A Question I Had to Ponder!

I was recently asked why I (#blogger #blog #somseason #YA #authors) wrote my book, A Shattered New Start. I’ve been pondering that question ever since as I had never really thought about it before.

My immediate answer would be that I’ve always wanted to write a book and become an author. Whenever someone asked me what I’ll do in retirement, I would tell them “I am going to write.” I know a lot of people say that, few follow through, but anyone who knows me understands that when I decide to do something, I do it. One of my daughters is just like me in that regard. Some might say I am stubborn, but I say I’m motivated.

I debated what to write a book on, and someone told me to write about what I know when writing for the first time. That made sense to me. Being that I am veteran teacher of 35 years, if there is one thing I know about, it’s school life and the world of school bullies (#bullying #antibullying). During my teaching career, I dealt with many school yard bullies and comforted many victims of bullies. The truth is, bullies infuriate me. I had dealt with every kind of school bully there is. Bullying is a topic dear to my heart because I’ve dealt with a lot of it both as a teacher and personally.

Educationcorner.com, an American education site, says:

Bullying is an epidemic. It is rampant, widespread, pervasive and the effects can be catastrophic. It occurs in our communities, in our schools – and sadly – even in our homes. Bullying statistics are staggering, scary and merit serious consideration

Here are some of the stats it reports:

  • 90% of students in grades 4-8 report have been harassed or bullied.
  • 28% of students in grades 6-12 experience bullying.
  • Over 160,000 kids refuse to go to school each day for fear of being bullied.
  • 70.6% of students report having witnessed bullying in their school–and over 71% say bullying is a problem.
  • Statistics suggest that revenge [due to bullying] is the number one motivator for school shootings in the U.S.
  • 86% of students surveyed said, “other kids picking on them, making fun of them or bullying them” is the number one reason that teenagers turn to lethal violence at school.

That means 90% of 8-15 year olds have been bullied. That is huge! In my experience, these statistics are a realistic reflection of school bullying. Bullying isn’t just a problem in schools, as there are politicians and governments who bully to get what they want, and there is a massive amount of bullying that goes on in our workplaces. If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you’d know that I have deemed 2020 the “Year of Bullying.” Last year bullying increased, as well as introduced new forms of bullying as indicated in the article, Bullying 2020. Our governments and police forces have bullied in 2020 unlike any other time; the very people who are supposed to have our backs, and their bullying is continuing into the new year.

I’ve always felt that bullying is a massive problem in our world, and I can tell you as a teacher, schools do their best to address the problem, but it is tough. What I’ve seen as a teacher is that most bullying is hidden or unseen. I’ll give you a personal example. Many years ago, while teaching Grade 6 (10-11 year-olds), I had a student that came to me who was receiving nasty notes from a bully. This went on for weeks. The principal and I tried to determine who the bully was by doing such things as analyzing the bully’s handwriting, but it was difficult. Honestly, I don’t remember if we determined who the bully was, but the bullying did stop after we talked to the class about the horrors of bullying.

So, why did I chose bullying as the main theme in my book? It’s because I see bullying everywhere. It’s in our schools, our homes, our workplaces, and it’s even commonplace in movies and television shows. Case in point: Draco Malfoy from “Harry Potter,” Biff Tannen from “Back to the Future,” Johnny Lawrence from “The Karate Kid,” Paris Geller from “Gilmore Girls,” and Nellie Oleson from “Little House on the Prairie.”  The list is endless. Bullying is a learned behaviour and television and movies are helping to teach it.

For most of my career, I considered bullies to be “bad” kids who needed a good dose of discipline. Having learned about bullies over the years, I now see bullies differently. Simply put, bullies are hurting people who hurt others, so I wrote my story with this understanding. Or as the expression goes, “Hurt people, hurt people.” If we can heal the injured person who bullies, then that person can be changed or healed. As the adage says, “Healed People, Heal People.”

Writing A Shattered New Start was a way for me to bring awareness of the magnitude of bullying that has plagued our world for centuries, and in 2020 especially. Sadly, it seems to be continuing into 2021. One thing I learned is that conflicts and challenges are more easily resolved if people are able to see things from other people’s viewpoints. As the adage says, “walk a mile in another’s shoes.” We need to respect other peoples truths instead of ostracizing them. That is especially true now more than ever because our present historical situation.

