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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

The Anti-Inspiration and Teacher-Bullies and Trauma

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

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"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

The Anti-Inspiration and Teacher-Bullies and Trauma

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I started to write up this as a comment by someone on a friend's LJ, but it was getting very personal very fast--and therefore a little weird to be putting someone I didn't know well in the position of having to reply to it--and I thought it'd be better here. I somehow ended up talking about kids being bullied by teachers, and this opened a floodgate for me, some thoughts I've been wanting to put down for a few weeks now and finally have a moment to do so.

I know the person I appear to be. I remarked something about feeling inadequate a couple years ago and was told by a good online friend--someone who knows me better than most of the people here, in RL as well as in fandom--that it was hard to believe. That I don't appear to be that person. And most of the time I'm not. I've worked very deliberately to lock up my demons in ironclad prisons. I know I project a lot of confidence and competence. Most of the time, I feel a lot of confidence and competence. Sometimes I even fool myself. I think, "It's over! I'm normal now!" The reminder, when it comes, that some things don't just go away is sharp and sudden and painful.

One of the questions teachers often get asked is if we had a teacher who inspired us to pursue the profession. I do, but it's more of an anti-inspiration. It's a person that I imagined, through my presence in the profession, being unable to find a job because that job went to me. I know it doesn't work that way! But I like to think that if more smart, kind people became teachers, then we might run out the bullies and leave no room for them.

Because, for five years, I was bullied by a teacher. I was a very shy kid. I was not cute. (I actually think I was ugly; even though people tell me I was not, I cannot look at pictures of myself in elementary school without seeing an ugly child.) I was not interested in the kinds of things that little girls like and that make them endearing. I wanted to be an entomologist and spent most of my time in my own imagination or rooting around outside for bugs. This made me unpopular with my peers. Fair enough. Kids don't have to like each other, and I was treated as unkindly as one might expect. Again ... whatever. They were kids and didn't know better. (And while one might have thought or hoped that their parents would have been more sensitive, this was before the b-word became a buzzword in U.S. education, and maybe they didn't know better either.)

But I had a PE teacher for five years who did everything he could to diminish me, humiliate me, and reinforce the social order among my peers. I wasn't his only target; he picked on all of the unpopular kids. We were annually singled out for "special gym," which meant remedial PE. This gave him the chance to round us up from the playground during recess while everyone watched. It was only the unpopular kids who were included. I didn't like PE because I didn't (and don't) like team sports, but I wasn't unathletic; I had above-average upper body strength for a girl and a good amount of endurance. I was good at everything that wasn't a team sport: swimming, skating, biking, gymnastics, climbing. The year I started middle school, I started freestyle rollerskating and became one of the top skaters in my program within just a few years. But in elementary PE, we unpopular kids were singled out all of the time, and while the accomplishments of the cool kids were celebrated, anything we did well was ignored or diminished. I have a very distinct memory of the annual Presidential Physical Fitness Award tests and doing two chin-ups--more than any girl in the class--and watching him write "1.5" in his gradebook.

Perhaps the worst thing I remember him doing wasn't even done to me but to a girl who--if this can be believed--was even less popular than me. She came to our school in the fourth grade and had the kind of poor hygiene and personal idiosyncrasies that made her an immediate target.

She was, of course, rounded up for "special gym." I doubt the ink had even dried on the poor girl's registration form; all he needed to see was her lank, unwashed hair and stained yellow teeth to know that she was going to be one of the ones who received his special brand of attention.

One day, we had "special gym," so we obediently assembled during our recess, but the new girl--we'll call her J--wasn't there. The teacher, of course, interrogated us like we knew anything about it, which we didn't. It was three of us besides her: two girls and a boy. We were friends with each other but no one else. No one was friends with J.

About 15 minutes into "special gym," in walks J. She is clearly carrying a plastic bag with clothing in it. She is clearly wearing pants different from those she arrived in that morning. Of course, we all notice and giggle amongst ourselves; being victims didn't keep up from being the cruel jerks that all pre-adolescent kids can be at times. But the PE teacher makes her stop and barks at her to ask why she is late. You can see J struggling to answer. Finally, she stammers out, "I had an accident."

