*Encouragement is the best medicine to give someone. If I were to pick any gift to have in helping others, that would be the one*

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

How Bullying Breaks the Spirit

When my kids come to me about bullying at school.  I listen.

I remember what it felt like to go to school, to have the staring. the jeers, to have my life be threatened.  It hurt real bad.  It wasn't because of my hair or my clothes. But for my faith.

I am sitting in the middle of my sisters
 I was raised Christian and my parents decided early on to not have a TV in our house.  People blamed it on our religion but many Christians have TV's.  My parents just decided they had seen enough and didn't want that influence in our life. Well, that went out along with FM radio.  Back then, everything we cared to listen to was on the AM station.  Christian radio and News talk.  I loved Christian radio and really didn't have any desire to to listen to what I had to hear on my bus rides to and from school.  The bus driver wanted to make everyone happy  by letting them listen to whatever they liked. The music was full of sex and violence. It wasn't appealing to me but actually made me cringe.

Elementary school was great.  I had friends, was popular, was the type that always pulled the new kids to me so they'd feel comfortable.  Life was good.  Then we moved.  I was the new kid and that's when it started.  The bullying, the hurtful words. The new girl was up for bullying. Later, the more boys showed me they liked me and gave me attention, the more the girls turned on me.  I always told the boys I was taken.  It was partially true.  My daddy had my heart and I didn't need a boy to give me that attention.

Once I reached middle school the bullying escalated and got worse. Word got out that I didn't have a TV and couldn't listen to whatever on the radio. It made it worse when we had to do TV reports.  Whatever happened to book reports?  Why couldn't I do that?  I still love book reports.  ;)  I was a book worm and my sisters and I could be found hiding under our blankets at night with a flashlight to finish a book.  Pretty soon the principal found out I didn't have a TV so they decided I was abused and needed to see the school counselor.  It started to creep in my head that maybe I DID have it really bad.  I SHOULD feel sorry for myself.  The bullying escalated and now I feared coming to school.  I was a freak and it grew worse as boys started to show more attention.

My favorite years in elementary school
Then to make matters worse, at the end of 8th grade I found out I had flunked.  Flunked 8th grade?  How?  The school said I did however and had to repeated it.  By the second year of 8th grade I had lost my love of learning.  I used to be an honor roll student and I began to just let things slide.  I felt really stupid.  I loved music class however and enjoyed playing the flute, piccolo, alto sax, and the tenor sax.  My grades soared with music.  But as soon as I walked out of that class and into the groups of students walking around, my shoulders slouched.  By the end of my second year of 8th grade I couldn't take it anymore and I had to question the office as to why I had to repeat 8th grade.  Their response?  "What?  Let me see the records.  Oh, you should have never repeated the 8th grade.  That was a mistake.  Why didn't you say something?"  Argh. I had it.  I had it with bullying, the teachers who were insulting, the boys who constantly asked me out and gave me attention that only brought me trouble, and I had it with school in general.

High school began. New school, new teachers, new principal, new students.  This was gonna be a new year.  I was gonna sit back, dress down to keep the boys away, and just try to stay off the radar as much as possible. That lasted about 1 month.  Old bullies from the school previous added some friends to their group. New girls.  Boys once again started asking me out and even to the prom.  The prom?  I was only a freshman. The bullying started again and I dreaded each time the bell rang to switch classes. My stomach knotted.  I felt sick. In the mornings I threw up and started to get rashes from stress.  Then the rumors began that I was probably pregnant. When no pregnant tummy showed after a few months the rumors spread that I had an abortion.  Had an abortion? I haven't even kissed a boy!  Don't take me wrong.  I was boy crazy.  But I was always taught that sex was saved for marriage and boys at that age were certainly not looking for marriage.  Neither was I.  I knew I was gonna marry a Christian boy no matter what.  My faith brought me even more trouble when word got out that I was a virgin.  Now derogatory names were thrown out and a new challenge began.  The football team had a bet to see who could seduce me first.  One day I found myself surrounded by the entire football team in a confined locker area.  One of the boys on the team walk up to me and cornered me.  I look up and there is the couch with a sick grin on his face. The boy tries to grab me so I kicked him where it hurt a boy and ran.  One day a boy runs up to me and warns me not to walk past a certain alley.  He said he was listening to a group of boys and they had planned to meet me in the alley I walked past.

I had it. As much as I loved learning growing up, that desire was gone for me.  My grades were failing and all I could do was just try to survive. In class the teacher topped the cake by saying "What?  Are you stupid or something?"  I walked out.  I was done with school.  I begged my dad to let me homeschool myself. I cried and told him that I feared going to school everyday.  He conceded and let me try.  However, at 15, paying my way for this program was out of my budget.  I found a job as a hostess for Souper Salad and it was only part time.  Even with the good grades homeschooling myself I had to drop out.

