- Mike Tyson, from the movie, Tyson.
Mike Tyson was undisputed heavyweight boxing champion of the world. He was a street thug, volunteering to help old women into the elevator with their groceries then punching them out and stealing their food. He was a despicable young man. How many of us know children who are either on the verge or have leapt over the line between "good" kid and bully? The testimony by Tyson should serve as a warning to teachers because if we just heard the quote above without the information that the person saying it has been a violent, angry, abusive human being, you might feel protective of the person.
Tyson illustrates what I have been saying for almost four years now. Most efforts initiated in elementary and middle schools that deal with bullies have focused on comforting the target and punishing the bully; we have to extend the compassion to the bully as well. Tyson embodies a common, but often de-emphasized, trait among bullies: they are fearful, they are protective of themselves and the usually do not trust adults or authority figures. When the bully is just punished, we miss the opportunity to allay fears, provide the support of another protector and the chance to trust an adult again. I propose that bully prevention programs have, at their core, a system for supporting, guiding and showing compassion for bullies.
In many of my teacher preparation programs, when I talk about classroom dynamics or developing curriculum for a diverse student body I tell my students that they are there for the gifted learner but they are getting paid to be there for the struggling students. Along the same lines, the target needs your support but the bully needs your support even more because the target probably has not been maligned throughout his or her life as it is very likely, according to research, that the bully has been victimized.
Tyson suggests with the right influences earlier on, influences like Cus D'Amato, he may have turned out differently. If Tyson thinks that influences may have changed his life; there is no reason to believe, if we notice the signs early and switch up our paradigm about the treatment of bullies, more Tyson's may be avoided.