Bullies

Posted: December 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year, beloved. I’m kind of sorry to see 2014 go. It was a fine year for me-two books published, good health, good friends, a fine church and with a notable exception or two, a good neighborhood to live in. If any of you are looking for a great home town, my town, Geneva, is very difficult to beat.
So I’m counting my blessings today. I really had a kind of slow Christmas. Jacqi was and remains sick with some sort of flu, so we were all alone on the day of the Lord’s birth. I did a lot of writing, and re-read my Jazz and Ella book, which just came out. If you want one, let me know and we’ll make arrangements.
But not all my thoughts are positive. A central point in this book is school bullies: the main character, Jazz, has to confront his fears about being bullied at his junior high. Three thugs torment him, and he has to face them and get past the fears they inspired.
Obviously, this is a retelling of something that happened to me. Most of the ghastly bullying I endured in 7th grade is part of this story.
There were two eighth graders who were the principal actors in this psychodrama. One of them, Alan Thomas, was a little smaller than I, and Bill Kiddoo, his confederate, was even smaller. Alan even spat in my face, in addition to violently abusive teasing and cruelty.
Having grown up in a well mannered, peaceful family, I was unprepared for their cruelty. I had no way of knowing how to deal with their vicious, thuggish behavior. I still don’t know how to deal with it. I have no frame of reference for violence, really, and most of us do not. That is what makes bullying such an egregious crime: it is perpetrated on people who have not the slightest idea of how to deal with it.
Nor is the librarian who stood by and allowed this to go on without culpability in this matter. Her name was Hurley, I remember, and I began the year being cheerful and upbeat. By the time September was over, I was terrified, bewildered and confused.
When I became a teacher, I was death on bullies. I always told my classes: “If someone bullies you, come and tell me, and I’ll deal with it. No one has the right to push you around, abuse you, call you names or frighten you. Let me help.” And I had several occasions to deal with such things throughout my career. In several cases, it was simply a matter of the bullies not being aware of the effect their teasing was having on someone else and the situation was easily rectified. One or two had to be dealt with through the police, to be sure, but mercifully that was rare. I remember on one occasion, I spoke to a mother who told me that if the school didn’t help her son, her husband was prepared to give the boy a weapon.
So I survived to help out, and even to write this blog which I hope will lead to some dialog about bullying. Read my book, too–it has something of an essay on the subject.
One word of advice: parents, make sure that if your child is the victim of bullying, he/she knows that you need to hear about it. Talk about how the youngsters do not need to suffer at the hands of others. Schools have a responsibility in this area. Make sure that they do, and that they give their students tools and permissions to deal with bullies. The re-start of the school year is a good time to deal with it.

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