In Antonio’s case the teacher got lucky. Most of the job has been done by Antonio himself. In fact, his realization of his being a bully and his understanding, that a bully is not a good social role, his desire to change guarantee and provide all necessary conditions for him to transform. The teacher’s role was to identify and help him previously, before Antonio got to understand, that he was a bully and that he needed to change. In the majority of cases bullies simply lack empathy for their victims and, for that matter, for anybody else. They see the fun of bullying, find the reactions of the victim funny, but they do not recognize a human being behind these reactions.
It is a great gift for the teacher that Antonio managed to see the image of a bully in the mirror. Very often bullies get to see it too late in their lives or fail to see it at all. It was the role of the school and the family of Antonio to identify his problems and prevent him from becoming a bully at first place. There must be something in his past that brought him to this obvious manifestation of weakness and helplessness. On the other hand, there must be some agents of socialization in his micro system, as described by Bronfenbrenner (1979), who support his being a bully, if not have provoked him to become one.
However, it is important to understand, that in one or more of his ecosystems Antonio has got people, who helped him to wake up, to see, that being a bully does not resolve his problems, the ones, from which he attempts to hide in his new, pseudo-aggressive role. There must be someone who taught him empathy. Provided that Antonio is a teenager, it is possible to assume, that the transformation may have something to do with a romantic experience or feeling. Certainly, this is just one of possible scenarios, but in order to most effectively support Antonio in his transformation, it is reasonable to first of all explore the history of the image, he saw in the mirror. It is important not only to recognize a bully in his mirror, but also to look through the images flashing back, and, this is indeed very important, to pay attention to the background of these images. The background and the people, who appear in these images next to Antonio, may appear to be keys to understanding of the nature of the most recent image of a bully, the one, which made Antonio wake up and realize the wrongness of his path.
In the majority of cases Bullying at school is based on or involves aggressive behavior (Garbarino & DeLara, 2003), in this respect it is harmful for other people, the victims of the bully. However, the harm it poses for the bully himself is oftentimes overlooked. Thus, it is first of all important to explain to Antonio, that his aggressive behavior comes as a manifestation of weakness, of fear, and thus to help him understand, that he needs to identify the fear, which becomes a driving force for his aggression. He needs to remember, whether it was a failure or lack of attention from the people he felt attachment for, which brought this fear about. He obviously gave up attempts to attract the attention he badly needed in a normal way, and came to a conclusion, that his aggressive and destructive behavior gives him power over other people, his victims or those, whom he wanted to become such.
Thus, having identified the problem, which lies in the base of his aggressive behavior, it is important to work with his micro system. It is important to understand, if there are those, who support him in his aggression. If there are such people who have got influence on Antonio, it is a good idea to discuss their role in his life. They bring about aggression into his life; they make him what he does not want to be. This is clear. But it is also important to identify, what other roles these people play in his life. It is very likely to find out, that these people – most probably, his classmates or a little older children – have got nothing in common with Antonio besides their desire to chase down their victims, to establish their imaginary power through aggression. In such a case it is reasonable to carefully show this to Antonio, without directly advising him to stay away from this company. He simply needs to get to understand, what his needs are, and which of these needs are satisfied through his communication with the socialization agents, who surround him at the moment. Having understood this, Antonio needs to be suggested an alternative? At this stage other players, other agents of socialization come into play. It is important to work with Antonio’s class. Previously, it is important to prepare Antonio and help him open his soul before his class mates. It is particularly important considering the likelihood of some of his victim being among his classmates. It is necessary to do this work in order to help him cope with his feeling of guilt, and at the same time in order to help his former victims to understand and even feel empathy for Antonio. Having prepared both Antonio and his classmates, I would design a few activities, in which Antonio and his class mates would have an opportunity to get to now each other better. In order to achieve this I would first of all design a few activities in which children would have an opportunity to hear out Antonio, the person whom they knew little about, and would then, as a manifestation of their friendliness and readiness to help, would tell him, in which way they may be helpful or interesting to him. Then, based on common interests, Antonio shares with one or another of his classmates, I would design a number of activities, which they could do together and through which they may get to know one another better. There would be different interests and different partners, who would share these interests with Antonio. Through this activity Antonio would get to understand, that there more than one ways to be important, to be demanded in the society, to be desired and appreciated as a friend. And Aggression does not necessarily have to do a part of it. After fulfilling the activities I would invite children back to class and discuss their successes and what new they came to know and understand about Antonio. Articulating this will first of all help children better understand their feelings and impressions, and, on the other hand, will allow Antonio to see, that he is seen as a demanded and valued member of the society, a part of the company, a potential friend.
Lastly, it is important to work with Antonio’s parents and design an activity together with them, in which Antonio would be a ghost this would help him understand, that he can be important without applying terror. The parents need to understand everything about the nature of bullying and realize that by giving more care to their son, by helping him understand, that he is needed and valued, they will help him to cope with this bully he was so upset to have seen in the mirror.
Of course, it takes more than just the teacher’s and Antonio’s effort to get rid of the bully in Antonio, but, once again, the teacher is lucky to have Antonio do the most difficult and challenging part of work. It is now only important to support him on his new path and not to allow those, who shared the fun of bullying with him to pull him down into the mud of this counterproductive practice, but also to see the full spectrum of ways in which he can be appreciated and valued, to help him see, that he is needed and his power is not in his aggressive behavior.
- Bronfenbrenner, Urie. (1979). The Ecology of Human Development: Experiments by Nature and Design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
- Garbarino, James & Ellen deLara (2 September 2003). And Words Can Hurt Forever: How to Protect Adolescents from Bullying, Harassment, and Emotional Violence. Free Press.