Connecticut Shooting: The Teachers’ Agenda to Address Classroom Bullying is No Small Endeavor.

15 Dec

Families of victims mourn, the world grieves, and helpless bystanders weep, as another school killing is added to our growing list. We struggle to find words that might possibly contribute meaning, in a senseless, tragic situation.

I don’t know Jimmy Greene, musician, and his family, whose beautiful little girl, Ana, was killed, but I have had the privilege of hearing him on the saxophone, a transcendent musical experience delivered by a man of dignity, kindness, and giftedness. He lived here in Winnipeg, Canada, for a few years, and taught music to our son’s musically-gifted friend, Niall, at the University of Manitoba.

As chance would have it, we actually heard Jimmy play in New York, in a basement music venue called the Blue Smoke. Our family happened to be in New York where my husband’s Manitoban Y-Not? Anti-Poverty Program was being considered for a grant with a philanthropic organization supported in part by Deepak Chopra. Deepak had spoken in Winnipeg, Canada, and had suggested my husband apply. My husband, Brian MacKinnon, inner city retired English teacher/anti-poverty activist, works effectively to get inner city youth off the streets of Winnipeg with the gift of free YMCA-YWCA memberships. At the Downtown Y, kids can engage in healthy recreation in a safe environment that counters poverty, life on the streets, and gang violence. He’s sent over 12,000 kids to the Downtown Y over the past ten-and-a-half years with the help of Winnipeg philanthropists.

By chance, our son Arthur’s friend, Niall, was in New York at the same time and suggested that we meet up, and come with him to hear Jimmy Greene, the fantastic musician who was coming to Winnipeg to teach at the U of M music faculty, and who was to become Niall’s teacher. My husband, our three young adult kids and I, were transported by the music of Jimmy Greene and the other musicians, and the visit to Blue Smoke was a highlight of the trip.

Our daughters recall seeing Jimmy and his beautiful family in Assiniboine Park, when they rode their bikes over to the park to listen to Jimmy play the saxophone in a public performance. At the end of Niall’s graduation recital that we attended, at which he exhibited his amazing talent on the saxophone, he thanked Jimmy Greene, his great teacher who he said was moving on to teach in Connecticut. Our lives in Winnipeg were enriched by Jimmy Greene. Our sorrow joins the ocean of sorrow that surrounds Jimmy and his family and other families so tragically stricken.

In pockets around the world, individuals are increasingly joining together in earnest consideration of the questions of human bullying that ranges from the relatively innocent meanness of one child to another, to bullying that becomes entrenched and evermore serious, to the depths of human violence we have seen in the Connecticut shooting.

The teachers’ agenda to address classroom bullying is no small endeavor. To arrive at a real understanding of a bullying child, to attempt to reach such a child in order to transform his or her pain and lack of empathy, to reach bullying children while they are young and so much more open to change, must continue to be a priority. Teachers and students in classroom communities must valiantly attempt to take responsibility in comprehending the pain of each student in the bully, bullied, bystander scenario, including the isolated and ostracized kids whose home lives are troubled, whose minds are troubled, and who have the potential to become powder kegs of violence.

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