Saturday, June 23, 2012
As I have written here before, I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up. I trained and got an education to be a teacher, graduating in 1974, but then could never find a teaching job. I'm sure my weight held me back somewhat, although I wasn't as big back then, as I ultimately ended up being, I do remember some kids making mean comments about my weight, during the year I spent as a Teacher Aide right after graduating from college. I was in the 5th and 6th grade team, and of course kids that age are very aware of anyone who is different and many of them like to point it out.
This latest episode with the school bus monitor being bullied by the middle-school boys, that has gone viral is so very sad. I saw a tape of one of the fathers going to the woman who had been bullied, and apologizing. I thought to myself, "Where is the son? He is the one who needs to apologize." Parents always act so clueless when they find out their child has been a bully. I suppose we all participated in bullying at some point in our lives. I remember when I was a sophomore in high school, there was a young man in the class below me, who had some mental challenges. For some reason, one day, after arriving to Sophomore English class early, I noticed one of this boy's papers crumpled up in the trash. Of course he was not there--my bullying wasn't direct. I pulled the paper out of the trash, and my friends and I laughed at his attempts to write. The teacher quickly caught on and firmly reprimanded me, telling me it was none of my business. For some reason, that comment got through to me, and for the rest of my life, I remembered it and have had a lot more empathy for people who aren't in the cookie-cutter mold of the rest of the world. Then when I became morbidly obese, I was even more empathetic, realizing that NOW I was the ONE who could be the target for bullies.
And that is why I never pursued teaching again after that year spent as an Aide. I just got fatter and fatter and knew I could not put myself up in front of that group of children who were ready to judge me and were not afraid to speak about that judgment. Losing the weight has once again opened up my dream of teaching for me. I did get a chance to do a half day of substitute teaching before school let out this spring and it was FUN! It was extremely stressful and scary but I also enjoyed it. I was working with a 4th grade group, they changed at one point when we went from Math to Social Studies, but there was one heavy-set girl who was in both groups. She told me the Math group I had was advanced, that's why she was in there. And she did get her assignments done quickly, which seemed to free her up to spend time with me. She wanted to be my helper, and for obvious reasons, I had a special affinity for her and allowed her to do so. I guess I identified with her--the chubby smart girl, with a need to please. That was me!
I am still at home recuperating from my hysterectomy which was a month ago now. I feel great and could probably return to work, but am happily spending these last two weeks at home, until my check-up where my doctor will clear me to return to work, trying to get the house organized for that inevitable return to work. I also hope to do more substitute teaching when school starts again in August. I think this time off work has proven to me that I can FILL my days without over-eating, I CAN still go out and walk every day and I can MAINTAIN my weight while staying at home all day long. That was important to me. So---on Jan. 1, 2013, when I will turn 62, I believe I have decided I WILL retire from the secretarial position I have held for the last 35 years. I am ready to start a new phase of my life, and hopefully that will include doing some teaching, a dream I had given up 38 years ago, partly due to my obesity, but can now embrace without FEAR!
I don't know what the answer to bullying is. I know I have always said the teachers need to do more to prevent it. I think parents are also responsible. I'm glad there is a national campaign to squelch bullying, awareness is the first step in preventing it. I have a little 6-year-old grandson who is an Albino. He looks different, he can't see well, in short he doesn't fit that cookie-cutter mold of normalcy. But he is perfect to me, and I have worried about bullying since the day he was born. I can only pray he doesn't have to endure too much of it as he goes through his school years. I have read so many stories of other children with Albinism, who have said that the middle school years are just torture. That isn't right. But it is a fact of life.
At least with my obesity, it was within my control to change. I think perhaps this is why obesity is such a target for bullying. But to bully someone who has a condition that is no fault of their own, is just cruel. Well all bullying is cruel. I learned that. I hope someday the whole world will learn that.