For fuck's sake, the girl has a bag of clothes in her hands; it's clear what she means by that. Nonetheless, he makes her stand in front of us and explain what happened. Even my dislike of her--someone uglier and grosser and less lovable than me--didn't stop me from feeling mortified as she was forced to say, in front of all of us, "A bathroom accident."

That's the kind of shit he would do. When I look back, individual things he did don't seem so bad in isolation. What made it so awful was the way that his actions put a seal of legitimacy on the things that other kids were saying. His actions had the effect of taking things that kids were saying and doing--things that I might have been able to rationalize as just dumb shit kids say and do--and putting the weight of adult authority behind those judgments. When he'd call me in front of the class to demonstrate what I was doing wrong--and only the unpopular kids were ever subjected to this--it had the effect of reinforcing my peers' ideas that I was untalented and worthless. They'd laugh at me and he'd show no sensitivity to how it must have made me feel to be singled out and humiliated like that, so clearly I must deserve it, right? Because at that age, you still believe that grown-ups are the arbiters of justice. And hearing that stuff all the time from my peers about my lack of worth--and seeing it reinforced several times per week by him, for five years--had the effect of eventually embedding pretty deeply in my own mind that I was worthless and did not deserve the same level of consideration or fairness given to other people.

I remember in middle school liking a boy and rumors getting back to me that he liked me too. So I did what middle-schoolers do and made shy intimations of my interest to the girls--always popular girls--who told me these rumors, in hopes that he might speak to me. Turns out it was a joke, perpetuated by the boy and a popular girl he was dating, just to get me to embarrass myself. When I learned about this, I remember not feeling particularly upset but more of a numbness: What did you expect? This is how you're treated because you're you and not worth any better. You knew it was going to be a joke because you knew he was above you. Someone like you doesn't deserve someone like him. These feelings went so deep and persisted for so long. Rooting them out was like cutting malignancy out of myself: finding it thread-thin and subtle among the stuff of myself and peeling away all the harmless, defensive layers to dig it out.

I always think it's gone. That it's time to move on, time to pick up my work of making the world a better, a more just place, without fighting this doubt inside me that the world even needs me. But then, there it is again, alive with pain so that it feels like all of me.

A few weeks ago, Bobby gave me a snowboarding lesson. I had been doing really well up to that point, but this day, things took a turn for the worst. He put me on a course that was too fast and difficult for me. I didn't know how to stop and was terrified of bowling into one of what felt like dozens of kindergartners who were occupying (and not struggling with) the same course. I didn't see any way of being successful without humiliating myself and very publicly. I used to just endure it; now it makes me angry. Irrationally angry. I ranted and cursed at him. We ended the lesson and I went to the lodge and hid in a library book and cried.

And the things going on in my mind. It was like being physically pummeled from within. I hated myself so badly and over a bad turn in a snowboarding lesson. With my husband, the kindest person I know who is to credit more than anyone else with pulling me back from the dark place I once was. I felt so stupid and worthless, not least of all because I realized how irrational I was being. But as the emotional haze cleared enough, I could almost trace that malignancy back: the feeling of inadequacy, the public humiliation, the sense of having no way of ending it well--all of those things being so firmly leashed to my sense of worth. It's not rational, and I'm finding myself wanting to explain it so that it makes sense and feeling like deleting this post just because I can't.

I texted Bobby and apologized, and we talked on the way home. He has always defended me, even before we started dating; his willingness to defend me in the ninth grade was one of the first things that jarred my conviction that I was worthless. It made me wonder. He said he wanted to meet the PE teacher in a dark alley. Ah, Bobby. I understand the desire to put fists to something but it won't fix it.

