Writing Wins and Woes: Bullying isn’t just for kids

This is my second edition of Back to School with Writing and it’s a strange one. Bullying is rampant in schools. It isn’t unusual to hear of a kid committing murder or suicide largely due to bullying in school. I had my share of school experiences with bullying. Most of them were terrifying but in the long run I suffered through it and wasn’t physically hurt by anyone. I think everyone faces some form of bullying in life.

However, one of my worst nightmarish bouts with bullying wasn’t from a kid. It was from a teacher. I could avoid kids, for the most part, when I was in school who weren’t on my team.  But I was totally unable to avoid the teacher who’s class I was assigned to. This teacher, who shall remain nameless, was a math teacher in high school. I believe it made her day to bully someone in her class. Her form of bullying may have been called “teaching” to her but to me it ranked with some of the most humiliating experiences I had in high school, and believe me, high school was full of these kinds of embarrassments.

This is how it went. This particular teacher had something called “lucky lottery” in her class. If you have read the story by Shirley Jackson, “The Lottery”, you will know that this lottery wasn’t very lucky. When I walked in her class, I was forced to draw a number from a bucket. That number corresponded to a homework assignment from the night before. Woe is me if I happened to draw a number of a problem I wasn’t able to figure out.  We’re talking algebra here and plane geometry; classes that made no earthly sense to my non-math mind. Once in a while, I drew a blank card. Yay! That meant I didn’t have to publicly humiliate myself today.

If I drew the “unlucky number” of a problem I didn’t know how to do, I had to work out the problem on the board in front of the class with  my teacher’s so-called help. Her help consisted of asking me the same question twenty times, that I didn’t know the answer to, nor was I likely to have the answer strike me from the heavens while I was sweating bullets in front of the classroom. If I didn’t answer, she made fun of how stupid I was. She often used a whiny, sing-songy voice to belittle me. I remember her actually making students cry and then laughing at them for crying. “Did the big, mean teacher make little ____ cry?” she said to one petite girl in the class.

I decided at one point to take her advice and meet with her before school to get help with my math inadequacies one on one. That didn’t last long. Her individual sessions were about as fun as being trapped in a cage with a saber toothed tiger.

What on earth does this have to do with writing? Well, it made me a stronger person. I actually passed her class, usually with low “b’s” or high “c’s”. I learned to work hard at something I didn’t like. I learned persistence pays off and I learned that sometimes you have to deal in life with lousy people. It’s helped me on my jobs and it’s helped me when I faced a really demeaning rejection letter from an editor or publisher. Her class may be a reason I’m still writing today, even in the face of insurmountable rejections and lack of pay-off.  It may even be one of the reasons I’m still writing this blog week after week with few responses.

I don’t condone bullying. It’s a horrible experience. It can leave you wounded and raw but if you’ve been bullied, let it be a lesson to you to be kinder to other people who are not as “smart” as you are. Killing someone with kindness is so much nicer than bullying.kitty-cat-bullying


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