I was super shy when I was younger. I tell my students that and they don’t believe me. I can’t convince them that I ate in a bathroom stall all alone in high school when my one friend wasn’t there. I can’t convince them that I never spoke out in school…as I stand before them … in school….talking all day. They look at me sideways when I tell them I know how it feels to be alone and not have friends and be bullied. They don’t see it.
It’s all true. I was bullied, like many of you. It wasn’t called ‘bullying’ when I was a kid. Maybe its because we didn’t talk about it. We didn’t go running to mom or the teacher saying we were being picked on. We just figured that was the way it was and we dealt with it. Maybe we were tougher, or maybe, we were dumber. I don’t really know.
Kids called me four-eyes and buck-tooth, ‘bucky’ for short. It was all true, I did have big teeth and glasses. I didn’t need them to tell me though, I was very well aware of it. Sometimes, I was just glad I was being noticed. I wasn’t the only one. I remember a boy in junior high who was picked on as much as I was. I remember standing up for him one day. He glared at me. I guess he liked the attention as well. By the way, he ended up a gorgeous heartthrob so…jokes on them.
I’m always amazed when someone tells me they or their kid is being bullied in my class or at my school. I am oblivious to it. I love all these kids so much, I think I assume they love each other too. They are all amazing! It breaks my heart when someone isn’t treated right. Mama bear comes out, all conflicted, because my awesome kids are fighting amongst themselves. Who do I pick? Whose side am I on? I pick the underdog because I must. But, I also pick the top dog. I need to know why they are hurting someone else. It needs to stop here.
Sometimes, the top dog is hurting too. Sometimes they don’t understand themself and they don’t know how to stop. Sometimes, they have their own bully and they are just ‘paying it forward’ in a way. Sometimes that bully is a parent. That’s when it gets really sticky. Retraining a kid to be kind when they haven’t had that training at home is sad, and hard.
I’m blessed to be teaching at a school that is really great. 90% of our kids are from good families that do try to train their kids right. We only have a few kids that are, for lack of a better word, real jerks. I can deal with those percentages, usually. I teach a lot of character development, acceptance, kindness, and goodness in my class. At least I try to.
We’re reading the Iliad right now. It isn’t my favorite. I didn’t pick it, but that’s how it is sometimes as a teacher. I’m trying to not only find the good parts, but to make them bigger and brighter than the bad parts. We’ve had some really great discussions about choices and consequences. One bad choice can make a whole lot of bad happen, but there’s almost always a way to make it right. Don’t hold a grudge. Don’t get revenge. Don’t start a war because some guy stole your wife. Just be nice.
Mr. Brown, in the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio, said it best. “When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.” That is my motto at school and in life in general. Everyone likes to be right and to have things their way, but…does that always make us happy? And even if WE are happy, is anyone else happy?
Some people give Christ a gift each year at Christmas. Something they are going to try and work on throughout the year to make the world a better place. What if we all gave him the gift of being a little more kind? I’d love to see how much brighter the world would be if we did that. Kinder to each other and kinder to ourselves.
I’ll even shorten the quote for you, “choose kind”.
Cause I said so.
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