That's why I say that this PE teacher is my anti-inspiration. About a month ago, I went to a training session for community organizers as part of the political group I am involved with. We practiced a one-on-one meeting, and I got paired with the man giving the training. He asked me about how I became involved in political advocacy and particularly work with disadvantaged kids. Was I raised this way, by parents who were similarly involved? Were my parents also teachers? I laughed and said that there couldn't be a family more apolitical than mine; my parents never even registered to vote until my sister and I were both adults, and watching the news was done only to see what the weather would be the next day. I said that my work really came from my own everyday experiences as a victim of injustice and the sense of anger and sorrow that I carry from that experience. His eyes lit up when I said that. Anger, he said, comes from an Old Norse word meaning anguish. In that word, we have preserved a sense of the pain that triggers it. He told me that he hears so many people working for justice who express the same things: anger and sorrow.

Sometimes, I sit back and try to look at my childhood from my current perspective as a teacher. It's like stepping out of myself because, when I think back to when I was younger, I immediately want to start listing the reasons I was treated the way I was: I was ugly, I liked bugs a lot, I was weird, I didn't care about clothes--in fact, I preferred to dress like a pilgrim, which I usually did while home and was relentlessly teased about, which did nothing to stop me from doing it anyway--I didn't care about pop culture. (My sister and I had a good laugh over the holidays when we remembered our mom trying to perhaps provide us with the means to fit in a little better with our peers and buying us, unasked, a New Kids on the Block tape at the Price Club. Which we then proceeded to dance to while listening to it on my sister's Teddy Ruxpin so that the New Kids' words appeared to come out of the mouth of an animated, stuffed bear. We were incapable of seeing how uncool we were by design.) For so long, these things were justifications for why other kids hated me and why an adult who was a constant presence in my life actively worked to stoke those emotions, but when I look back at that same kid like I would look at one of my own students, I see a child who was quiet and unassuming, never much trouble, smart, well-behaved, creative, and intrinsically motivated to learn and achieve. I think many of my teachers saw that, and I know some of them tried to nurture it, but their good efforts were undermined by the fact that he was a constant presence in my life for those years. I also see a kid who is having a difficult time fitting in and is susceptible to cruelty--I won't even go so far as bullying--from her peers. I see a kid that I'd want to nurture and protect, whose worth I'd want to celebrate in hopes of helping others to see it too.

I find myself wondering why in the world he chose to do the opposite, why the regard of elementary-age children dubbed worthy of popularity by other elementary-age children overwhelmed the urge to be kind toward and protective of a child like me. I wonder why he clearly couldn't see anything good about me, even if it was just that I was content to be put in a corner and forgotten while he nurtured the aspirations of future jocks and frat boys. I wonder why he had to be cruel to me. I wonder what he, a grown man, got out of that.

This is why I've committed my life to doing the opposite.

(I'm taking a risk and leaving this entry unlocked.)



This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!

http://dawn-felagund.dreamwidth.org/408238.html
  • Anti-inspiration is a good word for it. I had some of the same type of teachers - and I wasn't even the most hated student in the school, I can remember students that were treated far worst (as in fights broken up by slamming the student into the concrete floor). I think it confused some of my college professors why I would go to their offices and snap at them for making jokes like "Well, we all know that you're in this major because you're not good at math" in front of their classes, because the answer would always be something about how they didn't mean me/it was true for some of my classmates/whatever, and I would just argue back that it's only a joke if nobody is crying.

    But fuck it, I got so tired in high school and elementary of listening to teachers tell my classmates and I that we weren't smart enough/we were babies that I decided that the second I had any power, I wasn't putting up with it anymore. So, when they decided that I would make a good tutor for their classes, here came hell if they mocked that person (or if I got woke up at 3 am by somebody having an absolute breakdown because of their class, being sick, and wondering if they were going to flunk and how much their advisor would yell at them for it. When we've reached that point, screw it, I would show up in somebody's office at 8 am to fight it out if I need to, but we were not going there).

