author C.C.Cole's blog

Thursday, March 22, 2012

On Bringing Down the Bullies

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.


  1. I am sure that many of us have been bullied and forced to stand up for ourselves. My mother also taught me not to fight back. One day I literally did fight back. There is only so much any of us can take before we must defend our personhood. Cruelty is less than intelligent behaviour, even though many highly intelligent people indulge in it.

  2. I don't think you should be hard on yourself at all. I agree with Niamh too. Normally (as a rule), I myself used to stand for quite a bit of bullying at school too, and occasionally I would have had more than enough. Then I'd blow a fuse... but afterwards I'd have shocked those kids completely and they wouldn't bother me again. Without going too deeply into scenarios, I think sometimes needs must...

  3. You may not be proud of what you did, but I am! In fact, I think you were being kind compared to what I would have liked to say. Some people (read: bullies) only retreat when put down, and if it gets them to stop abusing people, the put-downs are worth every syllable. One thing I've noticed, is that bullies can usually dish it out just fine, but when the tables are turned, fall apart. Until they grow up or get help, we have to deal with them any which way that works!

  4. Bullying is an epidemic that continues to break my heart. I'm glad that you stood up for yourself as many just don't know where to start. I know this because I was bullied from elementary school well until my freshman year of high school. Like yourself, I was the smart kid and had mostly honors and AP classes. But in classrooms like Spanish and Art as well as periods such as lunch and gym, I was terrified of what the other kids would say about me or how they would humiliate me. If it was this bad 20 years ago, I can't imagine how it is now.
    When I visit the children for school author visits, I try my best to encourage kindness and the support of others and their ideas; to work together and help each other. I just feel like there is so much we, as adults, could do if we banded together. I worry about my niece almost every single day, especially around this time, when she is getting ready to go to school. I wonder how the kids will treat her and how she will react. Times have changed but we must stand up for the kids who are afraid to have their voices heard. Thanks for sharing this and being one more person who truly cares.