BULLY: Stand Up for the Silent

Thanks to The Bully Project for sponsoring my writing. Visit their website to join the movement and learn more.

Something I’ve long suspected and often confirmed about the blogosphere is that we really are an island of misfits.

Sure, there are the popular girls and the nerdy folks and the super duper smart people and the edgy, artsy writers. But we all live on the fringe just a bit. And we all seem to have found each other through this incredible web that connects us all. Thank God for that. I’m only sorry it wasn’t around sooner.

I can’t say I hated high school, because I didn’t. It was my reality. My life. I didn’t really know, nor could I fathom, life beyond the present. I just hoped it would get better.

My sister was 3 years older and had gone off to college by the time I was really into high school. I remember hanging out with her in her dorm room wishing I could live there. Her ultra-cool friends never treated me like I was the little sister. They gave me words of encouragement and told me that everything would change when I went to college. I would find people that were just like me. I hoped they were right.

I always felt like an outcast. Acquaintance to everyone but friend to no one. I mean, I had friends. I just didn’t ever feel like I really fit in. And I didn’t understand why.

It wasn’t until I got older that I started to realize why. When we go to school as children or adolescents, we’re typically brought together primarily by geography, where we live, not by mutual interests or common ground, which is how we spend most of the rest of our lives. It’s diversity in its purest sense.

Schools in my area always talk about bussing kids to ensure diversity is met. The right race, the right socioeconomic status. If anything, they should do more to make kids feel at ease, make them feel safe. It’s hard growing up. It’s hard fitting in. And I’m sure most of you remember adolescence as one of the most formative times of your life. You may not realize it but I bet a lot of your self-esteem today comes from how you felt in middle school and high school. My insecurities from that time in my life still haunt me, even as a middle-aged woman.

It’s not uncommon. In fact, I learned more about that when I studied Adolescent Psychology in graduate school on my way to becoming a teacher. I majored in Biology and decided to go back to school to become a secondary science teacher. More specifically, a middle school teacher. I was warned. I was cautioned. But I knew from studying, from personal experience, and from watching my own middle school-aged brother, who is 10 years younger than me, that these are some of the most important years of schooling. Not for scientific learning. But for personal development. I chose it because I wanted to help.

What I ended up with was a difficult class full of students from every walk of life, every level of intellectual capacity, every socioeconomic status, and many areas of special needs.

I was totally unprepared.

Watching adolescence through my young adult eyes was painful. I could feel the discomfort. I could feel the derisiveness. I could feel my own memories of awkward adolescence.

And I remember being scared. I was scared of some of the kids in my class. These were 7th graders. Some were 15 years old. Some had been previously expelled. Some were full of the pre-teen hormones that start to change our bodies at that age while others looked like little runts in comparison. Yes, the runts of the class. What mattered more than size, though, was that they looked different.

I saw the kids getting picked on. They were easy targets. They said things and did things to make them easy prey and I hated that there wasn’t much I could do about it.

“Kids will be kids.”

“Kids can be mean.”

These were the words I would hear when I voiced my concerns to more senior teachers and even some of the administration. I didn’t agree.

I yelled. I lectured. I tried to use words that would make my kids understand that their words, their actions were unkind and hurtful. I wanted to be the champion of the underdog and the defender of the meek.

But the reality is I was a 23 year old girl, pretending to be a grown-up that could understand why kids acted the way they did. And I really didn’t.

I left after the school year and never, ever wanted to teach again. There was only so much I could do to keep my kids safe and I knew it wasn’t enough. I still think about that year often. I wonder what became of some of those kids as they made their way to 8th grade and then on to high school. I only hope that they made it out with some shred of self-esteem.

There is a movie out right now called “Bully.” It’s a powerful message and one that I can’t ignore and I won’t ignore. I can’t watch this clip without having tears in my eyes thinking that my beautiful, brilliant, quirky little boy could be one of them.

If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Talk to your kids. Know who they are and help them.

I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective. Find showings in your area for The Bully Project and buy tickets here.

  • Nanette_AMomBlog

    This statement you made: “There is a movie out right now called “Bully.” It’s a powerful message and one that I can’t ignore and I won’t ignore. I can’t watch this clip without having tears in my eyes thinking that my beautiful, brilliant, quirky little boy could be one of them.”

    That’s me. I cried watching that clip. I fear for my beautiful, brilliant, quirky little boy too.

    Parents, teachers, administrators, everyone need to stop making excuses i.e. boys will be boys and make a change! Enough is enough. We can’t keep letting this happen to our children.

    • FadraN

      Nanette – I’m so scared for my little boy to go to kindergarten next year. It will definitely be a leap of faith for me but I will be the mom up at the school every day if I need to.

  • http://naturallyeducational.com/ CandaceApril

    It is an incredibly difficult topic. I hated High School and could not wait to leave. We expect the teachers to do something but often they feel just as powerless and helpless as the parents. We need to, as a society, say this is just unacceptable. We need to give children the tools to stand up and we need to give teachers the training to respond. The bullying and the dying need to stop.

    • FadraN

      Can I just say what I really think? Teachers often are powerless. It starts with the PARENTS. Yes. Hate begets hate and more tolerance begets more tolerance.

      • http://naturallyeducational.com/ CandaceApril

        I agree that it begins at home but the schools are where it is happening. Teachers as individuals are not equipped but they are not powerless if armed with comprehensive, district and building-wide policies. It has to be done because that is where the bullying happens.

  • http://twitter.com/BocaFrau Susi K

    I have had to deal with my son being bullied… my own brilliant, quirky little boy… and it wasn’t easy on him or me. But we made it through and due to some issues with his younger sisters we changed schools. It’s not an issue now and I’m grateful for that. I think, I will take my boy to see this movie…

    • FadraN

      Susi – I’m so sorry you both had to go through that but I’m also glad he’s in a better environment. I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to switch schools if it would protect my little guy. Maybe I’m overprotective but I really don’t care.

  • http://about.me/efloraross Elizabeth Flora Ross

    Beautifully written, Fadra!

    • FadraN

      Thanks and thanks for sharing!

  • http://mominmanagement.com/ Daria @ Mom in Management

    I have goosebumps.  Fabulous post Fadra. 

    • FadraN

      Thanks for reading. I didn’t realize how much it touched me until I started writing.

  • Pingback: Bullying: Not Just A Lesson For Kids()

  • http://www.imnotinfectious.com/ Michael Lombardi

    I feel like I could write 10,000 words on this issue. But it still wouldn’t get us any results. :-/ Driving societal change is so amazingly difficult.