I relay these stories to my students to give both the victims and the perpetrators some frame of reference for where I’m coming from. Both stories still stand today as great examples of what bullies are like. BTW, bullies are anyone who actively seek to BOTHER other people — for whatever reason (do not use the word “just” with me, as in “He was JUST teasing him.” It dismisses the issue at hand.).
First, someone we’ll call NP. NP was well-known at the school for being a first class trouble maker. [ASIDE: These “brats” bully their teachers through their bothering behaviors as well. We also expect teachers to suck it up because they are “just” children. But I digress…] I got NP because the other teacher “deserved all the good kids” and since I had been working in middle school, “You probably know how to deal with these kinds of kids.” [DOUBLE ASIDE: Bullying is NOT limited to students. Teachers do it all the time. It’s called HAZING.]
Life goes on with NP causing regular dysfunction and delay to the classroom. One day, however, he is given a new challenge. There’s a new boy in class with whom he must assert his “alpha” maleness. J, the newest student, is well-versed in these kinds of playground politics and gives NP a very good run for his money. Having a new victim allows NP to back off on others a bit. However, he’s not pleased that J is honing in on his territory. Before you know it, he’s challenging J to a basketball game — playing both for control of the schoolyard as well as the love and affections of a girl. [TRIPLE ASIDE: Yes, she was NOT the sharpest knife in the drawer to have boys vying for her attention.]
I’m thinking J won because NP started to go a little non-linear. Next thing I know I’ve got A at my door ready to MAIM, HURT, KILL J. A is crying and shaking. He relays what NP told him. Before school, NP, informed A, J was making fun of the fact that A’s grandfather had died. That’s right, NP decided to emotionally manipulate his own friend using him at his most vulnerable. NICE.
Lucky for everyone involved, J was late AGAIN. Kid normally didn’t show up until 10-20 minutes after class started. On this day he was a full 45 minutes late. This I shared with A. You could see the budding anger and hate fill A’s eyes. At that point he turned on NP. He started doing to NP all of the subtle, nasty things NP had done to everyone else. The only downside, NP “told on A” to the principal (OK, went to her office shaking, crying and scared). The principal, nice but naive, suspended A and didn’t allow him to attend science camp. Thing is, A was MORE THAN WILLING to miss science camp to instill fear in NP.
Mind you, it didn’t cure NP at all. However, A ended up changing his ways and turned into a really cool kid.
J (a different J) had some sort of issue with O. Mind you, she was in my class because she had issues with everyone. She also had a seat FAR away from everyone else. She was that mean, toxic, and awful. Yes, she was forever crying about how misunderstood she was. Apparently hurting people verbally and physically is a sign of friendship. Who knew?
Anyway… I had managed to keep J from having any kind of recess for a while. She either could not or would not control herself. Therefore, she had to be in a classroom during free time. Every chance she was given, she blew. Suffice to say, one day when I was out, she managed to go free range where she immediately decided to go after O again.
I’ll never really know what was said, or how tired of her he was, but he hit her pretty damned hard (she was 3-4 inches taller, long nails, and MEAN). She, of course, ran to the office and told. He was suspended. Nicest kid I think I’ve ever had. Glorious family too. He was sent home.
The following morning his mom was waiting in the library with him. He was crying. He was ashamed of what I thought about him fighting –especially a girl. I merely asked him how it felt. He said it felt good. I told him I was proud of him for standing up to his bully. I assured his mother that I forgave his transgression and that, of course, he was welcome back to class. I assured her 1.5 hours of missing school would not hurt his grades.
The upside, J left him alone.
MORAL: Sometimes you really, really, really have to stand up. Even if you lose, you at least tried. If you win, all the better. I’m still proud of O and A for taking the chance to change their lives with that one negative person.