    I mean, my high school sociology teacher absolutely hated me. I'm not exaggerating that a bit. I was too sickly for her to consider me anything but a nuisance, and she also had resented me for being enrolled in one of her other classes as a sophomore (or a year before anyone else could) because I transferred in and they didn't have enough advanced classes for me. I still don't like sociology, but my degree is partially in it, because I was not going to let her decide what I could do.

    That was a long way of saying that I totally understand where you're coming from in this.
  • Anti-inspiration from teachers is, unfortunately, too common. I had several teachers in my own experience who despised me for a variety of reasons. The band teacher I had in High School finally tripped my trigger and my solid record of straight "A"'s in music brought my parents into the battle. Making an appointment with the school principal and the band teacher resulted in my "D" grade being corrected to an "A", but also in a mandate that I would no longer attend music classes taught by that teacher. I switched to choir.

    I have never figured out why some people only get their kicks from harming others, and why they would ever harm a child. For me, it led to cutting and some serious self-esteem issues that almost killed me - in a very literal fashion. I've walked carefully with a very small group of friends ever since and look upon everyone with the initial joy of a puppy, tempered with the experience of an old dog who knows better.

    Sending *hugs* your way because I suspect you and I would have shared a lot of the same likes, dislikes, and special PE classes.

    - Erulisse (one L)
  • Thank you for sharing this. From the bottom of my heart.
  • PE teachers seem more susceptible to that sort of behavior than other teachers. I never had one who went to the lengths your teacher went to, but I was consistently put last on teams, and none of my PE teachers ever reprimanded the bullies who picked on me or some of the other less popular kids. Perhaps it's the whole competitive sports thing, where only the fit and skilled are considered worthy.

    But I did have a bully teacher for fifth grade. This was back in the early 60s, when kids pretty much still believed what teachers told them. She did many humiliating things to nearly all the children in the class except for her handful of pets, but I was one who got punished the most. The only paddlings I ever got in a school in which corporal punishment was common, were from her. At least twice I was paddled for objecting to her for someone else's sake. She once was going to punish one girl for some nothing thing--not paying attention, I think. She called her up for a paddling, and my impulsive "That's not FAIR!" was responded with by "Well, maybe you'd rather have it instead." I marched up and took the paddling (her paddle was nearly an inch thick and had holes to make it sting more) to which I determined not to react at all. I succeeded just barely. Later that year I did it again and was paddled even harder.
    I also got paddled for answering questions without raising my hand and a couple of other minor infractions.

    Also, during recess one day, there was a concrete block retaining wall in front of the softball field. The rest of the class was playing (this was NOT PE, but simply class recess). When she told me to get down and join the game, I told her it wasn't my turn. She shoved me off the wall. I landed and was scraped up on my hands, elbows and knees. She stood there and said with a smirk, "Oh no. You fell off the wall."

    Anytime she did anything she knew would get her in trouble, (such as the time she grabbed one girl and dragged her down the aisle of the classroom with the girl's foot trapped in the desk and dragging that too) she'd give us an evil look and say "If you decide to go home and tell mommy and daddy, I will flunk you all!" Of course we believed her, plus we were going to school at a time when the parental response to getting in trouble at school meant getting in trouble at home.

    But the day of the concrete wall incident, my mother asked about my scrapes, and I broke down crying and told her everything. She and my daddy went right up to the school and confronted the principal.

    Our teacher was out the next few days. It was near the end of the school year, and she was permitted to return, but she had to keep the classroom door open at all times and at any time during the day another teacher or the principal would randomly come into the room. She was sickly, falsely sweet to us for the few weeks until the end, and took an early retirement that summer. I suppose that was the easiest way to handle it, avoid scandal and all that, but I always thought she deserved worse.

    Most kids nowadays are too savvy to put up long with that sort of blatant abuse--someone would have put up a viral video or something, and it probably would have made the news and there might have been lawsuits.

    But in 1962 in a small rural town, the outcome was probably the only one they'd have come up with.