I purposely wrote my book with multiple perspectives surrounding the issues many teens face, including the viewpoints of an average teenager, their parents, their teachers, and the principal to show that everyone has their own points of view. A Shattered New Start shows the human side of bullies. They are really hurting people who take their pain out on others.

My book also uses a unique approach to dealing with bullies. Most schools deal with bullying with a punitive punishment approach, like suspensions. Typically, the aim of punitive approaches—the most common approach to dealing with bullies in schools—is either to punish the offender or to satisfy feelings of revenge. The bully in my story undergoes a restorative justice (some may call it a form of healing circle) approach. The bully, Ryan, faces his victims, endures his victim’s wrath, and shares in the process with his victims in determining his consequences. I believe my book, A Shattered New Start, has a powerful message for young people, or anyone really. I do cover other themes, such as friendship struggles, in the book since bullying isn’t the only issue teens face.

When I really think about the question I was asked, I wrote the book in hopes of making a difference in young people’s lives. Our youth are our hope for a better future. The 32nd president of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, said: “We cannot always build a future for our youth, but we can always build our youth for the future.” That’s what I hope my book can help do. Perhaps Nelson Mandela said it best when he said: “The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow.” The world has enough wounded leaders.

I wrote A Shattered New Start for young adults (YA), namely junior and senior high school aged children, but the book could appeal to any age, especially those who have been victimized by a bully which is most of us. Parents of bullied children could also relate to this story. Any educator or professional who advocates for anti-bullying could could make use of my story. You can find links to where to purchase the book on my site (see top menus). Feel free to email me at authorkjsom@gmail.com . I would love to chat.

What Did You Learn From 2020?

A commentary on the lesson of 2020

In December, Time magazine declared 2020 to be the worst year in history with most people agreeing. Last year I (#blogger #blog #somseason #YA #authors) have seen many Internet memes such as, “It feels like the year has been going on forever,” and “Can we uninstall 2020 and re-install it? This version has a virus.” My favourite however is:  

These memes reflect how the majority of us feel about the past year. Most people couldn’t wait for 2020 to be over in hopes of a better 2021. Recently I saw this meme.

I don’t disagree with the lessons it listed, and the New Year is a time for reflection. Since New Year’s Day, I have reflected on what I learned, and come up with my own list. These lessons are my truths, or my lessons, they may not be yours, and that is okay. Here are some of the things I’ve learned from 2020.

  1. I’ve learned not to trust the Mainstream Media (MM) whose purpose seems to be to instill fear in the masses. MM have provided a relentless narrative of an alleged pandemic for 11 months now. I’ve talked about this in previous posts.
  2. I’ve learned not to trust medical leaders and politicians. Our legislators and medical “experts” mislead us, lie to us, and also promote fear. They do not appear to have our best interests in mind. They don’t follow their own rules which they’ve forced upon us. True North lists all the Canadian politicians who broke their own COVID restriction rules. Even MM is talking about it (see CTV News).  Newsweek lists American politicians who did the same. Here is a story of one of Canada’s senior public health officials breaking the rules (see TNC). Clearly our leaders aren’t afraid of the virus. If our governments did have our best interests in mind, they would do something about the suicides, drug overdoses and the mental health issues caused by lockdowns. (see 2020 to be deadliest year). True North (TN) reports Mental health of Canadians reaching “tipping point,” evidenced by a quadrupling of people accessing treatment services. TN also has a news report titled, Rise in childhood eating disorders an “unprecedented crisis,” reporting that SickKids says there is an increase in the number of eating disorders among Canada’s youth as result of the pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns. If our governments really cared about our health, which is why they say they must implement lockdowns, then they would be promoting fitness and healthy diets to encourage good mental health, instead of closing gyms and spas. In its place, they keep fast food drive through restaurants (a source of unhealthy foods) open.
  3. I’ve learned how easily we humans are manipulated and controlled by fear of a virus that has over a 99% recovery rate. It seems people are willing to give up freedoms such as visiting their loved ones, closing their businesses, and compliantly wearing masks because our governments say so, without questioning decisions like; why corporate stores have never been ordered to shut down.
  4. I’ve learned how easily we humans give up our freedoms. We willingly give up liberties guaranteed by our constitution, just like what happened in Nazi Germany in the 1940s and Russia in the 1960s.
  5. I’ve learned that we really aren’t allowed to speak our truth, even though our constitution says it is our right. I say this because Big Tech companies (FaceBook, Twitter, etc.) censure by removing any truth that doesn’t align with their narrative (see Big Tech).
  6. I’ve learned how easily people are divided and incited to attack one other. There have been many attacks—even physical attacks— on individuals not wearing a mask. I’ve seen people belittle others on social media, and in videos, because someone thinks differently, calling them names and accusing them of being conspiracy theorists. This discord may be intentionally triggered as explained in the NY Post article, It’s our elites who are driving America’s divisions.

