I let my students hate me and it was fantastic!

The primary purpose of the lesson was to conduct a little experiment with the help of my students; I wanted them to reflect on the differences between colloquial and written language to determine if it could be an explanation for cyberbullying and, more importantly, if both should be considered one and the same. My intention is to use the results to see how we could work on this process in schools. The idea was to use myself (as I so often do) so I wrote some offensive things on paper that I have either had said to me, sent via text or things I believe some would say/write to me given the chance. This turned into six very personal and offensive sentences (bear with the translations as not all work in english so well):

Fucking wog(nigger) pig, go back home!

You are so fucking fat, you fatso!

Do you understand how fucking stupid you look in a skirt? Fucking gay!

Fucking nigger! Go die!

For fuck sake, you are supposed to be a man but have tits! Diet, you’re repulsive!

Nobody likes you, everybody hates you how do you not get that?









I described the exercise as clearly as possible and six of my students volunteered to stand up, receiving each a piece of paper containing of one of the sentences.
First: Each student with a sentence came forth one by one and showed what was on the paper they had received
Second: Each student got to come out to me, outside the classroom one by one, and read out what was on the paper.
Epilogue: My initial thoughts were that it would be intensely difficult but in some ways very clear, and so it was. The students thought the lesson was tough but having to read these derogatory statements to me was far more difficult than just showing me the paper!
Some of the students' feedback:
- The most difficult thing was that I had to say something I didn’t like or think.
- It was horrible because it felt like I had hurt you despite not wanting to.
- It was far easier to just show you the note than to say the words to you.
Afterwards we had a lengthy discussion about what we just did, for example, was there a difference between hiding behind the note and looking me in the eye and reading it? How come? Is it a part of the cyberbullying problem we face today? The atmosphere in the classroom was magic to say the least, vibrant! From a teacher's perspective as magical as it gets! The students contributed with mature, well thought through interjections and comments which as a teacher just warmed my heart!
I asked: “How did people hate before the internet do you think?” and told of how I, at their age, was bullied (sometimes even the bully) and that these are the biggest reasons I am a teacher today - to, in some way, repent for things I myself did as a child. I was nearly in tears, but I wasn’t the only one. Simply put an emotional yet powerful lesson for all.
What I hadn’t given any consideration to when planning the exercise was how it would affect me emotionally. I did not expect to react the way I did, even if for the students sake I wore a smile it caused a lot of pain. It was painful to read the words despite being the one who wrote them. It was unbelievably difficult to hear them from somebody else. It was not the easiest thing to express how it felt for me to the students, but it was necessary…
This lessons was one of those lessons that nobody I know has been part of or has had themselves. This lesson though was one of the biggest experiences in my teaching career - it felt important, it felt direct and it felt necessary.

(Thanks to my friend Howard for helping me translate)