He was a tall boy for his age, chubby with youth, dark frizzy hair contained in a fashionable shape. His clothes, a little big, a tad bigger than the style, allowing I believe, for the growth spurts that follow a fifth grader around.
He started with a bang, first day, smart mouth, sly eyes. He never was where he hit someone, He never said the words others said he said.
The other students said He talked tough, but always blamed everyone but Himself whenever it was time to pay the price of mischief.
So it was no surprise when He saw a new target, someone who was different from anyone else He’s known. Someone who He’s been taught in the past it was easy to manipulate.
So on the day He started His attacks, He was looking for a way to start, a reason. After all, He could not be the one who started anything. At least verbally.
Looks. Snorts. Very quiet comments about parentage. So much so the entire class was seething at His carefully placed insults. Unsuspecting, the teacher moved Him. He was moved exactly where He wanted to be moved.
hen He started for real. Comments about how funny that person spoke, how fat that person was, how stupid everything was that person did. How useless and unimportant what that person had to offer was. Also comments about complexion were made, bordering on racism.
He was warned, He was given chances. A school is supposed to be a place where everyone should feel safe. A place where everyone has a chance to learn, grow, and to do so without hindrance.
Bullies who distract from everyone’s chance to learn cannot be tolerated. Bullies who make students feel learning is unimportant and unnecessary should be stopped.
As to the one bullied? They feel disrespected, unimportant, sad, angry…
Would you be surprised to learn that He was bullying me, the adult, the teacher?
So as His teacher, the custodian of His and other’s learning, I wrote Him up for class disruption, noted He was saying these things to the teacher, and sent Him out to a designated classroom to work for the rest of class.
At the end of the day (my planning is in the morning), I called the parent contact information on file, which turned out to be a disconnected line.
Confident in my attempts, I left a note with the secretary about needing an updated parent contact for Him and went home.
2 weeks pass, and I am called upfront because a parent wishes to see me.
There I am given a tale about how my student was being bullied and harassed all class. How I sat behind my desk and told the student repeatedly to “deal with it,” and “I don’t care.” Only to finally write Him up in anger because He, ” got so aggravating.”
I had to counter. This isn’t some playground brawl. He is trying to jeopardize my job. A teacher who ignores bullying? Who doesn’t care?
My desk for one, is in a separate locked room. I’m not just a music teacher, I’m the band teacher. I have poisonous substances, flammable substances, sharp tools and knives, all for fixing instruments. Due to this, a lot (not all) of band directors have separate locked offices to repair instruments. I have tables in my classroom. Certainly. Desks? No.
I further explained events and that my biggest concern was the classroom disruption. My principal was more concerned about the disrespect of a staff member.
The parent seemed focused on my inability to protect Her son from bullies. Which, during my class, there had been only one bully. Impossible! She would not comment on His behavior towards me.
The student received punishment, and that was seemingly that.
The student was removed from my class.
Weeks pass. The Bully brings a knife to school. To hurt someone. He is suspended Two Weeks with a pending investigation.
I am once again summoned to the office, days after the incident. Puzzled, I reason, perhaps I am a character witness? I no longer teach Him, what can I say?
I am ushered into the meeting room.
I am faced with board members, multiple adults important to The Bully, and the principal.
Once again, I am asked to tell the information from the event. Why I sent Him out.
Ma’am I find it hard to believe that a child can bully an adult.
A board member says.
“Harassment. She accuses my baby of harassment. My child!” The vividly purple adult charges.
What to say? Can an adult be bullied by a child, harassed? Are we not supposed to write-up students who disrupt learning environments?
I did not complain about the words said about me, only that He led the class into dysfunction by them. Yes of course they were in the report, you need to know why a student is ejected from a class, losing a chance to learn from the source of information. The write-up was not listed as “disrespect to an adult,” the write-up clearly stated disruption.
This school is a hostile environment towards my son, can’t you see that?
Possibly. But am I the reason?
I am accused and hollered at, called “this lady,” though my name was said to her many times, all sorts of things. Then I am sent back. I start to think.
This kid had intent to stab someone. Maybe He understood there would be blood and possibly death. Maybe He didn’t really understand. What if He decides to bring a knife or gun next time?
These thoughts circled.
But also I thought this young man who feels persecuted, may be in too deep with this negative behavior. Maybe He realizes this now. Maybe He’ll change.
Problem is, taking that chance. Picture being told an aggressive child, who does not always get along with others, and obviously has access to weapons is under your care for 5 or more hours a week. Would you take that risk?
Let me clarify, teachers on the whole are not trained in self-defense, or restraining methods. Our officer who is at school twice a week is. Office staff maybe… Not usually us. It is not an on the job hazard teachers are made to understand in school. It’s not a contract we sign. It’s not apart of an understanding. Teachers are there to teach, not dodge weapons and be bullied.
I thought on all of this. Talked with teachers, students and friends. The only think I could reconcile was my feelings. I went to the principal. I explained that I understood the risk of having him in my room. I felt reasonably safe in my size and ability to move myself quickly. I also know how to block knives in 3 ways. (Woohoo after school martial arts programs!) I’ll take him back.
He was in my class his first day back. I gave him a big hug and had assigned seats all semester. We worked on him interrupting, on him being disrespectful on how to raise his hand before speaking.
Eventually, he stopped picking on almost everyone during class and I am told that I’m his favorite teacher.
He still gets into plenty of trouble, still lies, still threatens to get physical but he’s not the same boy.
Maybe it was the knowledge I was confident in the facts. Maybe it was the idea of me standing up to everyone. Maybe it was that hug. Who knows?
I hope he stays reformed this new semester, in his new resource class!
Can bullies change? I hope so.
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