These are the obvious lessons for me, but as I reflect, I realize there is something more profound I’ve learned. Before I reveal what that is, I would like to preface with some indigenous wisdom.

The Indigenous, or First Nations people, have always spoken about the interconnectedness of nature, and the importance of community. Chief Seattle, who pursued a path of accommodation for white settlers said:

Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.

Indigenous people learn by observing nature. The National Forest Foundation has an article titled, The Amazing Connections Beneath Your Feet. Here is a bit of what it says:

Underneath the forest floor, intertwined with the roots of the trees, is a fascinating microscopic network of fungus…In healthy forests, each tree is connected to others via this network, enabling trees to share water and nutrients. For saplings growing in particularly shady areas, there is not enough sunlight reaching their leaves to perform adequate photosynthesis. For survival, the sapling relies on nutrients and sugar from older, taller trees sent through the…network.

Who knew trees help one another. The indigenous people may not have known about the relationship between trees and fungus, but they knew about the connection of all things. They know their choices affect others. Charles Alexander Eastman (Ohiyesa), a Santee Dakota physician, writer, and lecturer once said:

“It was our belief that the love of possessions is a weakness to be overcome…Children must early learn the beauty of generosity. They are taught to give what they prize most, that they may taste the happiness of giving…The Indians in their simplicity literally give away all that they have—to relatives, to guests of other tribes or clans, but above all to the poor and the aged, from whom they can hope for no return.”

Mr. Eastman clearly knew the importance of community because that was his culture. 2020 has been a year unlike any other. Never in my life have I lived in such a divided world where people are kept apart from their loved ones due to Draconian restrictions imposed by governments. Never before have I witnessed law enforcement using brute force to remove freedoms guaranteed by our constitution. Never have I seen people turn on one another, physically and verbally attacking each other because someone disagreed with them. I cannot condemn them as they are fearful. This past year has been a year of bullying (#bullying #antibullying) which is why I have deemed it “The Year of Bullying.”

What 2020 taught me the most is, I must never contribute to this bullying or divisiveness. Instead, I must become an example of kindness. compassion, empathy and most of all, love and light. The reality is, we are all navigating this chaos together, each with our own beliefs, thoughts, and fears. We are each having our own unique experiences. I must never judge someone, declaring them wrong. As some unknown person put it:

“Before you judge my life, my past or my character. walk in my shoes, walk the path I have traveled, live my sorrow, my doubts, my fear, my pain and my laughter.”

What I’ve come to realize, because of 2020, is that I am not defined by the external; by what others want me to believe, think, or do. I am sovereign and free, just like you. I decide what I believe, think, or do because I am an autonomous individual and I have choice. I give my power to someone else only if I consciously or unconsciously allow it or choose it.

As indigenous wisdom and nature teaches, we must realize that we are all human brothers and sisters and that everything is connected, so we must treat each other with respect and love regardless of what that person believes, thinks, says or does. I have learned that I must never judge another because I have not walked in their shoes. I am never right, and others are never wrong because right and wrong are relative. Spiritual writer, Gian Kumar, says: “There is no such thing as right or wrong, it is just you who matters; If you are right, you will not see wrong. If you are wrong, you will only see wrong.” That is the biggest lesson for me, and hopefully for us all.