Coping with the Bullies in My Class (A True Story)
Tags: parenting, bullies
The teacher leaves our middle school classroom, and chaos erupts as soon as he walks out the door. I sit quietly, waiting for his return. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice one of the "troublemakers" moving out of her seat a few rows over, but I don't pay close attention. Better not to look interested when that group is up to something.
Her friends egg her on. As she walks over to where I sit, I figure she'll just walk past. Suddenly, without a word of warning, her hand flashes out and smacks me hard on the face. I sit there, stunned, blinking back tears. Why'd she hit me? What did I ever do to her? I barely know her name.
I fight hard not to cry, and the shame and embarrassment are even more painful than the slap that reddens my face. She struts back to her seat with her buddies cheering as though she'd accomplished something heroic, rather than bullying a shy girl without many friends.
My mind spins in circles, trying to make sense of it. A mild-mannered kid in the next seat whispers anxiously, "What happened? Why did she hit you?"
I shrug my shoulders, not daring to utter a word for fear the tears that I'm struggling with will fall, and things will worsen. If the teacher doesn't come back soon, I know the slap will be followed by a full-fledged scuffle between us ... a fight in which I'll end up pounded into the linoleum floor and sent to the hospital.
No joke about the hospital. These kids love cruelty.
Just then, the teacher walks back in and I let out a small sigh of relief. I'm safe as long as he's there. But, the relief only stays for a moment and then the reality of the situation hits—I'm dead meat when I get on the bus. Literally. I know about this group of kids ... they carry knives ... some have landed in juvenile detention.
Then another thought comes to me. What will my parents say about me being slapped in class? My folks believe I should stand tall, be proud of myself and not hide behind my shyness, so I feel certain that getting slapped in the face and not returning the favor will be frowned upon.
I sit in turmoil for the rest of the class period, not hearing a word the teacher says, only feeling the sting of the slap, and the pain of wondering why. I don't know what to do, but I know that whatever it will be, it can't wait until tomorrow or the next day. It has to happen quickly. I finally reach a terrible decision ... to fight as soon as we walk out into the hall, before she has a chance to corner me on the bus.
I don't know anything about fighting. How do you fight another girl? Slap her in the face, like she did to me? That seems about as beneficial as poking a grizzly bear with a bobby pin.
When class ends, I push my way to her, look her in the eyes—and with my knees shaking so bad it's a wonder my eyeballs don't pop out—I say, "If you're not too chicken, why don't you try hitting me when I'm standing up?"
Because of the narrow hallway, it turns into a shoving match more than an actual fistfight. Teachers intervene in a flash—which would never have happened if I'd waited until we boarded the bus—and off we go to the principal's office.
I wonder how the principal even knows me—I'm such a quiet kid—but I'm glad he's smart enough to believe me. He calls her parents in and then suspends her. He calls my parents, too, and I go home without a suspension.
The next day, I go back and have to face her group, but they don't lay a hand on me. I know it's partly because I stood up for myself, and partly because the principal backed me up and suspended her. Still, I have to live with their whispers and the dirty looks they send my way. Looks filled with hate, and I know that if they ever have the chance and find me alone outside of school, I'm in deep trouble.
It's a terrible time. One of the worst in my life. Fear and worry are my constant companions, since I never know for sure if the group will lie in wait for me. I keep hoping the few friends I have will stand by me, but they're just as scared as I am.
One day, I have a flash of inspiration. Why not just transfer to another school next year? Relief washes through me and I know that I've found a way of coping with the bullies. I smile, knowing that if I can just make it until May, I might actually live long enough to attend high school.
[Author's note: Traveling a few miles of life's road with bullies taught me a great deal. I've never allowed bullying in any class I've taught, nor stood by and watched as it happened on the street ... which, as my hubby will tell you, sometimes gets him into hot water in my defense.
In my next post I'd like to share concepts with you that might help your children avoid being targeted by bullies, and to give suggestions on what to do if those steps don't cure the problem.]
------ "Coping with the Bullies, Part 1" © Cindy Beck, 2011------
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