When I was young, I was bullied. I don’t really talk about it much because, hey, it’s not something that’s exactly fun to talk about. There were any one of a number of reasons I was bullied, though none of them are exactly valid: I played videogames, I wore glasses, I was socially awkward, I was good with computers, there were certain subjects I excelled at, my dad was never really around, etc.
As a side note, I don’t blame my dad for the bullying. At all. No, I blame people for being shit. What people? Everyone. Well, that narrows it down, doesn’t it? Let me explain. I blame the teachers and administration in general. They knew there was bullying and they didn’t really do anything about it. But when did the bullying start? Second grade.
Let me clarify: the bullying started because 2 things were realized in second grade. First, I was diagnosed with ADHD. It is very hard for me to focus on certain tasks and often I have to re-read or re-process information a few times to really get it. For a lot of people, they assume ADHD doesn’t exist because everyone has that “one subject” or two that they absolutely can’t stand and had a hard time figuring out.
No see, we have that too. What I mean is everything is boring, everything is uninteresting, and only a small group of things are genuinely entertaining to us and can hold our attention for more than 5 minutes. It’s not because we don’t care, because we really do. It’s not that we’re lazy, though often that might become the end result because we just give up.
ADHD also leads to an unfortunate amount of social awkwardness because we don’t necessarily like or engage in the same likes or dislikes that other people are involved in because we’re so flaky that we just zip from one thing to another. The second thing that happened? I was given an eye exam (not sure why this occurred so late in my schooling) and diagnosed with extreme nearsightedness.
Oh, but I didn’t want just ANY glasses; I wanted RED glasses! Why? I don’t know. I couldn’t tell you what I was thinking or why. I probably wasn’t because, oh hey, I get glasses, whatever, let’s make them flashy. This isn’t something a kid with ADHD would really spend more than 5 seconds thinking about. So yes, I was picked on and bullied.
In the second grade especially, I fought back and beat the hell out of people. The problem is I was bullied enough that it got to the point that they knew my triggers. Unfortunately, EVERYTHING became a trigger and I pretty much got into a fight every day if not multiple times a day. Did the administration do anything about this? Yes. I got spanked, missed recess, and got nasty notes sent home with me.
This did absolutely nothing to stop the behavior and it partially continued into the third grade. It got bad enough that we all knew how to play the system and formed mini-gangs. If I was caught and had to miss recess, that’s okay, I would tell the other members who snitched and needs the shit beat out of them. The violence did not stop.
What does this have to do with bullying? Let me ask…if I wasn’t bullied in the first place, would this have happened? Would I ever have been a part of it to begin with? Probably not. And while the reasons for being bullied in the first place were petty, keep in mind that this was the second grade. Some kids don’t stop being petty until…well, ever.
Well into adulthood I’ve heard some ridiculous reasons that people have gotten into fights. Some of them I can sort of side with, but others are too ridiculous for words. This did eventually slow down for me. In the fourth and sixth grade, I got into one fight that I remember for each. The administration was still shit for handling it and it took me not wanting to fight to really end it…and unfortunately that did not stop the bullying.
I had a near death experience on my 13th birthday on the summer just before I was to enter seventh grade and enter high school. I had appendicitis and while details from my mother are kind of sketchy about whether or not my appendix actually exploded or not, I do know that I was in the hospital for 3 weeks, have massive scars in my lower abdominals, and had all kinds of tubes inside me the entire time I was in the hospital to drain abscess.
It’s a freak show, for sure. That left me wanting more out of life, but still being highly socially awkward. I joined the band. That didn’t help. I joined wrestling. That REALLY didn’t help because nobody accepted me, which led to me being messed with that much more. I still stuck it out for 3 years of each, but ended up bored with band and not feeling like I was making any real progress with wrestling, so I quit both.
In the interim, I was bullied and tormented by several kids. Did the administration do anything about it? No. Actually, one of the kids was the secretary’s son and absolutely NOTHING was ever done about his actions. Despite all the foul treatment, I got into only three fights in high school. Pay attention because this is why I don’t trust teachers, faculty, or administration in schools.
I was playing basketball indoors with a couple of friends and their friends who I did not know. I stole the ball from one of their friends, he got frustrated, fouled me, picked up the ball, and threw it at my head. He missed and I laughed because, well, it was petty and dumb. He hit me. Actually, he hit me 3 times. It took me a moment to realize what was going on because I literally had not been in a fight for about 6 years at that point.
When I realized what was going on, I kicked him right in the balls, lifting him up off the floor. And yet, that had no effect, he kept coming at me. Just as it looked like it was going to get worse and I was about to ask him if he had any balls, a teacher broke up the fight. Now, chalk it up to me being flaky or just assuming it was done, but I proceeded to get on my shoes and start calmly leaving the gymnasium, assuming nothing was wrong.
I was wrong. The teacher ORDERED me to go to the office. Okay, fine. I go there and this asshole lies through his teeth to the vice principal. I attempt to be civil, not raise a ruckus, and explain what really happened. This guy kept saying I was lying and all this different stuff. I ASSUMED that because I was keeping a calm demeanor and explained myself clearly that everything was fine, but no, apparently the vice principal took his word for it…his word being that I was aggressive toward him and started the fight.
