|Eric and Wendy on "SouthPark"|
As I tell my story below, I want to clarify that this is not a recommendation for others to deal with this problem. I’ve seen many come forward with ideas in schools and social settings for kids in ways to combat this disturbing problem that makes childhood more difficult than it is already. I commend these efforts for fighting bullying. I was bullied in grade school and this is my story:
In a small rural school where I attended, the vast majority of the kids were lower middle class to poverty level. Our parents knew each other’s parents, our brothers and sisters knew each other’s siblings, so when I began first grade I was already “known” to most of the kids and teachers by other family members in the small community. Being the youngest of three, I was a loud, obnoxious kid.
I don’t recall the bullying to be a problem until I reached the third grade: The day I walked in to the classroom wearing glasses. Call me Piggy in “Lord of the Flies.” “Four eyes” was used in place of my name. By the sixth grade I was at the top of the class grade-wise. As my reading level excelled, so did the teacher’s delight, and so escalated the bullying. I had zero athletic ability so physical education made a favorite time for laughs at me jogging at the end of a line.
In the cafeteria, I’d get nudged while trying to carry something, and everyone had a laugh if I dropped something. Kids took to making fun of my family, already troubled at home. I wasn’t spoken to by my first name, it was my first and last always, like I was a stranger. Girls sneaked behind me, untying bows in my hair and my dresses, and then pointing out to the boys for a snicker. I was told that God didn’t love me and I was going to hell. My situation wasn’t helped by my mother constantly telling me not to react to others for fear of me getting into fights.
Then my life changed in the eighth grade: My parents separated and I found out I was moving away for high school. The time had come to bring down the bullies.
As expected, for one of my classes, one of the typical bullyboys jerked the desk away, snarling that I couldn’t sit there. That was it. I jerked the desk back and said something terrible.
I told him he was dumb.
The shock on the guy’s face shocked me. So I kept on. Out loud, where all was in earshot, I asked him why he was in the eighth grade and couldn’t read any better than he could. He tried “I can read as good as you,” then I whipped open my book, and he sat silent. Another bully chimed in across the aisle to his defense, saying the same. I pointed and called out his academic shortcomings as well. Before the bell rang for class to start, everyone knew that I’d had enough of the bullies.
The snickers continued, but from a different group of students. The teachers didn’t interfere. The bullies were silenced forever.
At the end of the year, I got a certificate for the highest grade in Junior High. Then we moved, and I wasn’t bullied again. And I never told another person he/she was dumb.
I believe when a group of kids find insecurity in another, they find identity by ganging up on the isolated child. Like other circumstances of abuse, it escalates, and in these days of social media the escalation can go much further than it did as described above. I hope the efforts being made these days makes for a better childhood for so many that go through this sad experience.