Love of Literature, Fear of Failure

I have been reading forever, and writing since I knew how to form letters. Books have been my best friends, and sometimes my worst enemies. Writing essays and stories became my escape, and represented a climb to glory that only a few could achieve. Some of my fondest memories of childhood come from my own words–when the school published a poem I wrote, or a teacher read a story I wrote to the class. I relished reports written by me and then presented orally. I still remember doing the research on Basenjis because my dog, Tammy, was part Basenji.

Tammy had the coloring, the face, and the size, but she had a lab chest.

This love of reading and writing lasted throughout school, as I blasted ahead of fellow classmates absorbing literature like food. At Smith, I skipped the Introductory Course in English and went straight into the Sophomore Level. (That only became an issue years later when I started to teach Freshman Comp, and realized I didn’t know how).  I believe I declared a major in English Language and Literature as soon as I was allowed to declare my major.

But wait, you are thinking, isn’t your field theater?

Well, at the time English Language and Literature was one of the HARDEST majors at Smith College. What used to be an easy A for me, became a hard-earned B (with the occasional A). The lowest grade I ever got in college was from my Chaucer class (although I have to say that was not completely a fair grade–but that’s another story).  I tended to excel in the dramatic literature classes more than in the classes about novels or poetry. As much as I loved reading and writing, I started to doubt myself. I had one professor who truly supported me, and allowed me to do a special studies project during my senior year (“The Roles of Women in Shakespeare”). I had one professor who chose favorites, and he happened to be the one who taught Short Story writing. When I graduated, I only had a B+ average in my major.

I grew doubts.

Meanwhile, I had always intended to do a minor in theater. I participated in everything I could, and took more classes than the minor required. (On a side note, I always made sure to take at least one class a semester outside of English or Theater to broaden my horizons–Smith didn’t have any core requirements). So, when senior year rolled around and I met with my minor advisor, she and I realized that I was only three credits shy of the theater major, and that I had an A- (?) average in all those courses. Three production credits. I had done numerous productions for no credit. So, we traipsed over to the chairs office and asked if there was any way I could still be a major, without those credits. He waived them.

So I graduated from Smith College with a double major in English Language and Literature and Theatre.

Little did I know how intricate a role each would come to play in my life.

The theater part is pretty obvious if you have been reading my blog for any length of time. Sorry if this is a little repetitive. I did an internship in electrics and stage management, eventually went back to school for an MFA in directing, and then continued my masochistic pursuit of education to get my PhD in Theatre for Youth. So now I am technically, a theater director/educator with an expertise in theatre for and with children as well as theatre for social change.

Now to English. Between my internship and my MFA I taught English conversation classes in Japan for three years. And of course, I kept reading and writing.

After I got my PhD and moved to Vermont where my husband taught at Castleton State College, I felt like I needed more than teaching adjunct courses for the theater department in the college and directing  one show a year.

So yes, crazy me, signed up for a distance learning class with the Institute for Children’s Literature. That one class led to three, and the book that is gathering dust without a home.

We then moved onto Fort Lewis College where, due to circumstances which I choose not to discuss here, my opportunities to teach in the theatre department were limited and then ultimately disappeared (although I did teach Non Western Theater that was part of the General Education program, as well as Children’s Theater for the Education Department). I got to direct one show (eventually) and had lots of projects in the community, as well as some children’s classes. But again, that wasn’t enough, especially financially. So, the first classes I taught at the college were 1 credit Library Research classes, introducing appropriate use of resources. It was a horrible class  because it was being phased out, but still a requirement. But, it was a foot in the door, and I got to do it because I had a PhD. After that, the Writing Program advertised for a full-time faculty position. I knew I wasn’t qualified, but I applied anyway. I didn’t get that job, but late in the summer (about two weeks before the semester started)  I got a call from the Head of the Writing Program saying “Would you like to pick up a couple of classes? We really need someone.” So I found myself teaching a 100 level and a 200 level course in Composition–without having a clue.