    Edited at 2017-03-11 11:06 pm (UTC)
  • I went through something similar as a kid. In 5th and 6th grade I had a teacher that was a horrible bully. In 5th grade she was my teacher for every. single. class. I found out later she was supposed to have been fired and I wasn't even supposed to have her- but the union pulled strings because her husband was a local politician(and super nice, go figure that one out). She did the same thing, where she would single out one or two of the unpopular kids and make their lives miserable. I got second place in the geography bee in 6th grade and she chewed me out for coming in second... even though no one else from our pod had lasted beyond the second round of questions. She came into class, grabbed me by the arm and bodily dragged me out of the room one day. I was terrified. I didn't know that my parents had opted out of the "allow the teacher to spank my child". I was sure she was going to hit me. No, I was supposed to get my picture taken for the paper for the Geography bee. It was supposed to be a reward. In the photo I look miserable and about to cry. My parents tried to do something, anything, to get me out of the class... but we were a poor, biracial family in a small town. We didn't have the clout.

    My mom was a special ed teacher for 25 years and she kept asking me why I didn't want to be a teacher. But I saw what the teachers did. So many of them became worse than their students. In high school I was immune to it because I knew what they were doing. They would pit us against each other, play favorites, spread rumors about us, and about each other. Even my mother faced bullying from the regular ed teachers(it didn't work, mom just flipped them off). I had some really great teachers tho, who, like you, did everything they could to try and balance out the harm done by the awful ones. So bless you for trying, there are going to be kids who remember you as the best thing that ever happened to them. Mom's gone through hell and high water for her kids. And most of those kids... I don't think anyone had ever cared about them before. We can't go out without one of her former students coming up and thanking her and telling her what a difference she made in their lives.

    But i know what you mean about how hard it is to heal from it. I still have never recovered the confidence entirely and I'm 36. I still fear authority figures when I can tell they're emotionally stunted like that. I get the heck out of dodge. I have all the behaviors someone who suffered from emotional abuse as a child has... but it wasn't from my parents. It was from the other kids at school and that one teacher. She was a monster.
  • It will probably come as no surprise that I too was bullied by a teacher. It happened in third grade. She had one or two "angels" and the rest of us were demon-spawn to her. She targeted me one day for something I did *not* do (but I just know one of the angels did it and decided to blame me) and made me stay after school until nearly six pm (this was in the fall, btw, and school let out at three-thirty) until I said I did it so I could go home. My mom found me walking home, hysterical, and all I could say was "I didn't do it."

    But sadly, in those days, the parents never argued with the teacher (and *of course* she had tenure) so nothing was ever done despite the fact that one girl had a nervous breakdown and several other kids started wetting the bed. Nearly every boy in my class either dropped out later on or got held back. (My mom said the woman told her at the first parent-teacher conference that all of us were 'worthless' and that she loved breaking the spirit of the 'big, smart boys'.

    And yet, in K & 1-2, we had been listed as one of the very best classes ever.)

    Ironically, that was her last year teaching -- she retired in May -- but the damage was done. (I credit her with teaching me to be a liar, a cheat and a sneak.) I withdrew almost completely and all I could think of was the day I could finally graduate. My grades were never good after that year because I just didn't care anymore.
  • Oh my god, you do the irrational anger at perceived failure at tasks too? I do it so much, and there was a time when I could just grin and bear it, but now, in my thirties, I get angry, and I'm not quite an expert at dealing with the anger in an adult way yet -- my poor husband gets the brunt of it, which he in no way deserves!

    Your story sounds really familiar to me, but instead of a PE teacher, I had a father who fancied himself to be some sort of athletic coach, and decided that he was going to make an athlete out of me or I was going to die trying. I've endured so much forced exercise and exercise as a punishment, accompanied by emotional and physical abuse, which had the unfortunate consequence of making it difficult-to-impossible for me to exercise at all -- whenever I try this burning self-destructive rage wells up inside me and I start having panic attacks (and a recent diagnosis of asthma actually suggests that I might have exercise-induced asthma and they weren't panic attacks but asthma attacks!)

