Slut Shaming – Part II

 

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image credit: netflix.com

 

If you haven’t heard the buzz, the Netflix mini-series “13 Reasons Why” has taken over many conversations in the educational community.  Based on the book by Jay Asher,  it focuses on high schoolers (set in today’s educational environment) with the usual cliques (cool kids, preppies, honors kids, jocks, band kids, and…). A student at their school, Hannah, takes her own life, and another student, Clay, returns home from school to find that he has received a package in the mail containing seven double-sided cassette tapes from Hannah, each tape detailing an incident and a person that played into why she killed herself.  They had been sent to several others before arriving at Clay’s door.  There were 13 parts on Netflix, and, after watching each segment, I had a nasty knot in my stomach. Some knots were from my own awkward high-school experiences; others were from the blatant evil that today’s students can be subjected to or can utilize.

I don’t want to give away the entire story, but it starts with an incident that I blogged about last spring–slut shaming.  (On a side note, that post gained a bit of traction when someone became completely paranoid and thought he/she was the only one who received it. This is not sexual harassment; this is educational information.) Hannah has a picture taken of her with a boy on a “date” which is seen by the boy’s friend and taken completely out of context.  His friend grabs the phone and then sends the picture out to an entire class, which eventually makes it around the entire school.

Topics include the aforementioned slut shaming, rape, sexual assault, cover-ups, and societal acceptance–the daily grind of what high-school life is today. High school is an interesting navigation as is.  Throw in today’s technology, and you have a whole new world–a world where previous generations can’t even begin to fathom what is happening in school anymore.  It’s no longer passing notes and settling the score at the flagpole over some stolen milk money.

Teen suicide is the second largest cause of death in the US. For every teen who commits suicide, at least six others are thinking about following that same path. Despite such a terrible statistic, conversations are happening every single day about getting people the help they need. While the series has launched a multitude of proactive stances and resources, it has also caused some copy-cat incidents and some concerns from mental health experts.

Thankfully, 13RW is a fictional story. It is meant to raise awareness of suicide and is not based on any single or real person. However, while Hannah’s story is not real, students often do have similar experiences and thoughts to those of the characters and identify with those they see on TV or in movies. Therefore, it is important to remember that there are healthy ways to cope with the topics covered in this series, and acting on suicidal thoughts is not one of them.

If you have watched the show and feel that you need support or someone to talk to, reach out. Talk with a friend, family member, counselor, or therapist. There is always someone who will listen. Suicide should never be a response to life’s challenges or adversities. The vast majority of people who experience bullying, the death of a friend, or any other crisis addressed in 13RW do not die by suicide. In fact, most do reach out, talk to others, seek help, or find other productive ways of coping. They go on to lead healthy, normal lives.

Suicide is never a heroic or romantic act. Although some might watch 13RW and see Hannah in that light, there is nothing heroic at all. In fact, 13RW can be viewed as a tragedy. It is important to know that, in spite of the portrayal of a serious treatment failure in 13RW, there are many treatment options for all types of distress and mental illness.  Treatment works.

Suicide affects everyone, and we all can do something to help if we see or hear warning signs that someone is at risk.  Talking openly and honestly about emotional distress and suicide is okay.  It will not make others more suicidal or put the idea of suicide into their minds. If you are concerned about someone, ask him/her about it. Knowing how to acknowledge and respond to those who share their thoughts of emotional distress or suicide with you is important. Don’t judge them or their thoughts. Listen. Be caring and kind. Offer to stay with them. Offer to go with them to get help or to contact a crisis line.

In my opinion, how the counselor responded in this series is not appropriate and not typical of most counselors. School counselors are professionals and are a trustworthy source for help. While not everyone will know what to say or have a helpful reaction, there are people who do, so keep trying to find someone who will help you. If someone tells you that he/she is suicidal, take that information seriously and get help.

Leaving messages from beyond the grave is a dramatization produced in Hollywood and is not possible in real life. Memorializing someone who died by suicide is not a recommended practice. Decorating someone’s locker who died by suicide and/or taking selfies in front of such a memorial is not appropriate and does not honor the life of the person who died by suicide. Hannah’s suicide blames other people for her death.