You know what I learned? Give me a challenge and I live up to it. Both those classes were successful, and I learned from my mistakes. I eventually picked up more classes, got on a part-time contract (that included benefits) and taught courses throughout the school in Honors, Comp, Gen Ed, Writing, and the occasional theater class.

Move forward to now. I am at a community college (another long story). I teach Theater Appreciation and Stage Makeup, which are basically the only Theater classes available to me at the moment. It’s a small program. I direct. This past semester, the person in charge of adjuncts asked if I would be willing to teach a Comp I class. No problem, I’m experienced now (although this one was very different).  He asked me if I’d teach one on-line as well. Slight problem, but I was up for the challenge (and that class was better than the live one).

I didn’t expect any classes over the summer, but I said I was willing to teach some on-line courses. (Live ones would be too complicated for the summer). At first nothing, and then I was offered two classes. Slight problem, instead of Comp I he wanted me to do Comp II. Okay, I’ve done that before as well, just a matter of figuring the technology again.

However, the second class leads me to here and now. To this present moment. I am teaching an Introduction to Literature Class. American Literature. (Did I mention that my degree at Smith mostly focused on Brit Lit).

I’M FREAKING OUT!

There, vent over. Luckily I have a wonderful blogging buddy who has sent me a gracious gift.  So, here’s a shout out to Amanda at A.Hab’s View who is a goddess in disguise.

Now, I must stop procrastinating and face the beast.

The Multiple Incarnations of Lisa

My journey at the Festival today made me recognize another important thing about myself–I have multiple lives. No, I’m not talking about reincarnation (although I don’t rule that out) but my life, in terms of interests, passions and goals can only be described as multiple incarnations of Lisa. This realization is keeping me awake tonight (or perhaps it is a combination of the caffeine I drank to make it through the day and the alcohol I drank to celebrate life). I realized that every event I participated in today reflected this diversity in some way.

The morning started with a presentation of a play called Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad performed by Book-It Repertory Theatre. This show told the story of Henry Brown who mailed himself to freedom to escape slavery. The story reminded me of two things–my passion for literature and seeing stories come to life, and my desire to fight for justice through the arts. That is an incarnation that I keep returning too.

Next I watched an amazing performance of Terrapin Puppet Theatre of Tasmania’s Boats.

This show can only be described as magical. It told a story of love, loss, and the sea using simple objects in amazing ways. It reminded me of my time as a student at the University of Hawaii, when one of my favorite teachers brought me into the world and magic of puppets.

Next I saw a performance of Doctor Kaboom! A show that combines theater with science. I witnessed a theater full of students embracing learning while watching and witnessing art. It reminded me of the things I do love about teaching–and of some joyous success stories I’ve had in my incarnation as teacher.


A performance by  The Guangdong Province Puppet Troupe reminded me of my love of culture and language, and my desire to create theater that crosses cultures bringing multiple languages and stories on stage at once. One time I started to write a play like that, but I don’t know what happened to hit. One time I worked on a show in Japan, and I stood backstage enthralled even though I know little of language.  This performance combined magic, animals, and the complex beauty of Chinese Opera, all done with puppets. We, did not need to understand the language to understand the story. I love that. When I first started my PhD program, I wanted to do research in that idea, but I got talked out of it (partially because I wanted to be both artist and academic and THEY wanted me to be only academic).  Incarnations of the language/culture lover, the passionate artist, the crushed academic. It also brought back memories of my MFA program (the incarnation of Lisa the director/Lisa the Asian theatre fanatic) where I studied Beijing Opera movement among other things.

The next two, performances (yes I saw a lot of theater yesterday, today I will be spending most of my time in a workshop) reminded me of my high school self, and of the incarnation that wants to find ways to help the youth of the world. The first was a performance of 1 1/2 by Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theatre Program in collaboration with Oregon Children’s Theatre. This piece, meant for 4th-6th grade deals with the nations growing problem with obesity and bullying. I’m still kind of processing this piece so I may write more about it later. The second was a Musical in a Day Workshop performance created by iTheatrics with local middle school  children. The did Annie and it was amazing. It reminded me again of why I chose to go into TYA.

