Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Sketchy and Shady: Mislabeled

"Stay away from that person, they look shady."

"Don't go into that neighborhood, it's sketchy."

Yet, some of my best friends in high school lived in what people referred to as "Sketchy" Neighborhoods.

The best audiences I've had when teaching about water safety were those filled with "shady" people.

Maybe it's just that I'm oblivious to the definition of "shady" and I spend too much time seeing the good in everything, but why should it be a bad thing?

Last year, I walked into a Rome, Georgia community center to teach students from all levels of public schooling to be safe around water.

Then neighborhood was poor. I mean poor. like dirt poor. like you should get the point by now poor. I got stares the second my car pulled into sight.

When I walked in, I got a glare from one mother in particular and I knew what she was thinking. "What is that upper-class white girl doing in this part of town?"

It just so happened that her daughter was in one of my classes that I taught that day. When the classes were finished, the mother came up to me.

She told me the sweetest thing I had ever heard.

"Someone in our family drowned last summer. Ever since then I've been afraid of the water. It got to the point where I wouldn't let any of my kids even think about swimming. You've opened my eyes that I shouldn't fear the water. Best of all, you've done something that I don't think I could have done - you got my kids to stop fearing the water."

After one week of teaching the classes, I learned why the parents looked rough. I also learned that the kids are also just like the parents - treat them with respect and you earn your respect.

I know I could have acted completely different in the neighborhood and came close to getting shot. However, sometimes it's good to be oblivious to that fear.

I'll be honest, I'm not afraid to go into a sketchy neighborhood. I'm not afraid to meet "shady" people. Because something else that I've learned is:

maybe those of us who claim that others are "sketchy" and "shady" are more "sketchy" and "shady" than the ones they label.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

P.S. Cedartown

So it's been almost two months since I wrote "Dear Cedartown" and a lot's been going on.

I hope all the high school students are looking forward to walking across the field. It's definitely a moment that takes a while to sink in, but signifies that you are ready (whether you realize it or not) to move on and start carving your own road.

I was browsing through Facebook (procrastinating like the typical college student) when I came across an article from the Polk County Fish Wrap (Cedartown Standard) about a fight being caught on camera by a middle school student in Rockmart and that the school district was responding. I'll be honest, that wasn't what caught my attention. (Let's face it, fights happen at every school. It doesn't matter what socio-economic level the school or the population is from). The fact that the fight was recorded didn't surprise me either (again, look on youtube and you'll find fights from all across the nation). What did catch my attention was this part right here:

"Hunter said Polk County Schools will take part in a Anderson Cooper 360 investigative program along with other schools in Georgia on bullying. He said the program will be starting in the fall, and was a decision made months ago by the system. Teems said letters about the program will be going to out parents soon."

You guys know what this means? Cedartown and Rockmart going to be seen on a NATIONAL level. (Yes, you read right. National Level.)

Most people might have conflicting opinions about this, but I'm right now going to brag about Cedartown (and about the little I know of Rockmart).

I know what some people are thinking: Brag? About Cedartown? WTF?

Yes, bullying happens pretty much everywhere; it doesn't go away in college (ever heard of hazing?). Also, the act of bullying is open to interpretation. What someone might think is just teasing, might be bullying to the victim.

However, I think one of the benefits of Polk County (Rockmart and Cedartown both) being close knit and "small" towns is that everyone knows someone. While some might think this is the perfect way for people to spread rumors, it's actually the perfect way to stop it.


Well, if you're in a conversation (online or face to face) and somebody begins to "bully" you're friend - no one is afraid to respond with a post or comment to say stop. It's like a giant buddy system. Everyone looks out for each other. Yeah, there are slip ups, but let's face it, what system is perfect (and don't say the government)?

Let's take marching band for example. I've had section leaders in the past notice a rookie being picked on more than he/she was used to in previous environments. The section leaders made sure to end it, simply by saying "you were a rookie too", or something of that nature. It wouldn't only be section leaders stopping teasing, fellow classmates/upperclassmen would to. Often the instigator wouldn't realize they were making the victim uncomfortable, but once they were made aware of it they quickly stopped and apologized for his/her actions.

So as information begins to be released about Polk County being on the investigation program, I'll say with full confidence:

While there is bullying present (it's inevitable in any environment. My sister and I our relationship could be considered bullying if you didn't know us), there is a stronger sense of a bond that allows for any bullying present to end before it becomes a problem. Marching band was just the one example I witnessed first hand.