Out in the playground, in the lunchroom and on the school bus – really in every possible school situation – group dynamics are always at work.
There will be those in the group who are more assertive (sometimes aggressive), and those who are not. Many will be in the middle zone.
In fact, by sheer odds and the laws of the bell-shaped curve, most kids will be in the middle zone, not leaning one way or another.
One law that seems almost immutable is that the weaker kids (the minnows) will be frequent targets of the more aggressive ones (the sharks).
I recently spoke to a minnow named Leo, a fourth grader, who hated the playground.
Here’s a sample of what he conveyed to me:
Ugh, I hate the playground. No one wants to play with me. I tried to play punch ball the other day, but no one wanted me on their team and they just laughed at me when I missed. The really mean kid put a boogey on my back and then he shoved me in line. I went to my teacher, but she said I was tattling and should just stay away from him. I also told my parents but they didn’t know what to do. Oh no, the teacher is blowing the whistle and we have to get back in line and the mean kid is coming back to me again. I just hate recess.
While I listened sympathetically, as you can imagine there are no easy answers to the “sharks and minnows” phenomenon.
Schools follow HIB (Harassment Intimidation & Bullying) protocols, but much what was described by Leo may not fall in the level of a HIB violation.
If that is, in fact, the case, then what?
(We will continue with Sharks and Minnows in Part II.)
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