After all this we had a wine and appetizer gathering, where someone asked about my academic background. I remembered that at Smith College, where I got my undergrad, I was a double major in English Literature and Theater. The incarnation of the reader and the writer wannabe. His honest response to my many degrees (as well as another woman who got a PhD from ASU after me) “Congratulations on being overeducated.”

The incarnation of Lisa the scholar; Lisa the student who loved to learn; Lisa the goody goody.

When I look back on my life, I have lived many lives. I have had many career paths and opportunities. I struggle with definition of self because of the multiple incarnations of me, but they all relate in some ways. Theater links them. Passion links them. A love of culture, language, arts, people link them.  So while I have many incarnations, it is the sum of those incarnations that makes me who I am today.

Right now I feel like I am a chrysalis that will soon burst open to reveal my next incarnation. I wonder where my butterfly  wings will take me, and what they will look like.

[I am starting to write a few posts for Spread Information, an interesting blog I found recently. Here's a link to my first post, which also comes from this festival and from my understanding of the importance of arts in society. Check out the entire blog, they have a lot of interesting things.]

Complete Disillusionment

Three students in Theater Appreciation–100% plagiarism on their final project.

I’m devastated.

One of them is an ESL student from Korea. Maybe the assignment was too challenging for him. But he didn’t even make an effort to hide the plagiarism. He cited sources, but the article is word for word from another source. (Although it does look like he took information from various sources, word for word).

The other two, part of the basketball team that has made my life challenging this semester. (As you can read about here) Again, word for word. Cut and paste of an entire paper. I gave them a higher grade at midterm so they could play (even though I didn’t want to). And this is what happens.

People around here keep asking what they can do to make me want to stay. They don’t want to see Nathan and I go. But how can I continue to teach when I am disillusioned with teaching? How can I continue to share my passion for theater in a place that bombards me with challenges and disrespect?

I don’t know what I want out of life anymore, but it is certainly not this.

My heart is aching.

Open the Door to Imagination


“Art is communication–as simple, and as profound, as that.” (Sally Bailey)

Photo by Piglet in Portugal, The fort of Arrifana, http://pigletinportugal.wordpress.com/2011/11/13/window-the-fort-of-arrifana-miradouro-da-antiga-fortaleza-da-arrifana/

The door stood upstage center.

“When you walk through the door,” I said. “I need to know who you are and how you are feeling. But you can’t tell me who you are. You have to show me.” Over the next 20 minutes or so we met characters of all types:  grumpy girls who didn’t want to do homework; flying unicorns that shot flames our of their horns; fully armed bank robbers determined to get the money;  Annie, played by the girl who just got cast in the role for the summer theater production; someone running from a terrifying monster . . . the list goes on and on.

All in a day of my Youth Theater Studio.

Yesterday, in responsible to my Horrible H post (in my opinion, it was horrible), the talented AmblerAngel  from Hey from Japan, Notes on Moving wrote,

“Have you ever thought about writing what it’s like to teach? I really enjoyed your series on the production…to me working with kids is really a tough job- would love to hear the stories.”

I have a few posts about teaching, although most of those focus on the challenges of teaching college classes this semester, which hasn’t been fun. I haven’t written a lot about the other teaching I do, except this post about Magic Boxes. But I owe AmblerAngel a huge

 THANK YOU

for breaking me out of the block I was in and reminding me that I have something to write about.

I teach theater. But this week I ventured into another realm of this teaching, by presenting a workshop to a group of adults with development disabilities at Class LTD. We are hoping to turn this into a larger project, allowing the participants to share their stories and create some kind of performance to present to the community. We also hope to integrate other community members into the project as one of the goals of the project is to encourage community interaction.

I was nervous about this workshop. I know I have a slew of activities to do, but I haven’t really worked with this community since high school. If I am going to be brutally honest with myself, I was a little afraid. What would happen? Would they react badly? Would something go wrong?

