Monday, February 29, 2016

Bacopa Literary Review: A Teaching Tale

by Editor-in-Chief Mary Bast

Reading literary fiction improves empathy. Deep characterization in novels is memorable in part because these characters disrupt our expectations, undermine our prejudices and stereotypes. 

This is equally true of so-called Children's Literature. Think of the Harry Potter series. Is it science fiction? Classical literature? Fantasy? Young adult? Mystery? Adults and teens, as well as children, are entranced by Harry's adventures. What about Charlotte's Web? Clearly a children's book, and yet, there's much more to it than the story of a pig and a spider. These books are powerful because they're teaching tales. J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and his crowd have struggles many of us face, including bullying from the likes of Snape and Voldemort. In E.B. White's Charlotte's Web we can identify with the isolation and fears of poor, bullied Wilbur.  

Bullying is a stark reality. According to 2015 statistics, one in three U.S. students say they've been bullied in school. Some stay home, others attend school in a chronic state of anxiety. Workplace threats to adults may be more subtle, but they're bullying nonetheless.

Teaching tales can help both children and adults learn to cope. Bacopa Literary Review 2015's Third Place Fiction winner Michael Allard, a teacher in the Gifted Program in Marion County and in the High School Dual Enrollment program at Santa Fe College, brings us such a tale: "Your Invisible Alligator." 
Your invisible alligator goes to school with you. . . you are at your desk when your bully comes down the aisle with malicious intent. With a flick of your invisible alligator's invisible tail, your bully's feet are flipped forward and up. . . You are tempted to laugh. However, you know that laughing at the misfortune of others is a kind of bullying, so instead, you look in your heart for some sympathy. . . Your bully persists. Your invisible alligator resists. Soon, you no longer have to put a look of concern on your face because, in your heart, you are concerned, and the look comes without bidding. . . Despite all of this, your bully continues his attacks. . . your invisible alligator could simply put an end to all of this with a snap of his mighty jaws, but your invisible alligator knows that causing harm may feel good for a time, but regret will long outlast the satisfaction of revenge. . . "Hey," you say to your bully one day. You've walked down the aisle towards the back of the room where your bully prefers to sit. . . In his eyes, you can see a mix of wariness and fear. . . You want him to know that you will not become a bully yourself. . . You look at your bully with kindness in your eyes and a smile on your lips. You hold out your hand to him. You think your invisible alligator would be proud of you.
Thanks, Michael Allard, for this call to action.

(Look for Michael Allard's "Change to Believe In," upcoming in the Fall 2016 edition of Bacopa Literary Review)

1 comment:

  1. Well said. Thank you for this post on a call to "inaction" in response to the bully. "kindness in your eyes and a smile on your lips. You hold out your hand to him."