I thought again about my education and not quitting.  It had been a couple of months so I called my highschool back up and asked if I could try school once again. "Nope, too late."  I cried and cried.  My hopes of a high school graduation was gone. After about a month I decided that I needed  to at least get my GED from a college.  In order to do that, I had to get tested.  I had only finished my freshman year of high school.  They would need to test where I was at and start tutoring me from there.  After I took the evaluation, a man called me up and said he needed me in to go over my results.  When I arrived, a short man with glasses sat me down at a table and opened his folder. He said the test I took was of all levels of high school.  He was surprised I had only finished my freshman year because I scored at a senior level.  He said my scores were so high that they didn't want me to go through the classes and asked if instead I wanted to be personally tutored for the senior year.  I was ecstatic!  I privately tutored for a couple of months and then took the GED exam.  I passed with flying colors and they asked if I would attend their college because they were excited of my scores.

My dad and I May of  2007
I still longed to have a regular high school experience so I tried to call the school again and see if it was still too late. "What?  No you can't come back.  You could have but because you went and got a GED you can't go back to high school."  Once again I cried my eyes out.  My heart was broken.  What would I tell my kids someday?  That I was a quitter?  Why had the first lady told me I couldn't go back and now someone else says something different.  I had ruined my chance by getting the GED.

I had no idea what I wanted to do at that point so I started with computers in college just to get a feel on how to use it.  Remember, back then for me, Windows and Office were fairly new.  To get a job, this was a good skill to have in 1995.  While working and going to college I put myself through college for awhile.  I enjoyed it.

Do you know what I enjoyed the most about college?  The maturity.  This was a community college.  I was the youngest in my class and the age range went all the way up to the 60's roundabout.  Not once was I bullied, pushed around, punched, threatened, humiliated in any way.  Once again my love of learning came back and my grades soured.  I looked forward to my half hour bus ride to college everyday.

Joy comes in the morning
I didn't tell you all this to make you feel sorry for me.  I love my life, my family, my faith and my life is extremely full of wonderful blessing!  I can't believe all God has blessed me with.  My heart is full.  

I shared all that to say this.  When your child comes home and tells you about bullying, or feeling stupid. Listen.

Don't be afraid to confront a teacher. Believe me, even teachers bully and pick their favorites. It's sad but true.  I hated my piano class because the teacher never taught me anything.  He told sick jokes the entire time and played wastebasket basketball with the kids.  I was the kid alone in the other room practicing the whole hour on the piano.  I really wanted to learn.  That made me a freak.

Ryan, Kyle, Chaz 2009
Recently I noticed my one of my son's grades dropping drastically.  This son always is on the honor roll.  As soon as I peeked at his grades I took him aside. I asked him what was going on and really listened.  Not talked.  Just listened to everything on his heart.  Wiped away his tears.  Hugged him.  I told him that no matter what I loved him.  He was my boy and I told him about everything positive of him I could think of. And there is a lot.  He's an incredibly sweet boy that puts others above himself.

My son Chaz gets a different type of bullying because of his Aspergers Syndrome.  He doesn't shut down like Ryan and take it. Chaz starts yelling, throwing things and lands himself in the principal's office.

Each kid is different in how they deal with it.  If bullying isn't taken by the horns and dealt with, a kid can lose their love of learning. A potential that they would've had. Sometimes you even hear these stories of kids that freak out and shoot up a school.  I'm almost 100% sure at one time they were kids that just needed someone to stand in between them and a bully and say enough is enough.

Having a parent at home waiting with open arms and acceptance is a huge deal.  The whole school could be calling names and shouting jeers, but having a parent say "I love you.  You are smart, handsome/pretty, wonderful, fun to be around, a great heart, and you mean the world to me" can mend a broken heart.

I don't care if I have to meet every single day at my child's school to discuss a bullying issue, I will.  If it means my boys have every chance at learning and keeping their love of learning, then it's worth the hassle.

 Be the sunshine for your child when they come home with dark clouds hanging over them.  Be the rainbow that brings hope by speaking up for them at their school.


Sarah said...

Hi, thank you for sharing. As I have read this I have felt empathy with you, admiration for you and a desire to know you and 'chat' with you. I had a very similar upbringing although the bullying was not so excessive and did not, therefore, cause such awful problems with schooling. I was, and am, a Christian, I had no TV and did not listen to the radio and was ridiculed by the pupils and a teacher for this. The kids reckoned I was obviously locked in my room at home, with nothing!
I have only one child, an eight year old daughter, and it seems she she is about to diagnosed as having Aspergers.
I would love to have contact with someone like yourself who could understand and advise me.

With my very best wishes,

Gavin Bollard said...

I'm sorry that you had such a rough time. Bullying is a terrible thing.

Just wondering... do you have a TV now? It's important because kids on the spectrum are very much "visual learners" and (selective) TV can be a great learning tool.

Happy Elf Mom said...

Schools SAY they are against bullying, but too often they're just against whatever makes their day hard.

Terra Howard said...

Wow..just wow. Thanks for sharing your story. It has brought back so many memories for me. Sadly we had a similar life pertaining to school. My son has issues also. You just reminded me to put myself in his shoes.

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