I saw you today.
I saw the other boys too.
I don’t think you did fret at all actually and that’s what I really admired. I also admired the fact that you stuck up for yourself in the situation I unknowingly put you in. You see, it was partially my fault. I didn’t seat you in a good place in my classroom because I was rushed, so for that I apologise. Teaching four back to back lessons today, meant that you didn’t quite get the attention you deserved when you walked into my classroom for only the second time since you started at school three weeks ago.
I am sorry that I flipped when I saw one boy point and snigger at you.
That was my trigger point and I probably didn’t help the situation when my anger boiled over. I am not usually a shouter you see. You’ll probably learn that in time when you get to know me better as your teacher. But, what I am is a mother and in that split second I saw someone potentially laughing and pointing at my own son or daughter in ten years time and my instinct to protect those who are perhaps a little more vulnerable than others just kicked in.
“One thing I won’t stand for is bullying!” I yelled. “In my classroom, no one will ever be made to feel worthless.” The boys I kept behind flinched at my voice and denied everything.
“If you don’t like each other, then that is fine, but you accept and respect each other’s differences.”
I may have stumbled on my words a little (did I mention I am not a shouter?), but the boys and you all caught onto my gist.
Everyone eventually apologised – even you. Because you weren’t innocent in all of this. I told you more than once to stay focused on your own work and not wind the other boys up.
I think you were trying to make amends; make them laugh perhaps, but they didn’t ‘get’ you, just as you didn’t ‘get’ them. The most satisfying part of my job is working with young people like yourself. Your personalities are infectious and unique and that’s an amazing thing, but unfortunately, it sometimes means that not everyone will want to be your friend while at the same time, you might not want to be theirs. And that is fine. It’s totally fine.
“Are you okay?” I asked when the other boys had left my room.
“Yes,” you chirped. “I didn’t see them laughing and pointing.”
Should I have left it then? Should I have turned my back on someone laughing at you because you didn’t notice? Your feelings were not hurt and you’re fine – you told me so.
Was I wrong to try and help?
“Don’t ever change,” I told you as you left my classroom. “Don’t let others tell you who you should be.” You looked at me, smiled and then sauntered away to your next lesson.
I imagine that everything I said to both you and the boys vanished from your minds within the hour.
But, with me it lingered because I fear I made a mistake. Perhaps a quiet word with the perpetrators would have been the better solution, but the idea of someone being bullied in my class caused me to lose my cool, if only for a moment.
Please be assured that the next time you all enter my class, everything will be forgotten. I’ll sit you in a seat better suited to your needs and I will teach, talk to and laugh with the others who may or may not have laughed at you because with each new lesson comes a new start, a new learning focus and a new way of earning mutual respect for one another.
This evening, my daughter told me that a big girl was mean to her today at school. In only her third week at school, my heart ached a little for her. I don’t quite think she fully understands the term bullying (and I don’t think she is being bullied), but she recognised the fact that being called a ‘weirdo’ is not right or acceptable. I asked her to talk me through what happened.
It was during Breakfast Club and I think she was struggling pick up her empty bowl and cup to return to the adults who were serving the food and drink. I think she asked one of the older pupils to help and she was ignored. Later, she told me, the same pupil pushed into her and called her a ‘weirdo’. I am not naive in the fact that what my four year daughter told me may not be entirely true, so rather than tell her to retaliate or tell a teacher, I simply told my girl to ignore and stay away from the said pupil.
“Next time she does it Mummy, I’ll just shout ‘No, that’s naughty!’” she said.
As much as I wanted to fist bump her and yell ‘yeah, you go girl!’ I feared that this would only provoke the pupil into calling her a name again, or heaven forbid, laugh at my girl’s feeble attempt at sticking up for herself.
Was my daughter fazed by allegedly being called ‘weird’? No, of course she wasn’t. In fact, if I were to mention it to her again in the morning, she would probably deny all knowledge of having said it in the first place – such is the sieve like memory of a four year old recalling a school day. (She remembers every single day for a year that she wants jelly maker for her birthday, but can’t remember anything she does at school – heaven help me when she is fourteen.)
However, if (and it is a big IF), if my daughter is wronged again by this pupil, or by any child, then this defence mechanism of loudly saying ‘no that’s naughty’ she seems so eager to try might just draw the attention of some caring teacher who will not stand for any bullying in his or her classroom. And whether my girl wants the teacher’s attention to be drawn to her or not, the bullying, the name calling, the pushing, the being called out for being different has to stop.
Therefore, to the boy in the corner. Let me apologise for perhaps drawing some unwanted attention to you. But, I won’t apologise for highlighting yours and many others’ plight.
I won’t stand for bullying in my classroom.