Last week I attended a one-day workshop with a talented Drama Therapist named Sally Bailey and bought her book entitled Barrier-Free Theatre. That workshop was excellent, and I learned a lot about how to adapt the activities I already do with drama classes to the needs of people with varying cognitive and physical abilities. I was so lucky to have that opportunity.

But I was still nervous. I asked my friend Jackie to come with me, as I am hoping to involve her with this project as an art teacher. (She is also the woman who has been guiding me through the Moon Lady project).

Armed with a bag full of silky scarves, paper plates,a paper towel tube,  and classical music,  I arrived late for the class (there was a little confusion about locations, they had moved but that move didn’t show up on Google). I walked into a room full of nervously smiling people.  I thought I would be getting a tour of the place first, but no, we swept the tables out of the way and dove write in.

“Hello. My name is Lisa. I would like you to help me learn your names. To do that, I would like you to say your name and show me something you like to do. For example, I’m Lisa, and I like to dance.”

I perform a perfectly silly of butt wiggling clumsiness.

Laughs and giggles.

We went around the circle with varied success. Several of them merely repeated the movement done before (we almost got a full baseball team) and some were too shy to say their names. But we were off.

Next we passed around the “Magic Tube.” This is an activity directly from Sally Bailey. The paper towel tube has magic properties that can become anything you want it to be. It went from a flute to a golf club, and many places in between. It finally turned into a conductor’s baton that lead the entire group into an orchestra rendition of happy  birthday.

This was then followed by a group scarf dance to classical music (again borrowed from Sally). Some students wore the scarves, some flung them around in a kaleidoscope of flying colors. I managed to get two of the more shy students to dance with me, even though one remained seated.

Before I knew it, the half hour that I was supposed to be there extended to about 45 minutes of high energy creativity and smiles. We ended taking a giant bow and giving ourselves a great round of applause.

This was followed by thank you’s and a special gift from Kevin who wrote it for the ladies.  Here it is:

I am very honored to have received this.

Thanks to AmblerAngel’s question I learned something this week. I learned that I am a teacher, and what’s more, that I help people open doors to their imaginations.

I wonder what will happen when I open the next door.

G is for (G)not Posting Garbage

Since I am trying to be kinder to myself in this blogging world, and work on developing quality instead of quantity, I thought I would again link you to some past posts that I am proud of rather than glopping together something that smells like garbage for today’s post. Oddly enough, many of my G-posts seem to reflect on society and are more serious. Read them if you wish, but I understand if you don’t.  Note: I have reactivated comments on past posts for a short while. I got rid of them because it cuts down on spam, but I realized that I should reopen it if I’m going to refer you to past posts.

  • As a passionate advocate for the importance of arts and humanities in the schools, this discussion is close to my heart, The Great Debate: Humanities Vs. Science.
  • I become more and more aware of the continued inequalities surrounding gender, and watch my daughter fall into the traps of what it means to be a girl. One day I asked why in Marketing Gender.
  • Bullying is something we should all be concerned about. I personally want to do something about it, using drama in the schools (somehow). I also am a Gleek. So, this post combines those two interests!

Thanks for bearing with me as I struggle with a little writer’s block, but am still trying to live up to the A to Z Challenge.

Have a GREAT Day!

I Get It! The Healthy Side of WordPress

I’m sure many of you have noticed the trend over the past few days of bloggers reaching the breaking point–that point where we realize that blogging has consumed our lives in unhealthy ways and we must reconsider the role it plays in our lives. Just today the fabulous Kathy at Reinventing the Event Horizon made a commitment to the Post A Day Challenge (which she has really been doing all along) but questioned that commitment she “didn’t want pressure to post daily if [she] had nothing meaningful to say on a given day.” And in the response section, in a discussion with Life in the Boomer Lane, Boomer wrote “I need a Blogging 12 Step Program.”

Isn’t that what we all need?

Just this morning I gave myself permission not to create a real post today. I even was thinking about posting an appropriate Mental Health Day sign if I could find one. I didn’t.