    I think I'm learning that my twenties involved understanding what happened to me in my childhood, and my thirties have been dealing with the fallout and learning to move forward as an adult. It's involved five years of counselling so far, a short stint on anti-depressants, several physical health diagnoses, several mental health diagnoses, taking about a dozen different medications each day, and working so hard in my own way (mostly via volunteer activism) to give people the safe space and the community I was denied as a young queer person. It wasn't until I discovered fandom at the age of 19 that I even found words to understand what was going on with my own wants and desires, and then began to find the people who truly understood me and loved me for who I was and am, who didn't want to change me or mould me into something that I am not and cannot be.

    I don't know what was going on in the mind of your PE teacher, except to suggest that he felt incredibly powerless and out of control in his life, because pick on someone your own damn size, dude. I think many PE teachers have this same sort of power trip thing going, where they have so obviously failed in life that they feel the need to pick on the people they are supposed to be teaching. (The few PE teachers I have had haven't impressed me with their willingness to teach the benefits of exercise so much reinforced what my dad was doing at home.) I was never going to be some sort of star athlete but I could've been in a position where I didn't hate exercise as an entire concept, something so deep inside me now that although I desperately want to unlearn it, and keep trying to, I can't seem to do it.

    Everything I've learned so far from my years of counselling seems to say that I get irrationally angry when I feel like I have no power or control in an unfair or unjust situation, especially something involving some kind of physical work or labour. And the only way to deal with that is to break out of being caught in the narrative of my own mind. When things are going on that upset me, I try to catch that (and have asked my husband to do the same) by asking what story I'm telling myself. And then trying to put another perspective on the situation, break it down to the essentials of what must be done, what can be done, and what can wait, and see if I can implement that.

    Let's take your snowboarding situation as an example. The story you were telling yourself was something along the lines of, "I can't handle this slope, and it's so humiliating that all these children are better at it than me. If I fall, it's going to be a public disgrace, all these kids will see and laugh at me, and I don't know how to stop! Why did you do this to me, Bobby?!" Something like that, going around and around in your mind, getting more and more panicky and high-pitched every time? Yeah, of course you're going to be angry and upset. That was basically an anxiety attack.

    • Now, that was a really tough situation to be in to practice breaking down the story of your emotion, and I do suggest you start with easier ones! But here's how it might have gone: asking yourself: What must I get done: I must get down this slope, ideally without crashing into anyone or falling. What can I do: I can focus on the course instead of the narrative in my head. I can go as slowly as the circumstances permit. If it is unavoidable, I can fall over, in as safe and a controlled way as possible. It won't be fun, but it also won't be humiliating, people fall over, even on easy slopes, all the time, and these kids don't know me, they won't care what some random adult does. Even if they did know me they would probably be concerned for my well-being rather than wanting to point and laugh. What can wait: I can wait to blame Bobby or argue with him, there's no point having that discussion in my head as I'm experiencing the scary thing. I can wait to freak out about how hard this is when it's over. I do not have to do this slope again if I don't want to.

      Now, yes, okay, that is really difficult to do in a couple of seconds before the panic sets in, so this is something that I try to practice every day as I go about my life, encountering little obstacles (and greater ones). I'm by no means an expert at this, it's just something I try to do, and it does help when I remember it, and remember to breathe.

      Brene Brown's book Rising Strong was of some use to me in figuring out how to break the narrative in my head (by making it a meta-narrative, naturally!) But by and large, the strategy for how to deal with the anger and the fear has been worked out by me and my counsellor together, to whom I tell my story, whereupon she breaks it down and gives it back to me in a way that enables me to take control and to allow me to breathe.

