Monday, December 20, 2010

Mean Girls

Today's interview was my favorite ever.  And no offense to anyone I've already interviewed, but it's because it's with my favorite girlfriend in the whole wide world-my baby sister.  Remember my baby sister?  As usual, we started the interview with no topic in mind and went where it wanted to go.  This interview decided it was going to be about bullies.  My sister and I were both bullied as kids. If you were bullied or have kids who were/are bullied, this will probably speak to you.

If you have additional questions for Sarah, please leave them in the comments and we'll be sure to get an answer and continue the conversation.  If you'd like to be interviewed for a Monday Morning Interview, please let me know.  They consist of a conversation via instant messaging that takes between 30-60 minutes.

Charissa Clark Howe: Tell me a little bit about yourself

Sarah Clark Hendess: Seriously? I'm 29, married, live in Lake Mary, FL. I teach sixth-grade English at a middle school, but I'm pretty bored with it. I'm beginning a new master's program in January in library science, and I'm really excited about becoming a librarian. I have three dogs, a turtle, a hedgehog, a motorcycle, and a 16-year-old German boy

CCH: You don't often hear the words, "I'm really excited about becoming a librarian." What do you ind exciting about that propsect?

SCH: Well, the work will be a lot quieter! Plus I've always loved books; I read just about anything I can get my hands on, and I like the reliability of libraries. They're organized logically. I like that. And I like the challenge of tracking down resources that are difficult to find.

CCH: It's sort of like a treasure hunt, isn't it? What's your favorite book?

SCH: "To Kill a Mockingbird." I reread it every two years. Next year is a Mockingbird year.

CCH: Why?

SCH: I could be Scout. The first time I read that book, it was like Harper Lee was talking about me. I love the line in there that says, "Ladies in groups always filled me with a vague sense of apprehension."

CCH: So many women can sympathize completely with that sentiment, I think. Why is that? Why are groups of women so intimidating?

SCH: They're too complicated. You have to know the secret little ways of saying things and presenting yourself, and it's very easy to unwittingly offend someone. Men are so much simpler. If you burp, they'll cheer you on, rather than saying snide things about you later.  As women, we're just not kind to one another.

CCH: What do you think we as women can do about that?

SCH: Quit being so judgmental and touchy. The movie "Mean Girls" has always resonated with me for the same reasons. That's a truly excellent piece of film-making.

CCH: What's your worst "mean girls" type experience?

SCH: Sixth grade.

CCH: Can you elaborate?

SCH: Well, there was one girl who would come up behind me and sneeze in my hair, another who pretended to be my best friend but was awful to me behind my back, another who made fun of my clothes nearly every day, and another who knocked either into a wall or onto the floor "accidentally" during gym every chance she got. Knocked me into a wall.

CCH:  There is a book called, "Queen Bees and Wannabes." I think that the movie you were talking about is based off of it. Have you read it?

SCH: Yes, I have! And you're right; the movie was based on the book.

CCH: I'm reading it right now.

SCH: It's insightful, but not especially helpful. I liked "Cliques: Eight Steps for Helping Your Child Survive the Social Jungle" better.

CCH: What about that one did you find to be more helpful?

SCH: There's less theory and more practical application. "Cliques" actually tells you what to do if your child is having social issues. "Queen Bees" mostly just describes social roles and how to identify them.

CCH: Interesting. Who do you think could have helped you navigate all this back in 6th grade and what could they have done?

SCH: Mrs. Bretz (my teacher) did what she could, but she couldn't negate the fact that I was a poor kid at a rich kid's school. When I got to middle school, I made friends with kids who came from Fairview, which was closer to the Cosmosphere and had a slightly lower economic demographic. Those kids didn't care if my jeans came from K-Mart.

CCH: How have these experiences afected you as a middle school teacher?

SCH: Greatly. I don't let my students abuse one another. If a student tells me he or she is being bullied, I immediately report it to administration. And I try to help awkward kids find places they can fit in, such as a club. Sometimes it's as simple as changing their seat in class to be next to someone I know has similar interests.

CCH: Not all teachers are so sensitive to that kind of stuff. Do you think teachers are trained well to handle bullying situations? (This is a deep personal topic for me, as we were both picked on as kids and now my oldest is going through similar things.)

SCH: It's getting better, especially in the past couple of years. However, the biggest problem with bullying is and always has been that kids are sneaky. There are always going to be times and places where teachers aren't watching. That's why one of the biggest anti-bullying initiatives we've put in place at my school isn't so much in training teachers as it is encouraging students to report if they're being bullied or they've seen someone else being bullied.

CCH: Have you seen some positive things coming from that initiative?

SCH: In general, kids are more likely to report unsavory goings-on to adults. I think it helps that they can now email their teachers rather than being the obvious kid who stays behind at the end of class to tattle. We've had a couple incidents averted due to kids reporting to administration. Most kids can recognize and want to do the right thing; they just need to know that they'll be protected.

CCH: What do you think the role of the parent is in all of this?

SCH: #1 - don't let you kid use the internet unsupervised. #2 - If your child tells you that he's being bullied at school, take it seriously and let the principal know that something's going on. You don't have to yell at the principal, but inform him. The worst thing any aduilt can do is tell a child to "just ignore" their abuser. It doesn't take much investigating to discover whether there is truly a problem or if the child is simply being melodramatic.

CCH: What about if you suspect your child might be the bully or if they are accused?

SCH: Report it to the principal yourself and let the kid take the heat at school. I know it's hard for parents to do, but sometimes you really do have to let the kid burn a little. And your child should have to make some atonement for what he's done to the other child. Even if it's just a hand-written apology.

CCH: How can we work to prevent the bullying in the first place?

SCH: #1 - model loving relationships for your children. If they see you being nice to someone's face and then verbally trouncing them when they're out of earshot, what lesson are you teaching the child? Make sure you point out the times that your child hurts someone else's feelings and times that they've had their feelings hurt so they can see both sides of it. And keep an eye on what your child is posting to Facebook.

CCH: What's the one thing, above and beyond all else that you want to know your students have learned from you?

SCH: That they are all valuable people deserving of love. If they learn something about writing along the way, that's a bonus.

CCH: Your parents did a good job, I think. Not that I'm biased.

SCH: No, not at all.

Interview conducted 11/8/10


  1. Melinda Eliason12:40 PM

    Just what did she mean by a 16 year old german boy?? She mentioned that in the beginning but then you never asked about it.. That is the kind of comment that makes you want to know..

  2. Such a cute photo!

  3. RE: The German boy: My sister is currently hosting an exchange student. :)