So we were both sent to Saturday school and banned from the gymnasium for a month. Okay, whatever. I went to Saturday school, then the next week personally observed him going into the gymnasium on a regular basis. Was anything done about this? No. Did anyone do anything about kids that stole my assignments that I had turned in AT THE TEACHER’S DESKS when they also had cameras installed in their rooms recently? No.
A lot of people want to raise bullying awareness, but nobody stops to think about how bullying starts or why it continues. Bullying can start for any one of a number of reasons. I admit that in elementary school I was a bully. I became a bully because I was overly sensitive about literally everything and my response was violence. Every time. Without fail. Like clockwork.
It was easily exploitable and the other kids knew this, so they manipulated me, but that did NOT mean that I should have done what I did. I didn’t like hurting other people. I reacted based on how I was being treated and it almost always inevitably ended in me getting in trouble. But the punishment did not work. Teachers, faculty, and administration was extra hard on me without really trying to find the underlying cause.
Yes, bullying is wrong. However, without really trying to figure out WHY, we are lost. Think about it like this. Let’s say you have a kid and he’s a messy eater. You decide you’ve had enough, so every time you see him drop a speck of food, you slap his hand. I’m not saying you would actually do this; this is entirely hypothetical.
The behavior doesn’t stop. It gets bad enough that he sometimes goes to bed with bruises on his hands. At this point, you should, rationally speaking, ask yourself if the punishment is really doing anything and if there are alternatives. Well, WAY before this point, but you see what I’m saying. Obviously the punishment is not working. I would even go on to say that perhaps he can’t hold his food correctly because of all the smacking, which is causing his hands to very obviously drop food and therefore more smacking.
The point is you are not learning the cause of the behavior nor are you deterring further instances of it with the punishment you have selected. Also, is this punishable behavior? Is there a way around it? It’s one thing if the kid is a klutz and drops just about everything he puts in his mouth with more of it ending up in the floor instead of his belly.
However, it’s another thing if it happens once, maybe twice during a meal and you’ve simply gotten it into yourself that this will not stand. Let’s go back to what the administration did to try to quell the behavior in elementary school: spanking, missed recesses, different cards (red or yellow or whatever), and nasty notes sent home to the parents.
First of all, most administrations could not get away with physical discipline anymore. I don’t know, maybe Catholic schools, but I can’t personally speak for them. Second, it has been proven that recesses provide more good than simply a way to unwind and play for children, so limiting or taking away recesses actually stifles them in the long run.
The card system simply does not work. You would think it would in that your card is on display with everyone else’s and you have to try hard to keep yours from becoming soiled by bad behavior, but if the entire class doesn’t care, then they just don’t care. Finally, at least back in those days, teachers weren’t clever enough to follow up with parents, so you could just as easily toss those notes in the trash.
So what’s the solution? I don’t know. I know, it’s a major letdown, but I literally do not have all the answers. What we are doing now does not work, so let’s talk about something else that does not work: zero tolerance. The idea is if your kid is found fighting in school, that’s it, they’re out. That’s the idea, anyway. In actual practice there is still a highly subjective second chance system where it’s more about treating each event as its own occurrence rather than part of a whole, which sounds good at first, but ultimately isn’t.
As a parent, if my kid gets in a fight, I want to know that BOTH children are getting equally disciplined regardless of which kid started it. Yeah, it’s one thing if another kid is sitting there minding his own business and mine walks up and starts wailing on him. That’s not cool and in the event that the teacher actually catches all that, you better believe I want serious discipline on my kid, but not so much for the other one.
The problem with zero tolerance is what school actually IS for kids. It’s a lot of things. School is a way for kids to socialize with other kids their age, learn a LOT of things, interact with and learn from adults about things that aren’t necessarily school-related (how adults talk, how adults interact with other adults, how adults interact with children, etc.), and in general they have something to DO.
Kids get bored. Easily. Constantly. Sure, a solid education isn’t exactly the first thing on most kids’ minds, but it’s important. So when your response to strife between students is an immediate “FUCK YOU YOU’RE OUT,” you aren’t helping. First of all, yes, there are going to be bad eggs, but why are they bad eggs? People aren’t bad just because they’re bad.
Yeah, there are a variety of forms of mental illness, but that’s not really what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about kids who are fucking miserable and put up a strong front to guard what’s really going on in their lives. I’m talking about kids who don’t have to be bullies, but are for one reason or another. There are a lot of things I’ve wanted to do to my bullies over the years and absolutely none of them are constructive.
If anything, I just hope they’re living good, positive lives. And no, I’m not saying that because I’m holier than thou or whatever. It more has to do with the idea that I don’t enjoy hurting people and unless they are complete sociopaths, they probably feel the same. I honestly don’t know the real reasons they bullied me. I certainly gave them enough ammunition, but the presence of an easy target doesn’t necessitate the act of bullying.