Monday, December 17, 2012
I know, bullies aren't in the news right now. Right now we're focused on 20 innocent children who were senselessly killed before they had a chance to grow up, and their heroic teachers who died trying to save them. This might be the saddest incident like this yet. As much as I want to ignore the person who did this, I do want to know his motivation. WHY WHY WHY? I also do not want people to remember his name or what he looked like....I want those who died to be the ones who live in our memories. I know they will live forever in the memories of all those who loved them. When I think about all the wonderful things those sweet babies will miss in life, it saddens me, and I know I can't even begin to comprehend the grief of their parents and other loved ones. So horribly sad.
But what I wanted to write about was children who bully. Sometimes this behavior is unconscious. When I substitute taught last Wednesday, I was a reading interventionist. I worked with small groups of kids (3-5), for 30 minutes at a time. I love doing this, it is my third time substituting for this teacher, this time she even requested me. It was my first time to sub ALL day, every job I've had up until now was for half a day, but since I knew I liked being a reading interventionist, I took a day of vacation from my real job and spent a full day at school. The first two groups I worked with were comprised of first-grade kids. Since I had only subbed in the afternoon before, these morning groups were all new to me. But once again, these small groups of kids were charming, and very engaged in the work we were doing. They put forth a lot of effort and did not constantly try to do anything other than stay on task. This is what I've noticed about substituting in a regular classroom, the kids are always trying to find something else to do, anything other than what they're supposed to be doing. Drives me crazy!
But these first two groups went through their list of sight words, spoke them aloud, spelled them and read sentences they wrote with the words. They were wonderful!
At 9:30 a group of five second-graders came in to my room. Once again, they were a bright, charming group, and all of them except for one little boy who was upset that his regular teacher was gone, gave maximum effort. But right away, one little girl noticed my "waddle." It is the extra flesh that remains on my neck, the remnants of my double chin. I am always so jealous of women when I see their "after" pictures and their faces are so slim and beautiful. I am left with my "waddle," there is no way to hide it, and it is so ugly. I try to tell myself it isn't noticeable, but when little kids point it out, once again, all my insecurity about my appearance flares up. This little second-grade girl wanted to know what my waddle was. First I told her it was extra skin, because I was old. Then one of the little boys wanted to "touch it." I let him. "OOOOHHHH!" he said, repulsed. This wasn't helping my self-confidence at all. The little girl again asked, "What is it?" I finally told her that I used to be fat, and when I lost weight, the "waddle" remained. We went on with our lesson and I thought the kids had forgotten all about my less than perfect appearance. Then I noticed the two little girls in the group, giggling, and whispering to each other. Everytime I raised my arms, they would laugh and point. Finally I realized they were laughing at my bat-wing upper arms. I had them covered with a sweater, but it was clinging and white, and so when I raised my arms to hold up their sight words so they could read them, the batwings were obviously flapping about. I never said anything. But I was humiliated.
I told hubby about it later. I said they were just "Mean girls being MEAN!" (That is a quote from my favorite TV show of all time, Friends--Rachel was mad becuase Chandler & Joey had won the girl's apartment in a bet they made and she got frustrated and said, "You're just mean boys being.....MEAN!") And then I realized those girls were bullies, perhaps not even knowing that their behavior was mean and of a bullying-nature, but that is exactly what they were!
Then I realized I had missed an important teaching moment by ignoring their behavior. I should have stopped and pointed out that they were laughing at me. I should have explained to them that their laughing made me feel bad. I should have told them how we all have imperfections in our appearance and it hurts terribly when others point them out and LAUGH at them. I should have reminded them about being KIND, and how laughing at other people was "BULLYING." I know they all have been told not to BULLY! I think my ignoring their bad behavior was probably because for so many years I was aware that people laughed at me, because of my obesity, and my reaction then was to ignore it. I was too humiliated to fight back. I think that's why those three women whose server wrote on their restaurant tab, "Fat Girls," and they pointed it out and called him on it, amazed me. I never had the chutzpah to do that. I always wanted to fade into the background of obscurity and NOT be noticed. That is impossible when you weigh 328 lbs., but that's what I wanted. So last week when I got made fun of for my appearance it brought back all those old feelings, those old insecurities and the self-loathing I had for myself for so many years. But in ignoring their behavior I missed my chance to teach them that bullying is never appropriate behavior, making fun of others based on their appearance is never acceptable and they needed to learn about being KIND to others always!
If any of you have suggestions in how I could have handled this situation better, please share them with me. I am new at this teaching thing and LOVE it when people offer me ideas on how to improve. Someone wrote last week that their teacher/mother used to talk more quietly, the louder the kids got and it worked to quiet the kids down. I'm going to try that--it makes sense to me! So any ideas you've got--let me know! I can use 'em!