I fully intended avoiding my traditional morning habits, but I couldn’t as I decided I had to read and respond to a few of the posts, as well as comments from people who somehow stumbled onto my blog. So, there went my morning.

But I didn’t post, which is usually the very first thing I do in the morning.

Notice how successful I am at avoiding it all day. EPIC FAIL!

Why?  Yesterday, I had one of those less than thrilling days in the classroom that seem to happen more often than not this semester. One student decided another group was ignoring him (when they weren’t) and chose to be completely disrespectful. When I called him out on it, I believe he decided I was racist. But no, I said to myself, asses are asses no matter what color they are.

This morning, staying home with a “sick” child, I spent time grading papers for my on-line Comp I class in anticipation of receiving another pile of papers today from the in person class. Now, I have to point out that the on-line class is (much to my surprise) by far the better course, with more commitment and participation from most of the students enrolled (except for a few slackers who have disappeared). The live class seems to think that drafting is optional and don’t have any desire to workshop for improvement.

As I worked my way through these papers I inevitably stumbled upon the few who chose to ignore my comments on their first draft and continue on the path of imperfection that they were on. Most of the papers were actually pretty good, but I always become frustrated when I see little change. I don’t expect perfection but I do expect effort.

That’s when it hit me, my epiphany! I come to WordPress regularly because it is a community of people who actually care about something–or many things. They care about writing! They care about ideas! They care about learning! They care about improving themselves as writers, or artists, or photographers or simply as people.  I come here, because it is full of people who care!

Does that change anything about the stress level of participating? Well, in a way it does, because I find solace in reading the blogs I love so it aids my mental health. I do need to find a balance between writing and creating and responding and reading. I do need to find a slightly better way of functioning with WordPress throughout the day. But, I also have to allow myself time with this community–because it is a community filled with love.

So this is for you (to go along with Calvin and Hobbes from yesterday)

 

Update, I was just sent this wonderful little gift from Aligeata’s Blog, and I thought I should share with all of you:

 

. . . . And the Winner is . . .

A week and a half ago I introduced the epic battle I had entered unwittingly, but went in prepared to fight hoping that, for a change, right. fairness and hard work would win over brute strength and sheer power.

I LOST!!!

The show will go on, a week later. Yes, there are advantages to this, I know. We have more time to rehearse and perfect. More time to gather props and make a truly incredible show.

We also open ourselves to the potential of the royalty holders saying, “no, you can’t do that” and every penny we’ve spent, every man hour  and creative thought, spinning hopelessly down the drain.

Most likely that won’t happen. Most likely we will simply change our dates (making adjustments that affect tons of people along the way), pay more money (woo hoo!) and create a really wonderful production. But I’m still angry!

I am angry at the disrespect this shows! I am angry at continually being treated like some lesser being, who needs to bow down and kowtow to the sports gods. I am angry that sports even surpasses academics half the time; saying they are students only after they fulfill their obligations to KING SPORTS.

I am angry and don’t want to play this game anymore. The battle was lost, the war has just begun.

However, I really need to find a new metaphor so that I can win with creativity, fairness, and peace.

 


Show Don’t Tell, From Page to Stage Version

Each of my young students has a magic invisible box.  I gave it to them a couple of classes ago, after they did excellent jobs at whatever the activity of the day was.

These boxes can grow or shrink to hold anything imaginable in them. They come when called, or can be stored in a pocket. When they are opened, each student can pull out their dreams or their nightmares, things to make us laugh or things to make us squirm in disgust. There are no rules except that they are supposed to show the rest of the group what is in the box so that the group can guess.

One student made her box grow significantly and then dove in to bring out whatever was inside. She made a magnificent display of this action. But then, as she climbed out, she told us “I’m all wet. It’s a squid.”

I didn’t correct her at that point because of her enacting the hunt in the box.

Two students later, a younger student opens the box, pulls something out and promptly says “It’s an octopus.”

“That’s cool,” I said realizing I should have corrected the other student, “But you need to show us, not tell us what is in the box. How can you show us an octopus?”