Suicide is never the fault of survivors of suicide loss. There are resources and support groups for suicide-loss survivors. If you are immediately concerned about yourself or a friend, reach out for help by texting 741741 or visiting  http://www.crisistextline.org/. You can also learn about emotional health and how to support a friend by going to https://www.jedfoundation.org/help, and you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 | En Espanol: 1-888-628-9454 | Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889 or by visiting Suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

The Do-Over

Sitting on a plane is typically not my favorite thing to do. However, it’s been a great time for me to catch up on reading. I have no excuses not to; no screaming kids (that are mine), no texts, and I even try to refrain from Netflix. 

I read a book review of Do Over by Jon Acuff a few weeks back and couldn’t help but to laugh.  The review spoke about how people dread Mondays, their current job, and how people feel stuck in their Groundhog-Day-like jobs (if you don’t get the reference, you need to watch this). Being that I’m always talking or tweeting about how people should leave their job if they are not happy, I was intrigued.

The book eventually delved into a myriad of issues that deal with relationships, skills, character, and hustle. These four qualities help you shape your entire career and how you will proceed.

Some great quotes and takeaways from the book include:

Relationships get you your first job; your skills get you your second. There’s so much truth to that.  Think of your first career or non-career job.  What did you know? Nothing until you stepped into that job. You got that job because you sold yourself as being the best person for that job.  You really learned how to do it once you started it.  And yes, this includes EVERY job in the education field.

When it comes to career relationships, invest in those that you want to keep. Sure, you think everyone one you work with is wonderful at the lunch table (kidding). Yes, you have a circle of friends you keep around but are they REALLY your friends?  If they are, take the time to really know them. They will be with you on your entire journey, whether it be in the same place or not.

Foes are everywhere but limit your defintion. Chances are, people are not out to kill you. Yes, some will try to make your life miserable, are jealous of you, and even will lie about you so they can succeed.  You can’t obsess over them, and you can’t compare the ones that are online to the ones in real life.  As the author states, “if the internet foes were in person, you’d ignore them.”

Miserable foes love company, and also recruits it. Don’t get sucked into foolishness; come in, do your job, do a good one, and proceed with your life.

Don’t burn every bridge you can. Acuff admits that his hands are soaked in gasoline and has done his fair amount of bridge burning.  In fact, we all have burned a bridge or two. But just because you can, do you have to? The workplace is getting smaller and smaller thanks to the internet; chances are you’ll see someone from a burning incident down the line.

When you ignore someone face to face with your phone or computer, you’ve put that person on pause and have made them feel like they don’t matter. I’m guilty of this and have been told more than once occasion to focus.  I blame ADD, but it’s really me just trying to get everything done. Not cool.  Your relationships are the most important things in life, not technology.

Overall, this was a great read that all employees should check out.  This book applies to all walks of life, not just those in education. Your job is what you make of it.  Speaking of, it’s time for a glass of lemonade, not sour lemons.

“Toxi-Colleagues” via Dr. Jetter

Below is an original post from Dr. Rick Jetter, author of the best-selling book “Escaping the School Leader’s Dunk Tank”. As always, Dr. J is spot on.  Read a great post below:


Dealing with “Toxi-Colleagues”

 

You’ve tried everything with a “toxi-colleague” in your organization:

1.  Killing them with kindness.

2.  Ignoring them.

3.  Bucking them.

4.  Silencing them.

5.  Changing them.

6.  Being open to understanding their own pain (about something that you are unsure about) because we try to believe that there is a root cause for every action, reaction, or inaction.

Yet, nothing works (and they probably know it too).  In fact, the toxicity becomes so acidic that their actions and adversarial tactics are suffocating the system.  Damaging or halting forward progress.  Blind-siding your judgment or crippling your innovative hard work. 

Rebecca and I are asked the following question more than anything else in our Dunk Tank chats, study groups, reflections, and analysis with other educators (and even parents) of school districts all across the nation.  And, that one question is: “What does one do about the really toxic colleagues?” 

When we are asked this question, people want an answer.  And, they deserve an answer.  But, then, Rebecca and I scratch our heads because there is no ONE right answer.  Everything is situational and contextual.  But, there is guidance that we can provide and here it is.

