them to now list the similarities and differences between the apples again… It came back the same… There really was no difference. Even after they had repeatedly dropped this apple you couldn’t really tell that it had any damage.
I took out a cutting board and knife and proceeded to cut the shiny apple open. It was perfect. And all my kids ooooh’d and ahhhh’d…
Then I cut open the second one and when I opened it, it was covered in mushy brown spots and completely bruised inside from where we dropped it. When I held it up my kids were like, “EWWWWW. I don’t want to eat THAT apple! Yuck! That looks disgusting…”
That’s when I just looked at them and said, “But didn’t we all contribute to the apple looking this way?! We did this… why shouldn’t we eat it?” They all just kind of stopped and got really quiet and I continued, “See guys… this is what we do to other people when we say mean and hurtful things. When we gossip or call someone ugly or fat or tell them they aren’t good enough or that they can’t be friends with us… we are just dropping them and causing ONE MORE bruise… a bruise that may not appear on the outside is VERY REAL and can be very destructive inside of them! It doesn’t just go away, the bruises just keep getting worse and deeper… THIS!” I said as I held up the bruised apple, “is what we do to each other. We have to stop dropping each other.”
I’ve never seen my kids ”get” something so fast before. It was so real to them… people cried and laughed and it was very emotional but absolutely amazing and they got to journal about everything and some of the responses I got… well, I sobbed all the way through lunch. I had so many kids come up and hug me later and tell me that they were so happy that a teacher “got it.””
Bullying is a ubiquitous and timeless phenomenon. It is a problem that is often over parents and teachers’ heads. Maybe this teacher’s lesson will start some meaningful conversations in schools. In any case, it is an important message to share.