Today we started reading books that help us to address the bully/bullied/bystander dynamic. When Randolph Turned Rotten by Charise Mericle Harper was our first book.
Many would not categorize this as a book about bullying. It would more likely be labelled a book about feelings, friendship or forgiveness. While it does teach us about all of those things, I also think it is the ideal book to introduce the concept of how our feelings translate into our actions. Quite simply here: rotten feelings = nasty actions. We are going to learn a lot in this unit. To start, why does someone act like bully/engage in bully behaviour? Next, what does being bullied feel like? What emotions does someone go through? Third, what about when there are bystanders? What are their roles? And finally, how does all of this work together? What happens when bullying begins and isn’t stopped?
In When Randolph Turned Rotten, we gain insight to what made Randolph go from being a good friend to a guy with “stinky rotten insides” that wishes ill on his best friend. In Randolph’s case, he is impacted by envy. His lovely best friend Ivy is invited to a birthday party. An all girl birthday party. A birthday party that Ivy is super duper excited about and that Randolph is NOT invited to attend. Randolph wishes he could go. He wishes Ivy would not go. He wishes he wasn’t going to be left alone. Then his wishes get mean. He hopes Ivy will have a horrible time and he devises a plan to ensure it. Randolph turns into nasty Randolph (Harper creates the perfect labelled diagram complete with mad hands – we all practiced trying to smile with clenched fists like that and it was close to impossible!) Mean thoughts invade his brain.
Randolph does a number of things to try and mess up Ivy’s trip – many of them focussed on getting her to pack ridiculous items in her bag and scaring her about potential beach hazards like the awful beach bears that she will need a poiny stick to ward off! This book has very interesting twist when Ivy arrives at the party. The geese (Ivy happens to be a goose!) get locked out of the house and must spend the night on the beach. All of the items Randolph inist Ivy pack turn out to be incredibly useful. Instead of ruining the party, Randolph is a hero! But, not to himself. Randolph, once alone with just time to contend with, feels guilty for what he has done. He apologizes. Ivy forgives him. They are best friends as always. But, we the readers, learned a lot. When we let our upset feelings take over and take us from thinking to acting in mean ways, we are engaging in bully behaviour. Wanting others to feel as bad as we do is a normal feeling but not one that we want to allow to cloud our judgement. It helped us understand why someone might do and say cruel things. It allowed us to start having those conversations about why someone might bully.
We are looking forward to reading more titles on this theme and the conversations that they might inspire.