Inspired By a Bully
Dr. Phil talks to Thayer about what inspired her to regard her minority students in a different light.

Thayer, who is going to be a teacher at an inner-city school, saw Dr. Phil's show about Dwana and school bullying. "I was really touched by Dr. Phil's compassion, because he was able to validate their situation," says Thayer. "He knew he could never understand where they're coming from."


Thayer points out that her background prevents her from understanding the frustrations that minority children face. "I grew up very protected. I have middle class privilege. I have white privilege," she explains. "These kids don't know that. I'm going to be in classrooms with students like Dwana who are closed and who don't have my background. I'm not going to be able to teach kids like Dwana if they're not willing to open up to me and be part of the classroom."

She turns to Dr. Phil for help. "How do I connect with kids like Dwana?" she asks. "I want to inspire them. I don't want to turn them further away."

"Tell me what your biggest fear is," Dr. Phil asks Thayer.

"My biggest fear is that I don't look at them in a way that they can understand," she answers. "I don't know what's going on with them. I haven't experienced that. So I want them to know that even though I haven't experienced that, I still am willing to be aware that that stuff happens, that there are things I've never experienced, but they're real and meaningful."

"When you come from different backgrounds than children you are trying to teach " whether they're from the inner city, low socio-economic status, violent backgrounds " you can't be who they are. And that's OK. I've seen teachers who are so well intended that they try to become one of them. They try to pick up their lingo and they try to become sort of like street smart teachers all of a sudden. That's not real. And [students] will see through that in a New York minute. That's not going to help you at all."
"I don't care where you're from - whether it's the city or it's rural or a foreign country, whether you're African American, Hispanic or Caucasian - people respond well to being treated as individuals and being treated with dignity and respect," Dr. Phil explains. "You're not a better person than they are and you don't want to communicate that. But you want to communicate that they are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect, that you have
to require more of them to treat themselves with dignity and respect, and I guarantee you that is like an unbelievable breath of fresh air in some of these kids' lives. Does that make sense to you?

"Absolutely, and that is exactly what I saw you do with Dwana and her mother. You were able to treat them with respect and connect," Thayer answers.
Dr. Phil says that many viewers wrote in on the message boards to chide him for not reprimanding Dwana. "That's totally her comfort zone," he says. "These kids are used to being under authority. They're used to an overbearing sort of thing. They will respect authority, but you can't beat them over the head with it. You want them to respect you and respect is commanded, not demanded. And I think the fact you're even asking this question and are willing to say 'I'm going to meet these kids where they are, but yet I'm going to require them to go to another level,' tells me you are going to be successful in what you are doing."