      I really have written a long comment here, but there's so much in common between our heads! I hope my efforts to deal with my own screwy head can be of use with yours. :)
    • This is completely off the subject and I don't want to derail the conversation, but I want to thank you for this:

      I get irrationally angry when I feel like I have no power or control in an unfair or unjust situation

      You made a lightbulb go on in my head about why political discussions almost always turn into arguments with my parents, especially in this political climate and when I can't afford to live elsewhere. I feel like their political positions are actively making me feel unsafe and I have no constructive way to respond, so I lash out. I'm not sure there's a way I can fix this because they're still diehard Trump supporters who can't see the dog-whistles, but knowing this about myself is helpful.
  • Oh Dawn, I had to leave this a couple of times to go and cry. I don't understand why some teachers are bullies but psychologists say (I think) that usually bullies are people who were also bullied as kids. But I don't necessarily believe that. I was bullied too - oh Eru was I bullied - by kids not especially teachers - except I remember two really bad teachers who yelled at everyone and bullied most of the kids - I don't think they were selective in their bullying. What these two idiots did was to make most of the students so terrified that their ability to learn the subject in question was diminished.

    And then there was Mr. T.S.S. a boys' gym teacher and the senior football coach who was fairly young and good-looking but rumours were afoot that he liked young girls and that a couple of girls in our high school had actually gone out with him.

    When I was about 18 I was working in a movie theatre one summer selling tickets from a booth out front when I saw Mr. T.S.S. approaching. My jaw dropped. He bought a ticket for the film we were showing and chatted me up a little. I had graduated from high school but he remembered me. On the way out he asked me when I got off work and asked if I'd like a lift home. Because of the rumours that he might be a pedo, I emphatically declined! Not only that but I could smell that he'd been drinking.

    Unfortunately I think that certain professions attract some weirdos. Not all people who work at these are nuts, of course that's not what I mean, but the systems seem to have their fair share: teachers, coaches, priests, ministers, doctors and counselors are some of them. Even cops. I know in our area alone there have been a half-dozen or so male coaches who have been charged with doing inappropriate stuff to the children in their care.

    I think I am going to make a bullying post as well. Get some things off my chest.

    I hope that you are not going to be too hard on yourself over your reaction to Bobby (who sounds like a total angel, btw). I am sure he understands the reason and I'm glad you've talked it out. I'm not the one who lives with and understands everything you've gone through but even I can understand and sympathize and I wouldn't have beat you up over it as much as you probably beat yourself.

    Have some hugs.

    {{HUGS}}
  • I can't engage on this tonight because we have house-guests, but just wanted to say I've read and will come back and respond tomorrow or very soon. Moving and heartbreaking to read this. Although none of it is new to me, but reading it all coherently organized in one place is deeply affecting! I am kind of sorry-not-sorry for raising the issues that provoked you to write this. Sorry to bring up old stuff; but the snowboarding incident is proof that it is not so old that it isn't still useful to examine and share.

    Anyway, my heart goes out to you and I am sorry to have upset you. But again, from looking over the thread, here you've struck a chord with a lot of people.
    • Please no apologies! It's actually been in my mind to write this for a while--I even started it once--but when I found myself starting to write it again to one of your LJ friends, realized it was time to put it in my own space and not make things awkward for them or hijack the very real and important discussion about A's teacher.

      Of course, the incident with A that you wrote about resonated with me. I can forgive almost any failing but cruelty--especially to children or animals--is beyond the pale for me.
  • This really resonates with me - although looking back at my own school days, my experiences with teachers were quite different. Some of them actually tried to be supportive: I remember my homeroom teacher in grade 5 (PE and maths, as it happened) stopping me after gym class to ask whether I needed someone to talk to when I was just beginning to be bullied (and myself not understanding it as bullying but feeling that "everybody hates me because I suck"). I said no - it was not exactly an academic problem so I did not think a teacher was the right person to turn to, and besides I was so embarrassed to be a target that I didn't want to think or talk about it - but looking back I do applaud her for picking up on what must, at the time, have been quite subtle signs, and immediately attempting to offer help, even if it came to nothing. (And I was neither a good PE nor a good maths student at the time; it can't have been because she wanted to help her star pupil or something.)