She turns her hand toward her face and says, “Aaauuuggh! It’s got me!” (Which, I might add is a typical response for this girl. She loves screaming and acting horrified).

“Okay,” I say, still wanting more showing, and less telling. “Everyone help her get the octopus legs off of her.” The students rush to her aid, pulling legs off one at a time. By now there must be multiple octopuses, because I count many more than eight legs. But, at least my point was made, as revealed by the students who followed showing me a dog and a microphone without a single word.

Show, don’t tell.” The axiom every writer knows and perhaps struggles with took on new meaning today, as it came to life beyond the page.

I’ve always known that my training in theater and improvisation has influenced me as a writer. It makes me more confident writing in first person and writing dialogue. I sometimes struggle more when writing in third person because of the narrative focus of that form, rather than the character focus.  This is a reality that I have come to accept about my writing, and I am working to deal with it.

But, as I began to settle down for the evening, the phrase “Show don’t tell!” flashed into my head along with this vision from my class this morning. I am trying to get my students to enact the living version of show don’t tell. Wow! Is this something that I can offer other writers?

A few years ago I wanted to offer an Extended Studies course that explored this concept; using improve and drama in the classroom techniques to motivate writing of all sorts, not just plays. I thought it would be a really interesting way to explore character and relationships or develop problems that then could be placed in a story. I’ve used improvisation and reenactments in lesson plans for young people to introduce a variety of topics.  My favorite has been creating a mysterious island retreat which they get to explore and uncover clues. They find books in the library of a creepy old house and each have time to read some of them. (All enacted in their imagination)  I then ask the students to write a page from the book and then share that writing. The results are always fascinating!

I never did get a chance to offer that class, but I think the time to explore that option has come again. Playwrights often use improvisational workshops to develop their plays, so why not fiction writers of all sorts? Or people who write poetry? Or memoir?

While writing is an individual act, it doesn’t have to be a lonely one. I am learning that through the blogging community. Now, I think, the time has come to make my two passions come together in a new and interesting way.

Anyone care to join me?

Ahead of My Time, Yet Falling Behind

 

Arizona State University logo

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9 1/2 years ago I earned my doctorate from Arizona State University. Two years of grueling course work followed by a year of intense research and writing allowed me to tack the letters Ph.D. behind my name. Then I disappeared off the face of the earth. I made choices that made me less focused on research and faded into the background of my field.

Today, I got an announcement about a Phone Forum that is going to be held by Theatre for Young Audiences/USA http://networkedblogs.com/9vDRZ entitled “Difference Through Language, Dress, and Story” and my heart simultaneously sang with joy and broke with annoyance at myself. I’m excited that this topic is being raised for discussion, but I am so mad at myself for not continuing the discussion that I started almost ten years ago.

My dissertation was “Theorizing Programming for Diversity in Three Professional Theatres for Young Audiences.” Basically I looked at the concept that many of the companies that perform specifically for young people do not necessarily represent the audiences who attend the performances. The theaters are white owned, white managed, but the audiences are not.

I made the choice, I know. I did not pursue academic writing and research despite the fact that I could. I don’t know why. I know that I am a good, insightful writer and researcher. But, I allowed my fears and my excuses to get in the way of pursuing topics that I am truly passionate about. It is deeper than that though, I was afraid.

After I finished the dissertation I wrote a paper on it and submitted it for an award with AATE (the American Alliance for Theatre Education). When presenting my paper, I was attacked by several people because I am a white woman. They felt I had no right to question issues of culture and race when I was part of the majority. They ignored my discussion of my own cultural difference (being a Jew)  and experience with cultural difference (living in Japan), and refused to sway their opinion. I think I held my own in the discussion, but it left a bad taste in my mouth. I won an honorable mention, but nobody else won an award, so that in itself was disturbing. I left feeling like I had no true voice, because my passion for understanding culture was dismissed as arrogant.

I also left more frustrated than ever with the wheels of academia.

