Even though some criticize the young people of today, there are many who are attuned to social justice, youth culture and sharing their opinions of what they see as right or wrong. They are willing to speak up and challenge the establishment.

At Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, 3706 Maple St., fifth-grade teacher Lindsey Brown asked her students to select from a list of topics they would like to write about.

Jayla McCain, 10, the daughter of Johnny and Lisa McCain, selected the topic of bullying. Her personal comprehension of the subject was very insightful for a child so young. In fact, she addressed other problems in society in that same essay in a very mature way. Of course, her grandmother Michelle McCain was very proud of her work, and shared the essay with me.

Before I became a principal, I taught fifth grade, so I could really appreciate Jayla’s insight and maturity as I remembered my fifth-graders. And, at one point, I was the principal of King school, so I had a special pride in her accomplishment.

Jayla wrote: “Personally, I think that low self-worth is a large problem. It sometimes can make people want to do bad things. Examples are bullying, murdering, and trying to be someone you are not. Bullying is a big problem in my opinion. It is most likely caused by people not feeling good about themselves, so they talk about others to relieve their pain. Bullies also bully to feel power. Some people just want to feel accepted, so they join in with the other bullies. It makes students being bullied feel in danger, and afraid to go to school. It sometimes gets to people so badly it makes them depressed or suicidal.”

According to dosomething.org, a global movement for good, 75 percent of girls with low self-esteem reported engaging in negative activities like cutting themselves, bullying, smoking, drinking or disordered eating. That compares with 25 percent of girls with high self-esteem who reported those behaviors.

Therapist Mary C. Lamia, Ph.D., wrote in Psychology Today that “researchers have found that a bully’s hurtful behavior also has to do with shame. Shame has to do with how you think about yourself, and it results to not living up to your own personal standards. Shame can be experienced as such a negative intense emotion of self-loathing that it can lead you to disown it and in the case of one who acts like a bully, gives it away by evoking that emotion in others.”

According to different researchers, bullies may have low or high self-esteem, but most agree that they have no empathy for others.

Jayla is aware of the world she lives in, and although she is so very young, it appears that she has captured the importance of critical thinking skills that help us make good, sound decisions.

For example, in finishing her essay on bullying, Jayla stated the importance of students being themselves and embracing who they are. Her empathy for others is quite apparent and will serve her well as she grows older.

Her principal, Stephanie Black, said: “Jayla is a sweet, respectful student. I would consider her a leader at King Elementary. She is focused and high performing in all areas. She is well-rounded, and I expect to see great things from her in years to come. I am proud that she is a King Cub!”

Her classroom teacher Brown said: “Jayla is a wonderful fifth-grade student. She is always respectful to adults and other students and she works well with any student or students she is paired with. She is a very high-achieving student and able to apply higher-level strategies in all subject areas. Along with being academically wonderful, her fun personality always brings smiles to us. She is a true delight to have in class!”

Dan Pearce, known for his popular blog “Single Dad Laughing,” wrote: “If bullies actually believe that somebody loves them and believes in them, they will love themselves, they will become better people, and many of them will become saviors to the bullied.”

The last sentence in Jayla’s essay read, “I will do all I can, like talk to those with low self-worth problems.” I can just see Jayla one day becoming a caring savior to the bullied.

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shanahan@owh.com, 402-444-1303

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