See, there are 3 shades of “toxi-colleagues” and it has to do with positioned power and how YOU are positioned alongside the “toxi-colleague.”  Here are those 3 shades:

1.  Those whom YOU supervise.

2.  Those whom are positioned equally in the system hierarchy with YOU.

3.  Those whom supervise YOU.

Each one of these shades are both similar and different at the same time.  Let me explain.

No matter what shade of toxicity you are involved in, you are a human being with emotions, reactions, and feelings.  And all of the coping strategies in the world sometimes do not do anything to help.  All of the medications in the world only make matters worse because they throw a blanket on the blazing fire that is still going to burn up that blanket at some point.  NOTE: We are not poking fun at anyone who uses prescription medication or uses self-medication to cope.  In fact, Chapter 6 of the Dunk Tank is devoted to these types of issues.

So, what we are saying is that you have to make a decision to exert your agency as a school leader or educator of any kind who goes to work each day to do amazing things for children.  The reality is that you have to mitigate these factors of deciding what you are going to do about your situation or “toxi-colleague” who is either trying to ruin you or the organization (or both). 

Destructive behaviors often do not discern between the two and as toxicity increases, so does political entanglement (most of the time).  Often, toxicity can become workplace bullying and in those instances, legal issues can transpire very quickly.

So, what do you do?

1.  You have to analyze what explicitly confronting the “toxi-colleague” will do to your career, ability to seek a promotion, or affect the daily duties of your current position.  When I say “confront,” I don’t mean by using violent means.  I mean explicitly taking the issue head on by saying, “This is how you are making me feel.”  “When you do _____________, it leads to ______________.”  If _______________ does not stop, I will have to _________________.”  This is about accountability, not threats.  Document everything.  And, I mean everything.  Meeting date, time, disposition, notes, witness sitting with you.  Sometimes a representative from your unit will sit in.  Never take on anything alone or without a witness.  Your decision to take a stand may have political consequences that you are not even aware of.  But, the question you must ask before explicitly confronting the issue is, “Could it get any worse anyway?”     

2.  If positioned power must have you rely on the supervisor of your “toxi-colleague” to take some sort of action, your supervisor will either handle it or not handle it.  NOTE: Unfortunately, we have heard about hundreds of stories where supervisors turn into squids and do not have the spine to handle the issue or organizational toxicity (most likely because they feel that if they handle it, their own career will be threatened even if they work through #1 above in their own mind).

3.  The decision to do something or not do something about your “toxi-colleague” comes with a new set of decisions.  Do you start looking for a new position?  Do you fight the system through legal means?  Do you place the “toxi-colleague” on notice?  Do you gather allies to help you fight the good fight? 

4.  You might be feeling that the “toxi-colleague” wants you to crash and burn or wants you to leave the organization.  You might even be feeling that you stay just so “they don’t win.”  The problem with that is that you have to analyze what YOU want or need.  Who cares if your “toxi-colleague” feels like they won over you if you do leave?  What is your mental status with all of this crazy stuff going on?  What is your health status?  Do you want to get out of bed in the morning?  Do you see yourself losing yourself?

5.  Most importantly (and often neglected): What is your backup plan if things get even more toxic because of your decision to either “holdem’ or foldem’?”  Are you willing to leave the organization (either voluntarily or involuntarily if things go South)?  Where will you go?  What will you do?  Who can you connect with who might help you?  Ultimately, where will you find happiness and joy?  What are your talents to get you there?  Do you have a Plan A, B, and C ready to go if you want to go (or have to go).  Do you have references in place?  Are you equipped to leave?  Don’t walk the desert without water.

Toxicity and politics are friends.  They often go hand in hand.  When people misuse their power and license themselves to run rampant with their own misbehavior, the Dunk Tank often ramps up for the reasons we outline in Chapters 2 and 3 of our book.  The best plan is a strong and healthy mental plan.  You cannot do anything when exhausted or beaten down.  Know your adversaries.  Anticipate how they tick.  Anticipate their next moves.  If you don’t, it will leave you unwell.  And, if you let toxicity fester, chances are it will seep into your bones sooner or later.  Toxicity is sometimes like lice.  Get too close to your “toxi-colleagues’” hair, and you might have an infestation all to yourself.     

Copyright © 2017 Rick Jetter & Rebecca Coda

Visit: www.leadershipdunktank.com for more info.