Now, I might have been emotional at the time, as I hadn’t announced my pregnancy and got morning sickness from the stress of presenting, but that is another excuse. I did not feel strong enough to fight a battle with every word I wrote.

So I stopped.

Now, the topic is hot again, and I’m glad. But I’m also a little sad, as I feel like I lost too many opportunities and gave up too easily. It will be very interesting to see where the discussion goes. I hope that people have moved beyond the idea that only people from a minority culture have the right to discuss issues concerning diversity and culture. I hope that the community is more open to understanding that respecting difference is crucial to respecting our children and our audiences.

I hope that it promotes change.

Finally, I hope that I have rediscovered my voice.

The Culture of Bullying

 

Bullying on IRFE as of March 5, 2007 (the firs...

Image via Wikipedia

 

Bullying!

The word echoes through the air these days.  Every day you hear a new story or of a new death. For me, recently, each day brings a new awareness about the  pervasiveness of this issue.

I want to do something about it.

This week I conducted a workshop at a nearby high school on Performance Art. While Performance Art is not exactly my favorite type of theater, I think it is an interesting thing to introduce to high school students as it provides them an outlet to explore issues using art, theater, music, and other things to express themselves. I introduce the techniques by using a piece of literature or poetry (for this workshop I used “Ozymandias”). I also brought an extra poem to help out, this time one on bullying that I found on a WordPress blog http://bullypoems.wordpress.com/ (thank you to that blog writer).

The students were then given an assignment to create their own piece of performance art, with the only restrictions being that they respect each other and respect school rules. The results were interesting, with topics ranging from family relationships to feeling stressed about choices they needed to make in life. The majority of them, however, were about bullying.

Now, maybe that was a reaction to the poem I read them, but I think it goes deeper than that. In our discussions afterwards most of the students acknowledged that there is bullying at their school. Some of them hesitantly acknowledged to being victims.

More disturbing to me, however, were the number of people who acknowledged being witnesses to bullying, but who simply walked away.

Coincidentally, last night I was asked to adjudicate a performance at another area high school. The play they put on was Bang Bang Your Dead! by William Mastrosimone which explores the issue of bullying from the perspective of a boy who shoots 7 people (5 students and his parents). Not a light evening of theater, that’s for sure. There were two talk-backs after the performance, one for the audience and one between the adjudicators and the cast. Both were revealing.

The first showed that the parents and community are aware of the problem but feeling at a loss as to what can be done.

The second revealed what the kids had learned from this process. Many of them researched and became aware of the amount of bullying that exists in the world, and in their more immediate world. BUT, and this is a disturbing but, their understanding and new knowledge did not promote action. They shared a story that, after a school viewing of the show, some freshman started teasing and throwing food at the lead (the person who played the killer). Rather than saying something, he walked away!

How do we fix this? I know it is scary to confront bullies. I recognize that sometimes it is easier to hide our eyes and pretend we don’t see what is in front of us. But that way lies Columbine. That way lies 9/11. That way lies the Holocaust.

Now, I’m sure somebody will object to me connecting bullying with 9/11 or with the Holocaust, but what is bullying if not a form of intolerance? It is about someone showing power over weakness, or trying to pretend to have power by making others feel weak. In a way, bullying is human nature, in the sense of survival of the fittest. The strong win and the weak are destroyed. Bullying is not something that occurs just between children in school, it is just that in some ways adult bullying is more subtle. That doesn’t make it any less dangerous however.

If bullying is human nature, does that mean there is no hope of change? It has become crucial for us, as a society, to break free of this negative quality of human nature. We need to learn to respect and value diversity, otherwise there will never be an end to violence, hatred, death (by violence) and bullying.

I hope we can do it.

With more people like this hero, Joel Burns tells gay teens “it gets better”, we can.

Another important link about this: http://newsroom.blogs.cnn.com/2010/10/15/it-will-get-better/

And in a few short words, this person hits the nail on the head http://broadsideblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/30/they-taped-their-roommate-and-outed-him-on-the-internet-now-hes-dead/