    When a boy from my class was bullied a few years later, I don't recall any teachers picking up on it initially, but when it got so bad that the bullied boy lashed out violently and was accordingly reprimanded, his statement that the others had been tormenting him for weeks (backed up by a couple of "neutral" witnesses, including *pats own shoulder* myself) was not only accepted, but led to a teacher conference about the matter of bullying, how to recognise and prevent it, and how to deal with this particular case. (Again, I and two other neutral students were invited as witnesses, which was pretty exciting...) Two teachers afterwards discussed the topic in class again: our German teacher did it in a general way and followed it up by a graded essay on moral courage, while our chemistry teacher discussed this specific case, trying to get to the heart of why these bullies did what they did. It was mortifying at the time, but it also revealed that they had constructed a justificational system for Why This Boy Deserved What He Got, and having the teacher analyse it for what it was and tear it to shreds was probably a valuable lesson (more than the Moral Courage essay). That boy never became popular, but the active bullying stopped. I doubt the bullies genuinely understood how disgusting their behaviour had been, but they had seen that it wasn't generally accepted and perhaps not worth the trouble. For the time, that was enough. At least, it had shown that The Law (TM) was on our side. Parental support tended to consist of "ignore them and they'll get bored" (nope) or "can't you try to fit in?" (nope) or other helpless and useless advice: But the teachers' reaction meant that it was Not OK and Not Our Fault!

    Mind you, my teachers weren't perfect, but for the majority of them, I'm willing to think that they tried their best, and this seems to be a case where they really did.

    So when I read about your experiences, I very much want to join Bobby and meet that PE teacher in a dark alley. I have read from other bullying victims who said something along the lines of "adults can't help anyway", but from personal experience, I'd say that adults at the very least can draw the line, and ideally can unmask bullying for what it is, rather than letting the bullies feel like they're the justice league or whatnot. If they instead reinforce the bullying, that's doing so much damage. And I don't just see your PE teacher to blame, but also the other teachers for not intervening; I mean, if it was always the unpopular kids, and you always had to attend Special PE during regular recess, someone could have picked up on that. If nobody did (or nobody bothered to do something against it), all the worse.

    Who knows, maybe that teacher was himself bullied as a kid, and as a result took joy from being in the position to torment others, or did it to finally be one of the cool kids (really!). This doesn't justify his behaviour - one should hope that instead, he would turn his energies to empowering other "kids like him" (if applicable), rather than playing to those who were popular and overconfident anyway! - but it might illustrate just how far-reaching the consequences of bullying can be.

    Which is why it's all the more valuable when people like you do the opposite.
  • We recently talked about my experiences with my original first grade teacher who locked me in a dark closet. But it really is only in the past few years that I've realized how deeply it scarred me. It's one of those things that doesn't seem like it should have because in the grand scheme of things, it's minor. But to a six-year-old? It's not something that hurts now, but it did affect me. And makes me wonder why she was even teaching, but that seems to be a running theme.

    Also, my fourth grade teacher was a petty bully herself, or at the very least, passive-aggressive. I don't remember much that she did save for only allowing kids with her approval to use pens instead of based solely on the criteria of how neat their cursive was, never getting that "privilege," and being afraid in fifth grade because I could use pens without getting explicit permission. I do remember I didn't like her.

    The bullying from my peers in third through sixth grade, on the other hand? That taught me, helped along by moving every two years or so, that people can't be relied on for much. It did eventually make me not give a damn what people thought of me, which is something I am glad of it. Not that I liked learning that how I did. I honestly don't remember if the teachers were aware of the bullying or not. It was never physical, but social/emotional. And that can slide under the radar, but we went to a small Catholic school with one class per grade, so it seems hard to believe that they weren't aware.

    It says something that both the teachers and the bullies were at the same school; we'd moved away from and then back to the area. Mom and Dad have said that they wished they sent us to the other nearby Catholic school because it turned out in high school (when we'd moved back for the third time) almost all of our friends came from the latter.
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