By Sarah Naron
In response to a recent article on the topic of bullying, a reader of The Messenger took time to provide her opinion and personal experiences with the subject.
The reader is a former employee of an East Texas elementary school, where she spent 10 years working with students in the special education program.
“There was a lot of bullying – a whole lot of it,” she recalled. “I didn’t cut any slack with them (the bullies); I just told them – to me, a bully is insecure.”
Aside from what she witnessed as an educator, bullying is a subject which the reader said she unfortunately “dealt with my whole life.
“Back in the day, I was a preacher’s kid,” she said. “And when you were a preacher’s kid, you were labeled and ridiculed.”
The reader explained that her parents had four other children and were unsure of how to deal with the bullying.
“They were kind of like some of the teachers – they didn’t want to (deal with it),” she explained. “So, we kind of had to grow up hard knocks.”
As the reader explained, a large part of the bullying she experienced as a child was centered around the fact that “I looked like an Indian.
“I had one boy come up and cut a big hank of my hair out and was running around,” she remembered. “That was in high school.”
Bullying was also an issue faced by the reader’s two children during their time in school.
“I never got to see them graduate,” she revealed. “They quit school. My daughter did right before she graduated – she came home, and she said, ‘Mama, I can’t take it no more; I’ve had enough.”
The reader explained that other girls “ganged up on” her daughter.
“We were poor, and my kids weren’t able to wear the best of stuff,” she explained. “And it caused a lot of problems.”
When her children were in school, the reader offered to meet with the teachers to discuss the situation, an offer she has made in the present day to her grandchildren.
“(They said), ‘Oh, no, please, it’ll just make things worse,’” she said. “And that’s sad. It really is sad whenever they feel that way.”
The reader also recalled being approached by female students who would confide in her during her tenure as a teacher’s aide.
“They would talk to me about things that were going on at home,” she explained. “They’re getting it from here at school, and then, they go home to the same thing.’”
Despite being encouraged not to intervene, the reader did her best to do so.
“Whenever I’d have kids start acting up and shoving somebody around or making fun of them, I would just tell them, ‘You know what? Everybody has something wrong with them. Nobody’s perfect. We all have something that’s not right with us,’” she said. “And that kind of shut them down a lot.”
The reader reported that the girls with whom she interacted have gone on to lead fulfilling lives despite their experiences.
“They’re proud of themselves. You can tell that they have really stepped above it,” she said. “And that’s what I always told them. I said, ‘I don’t care what they say to you. You are you. God made you like you are, and there’s a reason. You hold your head up, and you be proud, no matter what anybody else says.’”
The reader acknowledged that bullying behavior makes it difficult for victims to take pride in themselves, despite their efforts.
“It was hard when you have somebody that’s dressed to the nines and comes in there and flaunts it and then makes rude remarks about a child that has the best that they have,” she said. “I would just shake my head at them, and I’d look at them and say, ‘Really? You know, that’s not right. Just because your parents are able to get you what you want…some families would rather eat instead of have their kind of clothing.”
The reader expressed her belief that things in schools have changed little over the past decades as far as bullying is concerned.
“It doesn’t matter who you are – you leave people be,” she said. “There’s no sense in that.”
Another example the reader provided of bullying was the plight of a special-ed student who suffered from seizures, which often occurred while the students were in P.E. class.
“When it (a seizure) happened, it happened right then,” she explained. “I’d run over there, and the coach – he acted like he didn’t want to fool with her.”
The reader explained that she would send another student to notify the school nurse of the issue while she took care of the seizing student.
“I’d put her head in my lap and turn her sideways,” she said. “Of course, she’d lose all of her bodily functions and was just humiliated. They (the other students) would laugh at her, and I was just like, ‘Y’all come over here and help me.’ That’s what I made them do.
“I said, ‘She has something in her brain that she can’t control,’” the reader said. “And finally, it kind of kicked in, and it got to where whenever she would have a seizure, other kids would notice it, and they would go to her.”
Other students, however, would continue to ridicule the student rather than help.
“She would cry about it, and I said, ‘You know, they’re not right, anyway,’” she said. “And she’d start laughing.”
The student “grew up to be a fine young woman,” and her seizures eventually got to be controlled well through medical intervention, explained the reader.
In addition to being an aide, the reader also served as a school bus driver.
“They called me the bus driver from Hell,” she remembered laughingly. “But I didn’t allow anything going on. I didn’t allow the picking on the kids and stuff like that.”
The reader recalled that she occasionally received complaints from parents as a result of her no-nonsense approach.
“I would tell them, ‘Well, you know, little Johnny was making fun and picking at a kid. I’m trying to drive, and taking my eyes off the road to correct him was dangerous for everybody,’” she said.
The lack of respect the reader witnessed in students prompted her to leave her position as a driver.
“Kids have no respect anymore,” she said. “They have no respect for you, me, or anything. It’s all about them. And it’s a shame. It’s just a shame that it’s happening like this. There’s no consequences anymore.”
The reader expressed her desire to see more intervention on the part of teachers and other adults who see it happen.
“I’ve seen one teacher, in particular, who would take them up and hug them and talk to them,” she said. “And sometimes, that’s all it takes. Just somebody letting them know they care.”
Sarah Naron may be reached via email at email@example.com.