Friday, August 22, 2014

Bullying, A Memoir

As a young child, I attended a large school in Los Angeles County.  Despite the large number of students and staff the atmosphere was warm and inviting.  I developed friendships quite easily.  Learning was joyful.  My days were carefree and I liked school.  I even recall being chosen as a student that was bestowed "The Pride of Victoria Award."  Feeling confident and secure, I partcipated freely and gave my best effort in class.

At the end of my second grade year we moved to Orange County.  My new school was just a block away from our house.  The school was small with just one teacher assigned to each grade level.  I wouldn't know anyone in my class on the first day of third grade and was quite anxious.

My transition to a new school was difficult.  I was the "new girl" and being such I was different from the rest of my classmates who had known one another since kindergarten.  One particular female classmate found fault with me being different.  She found any and every opportunity to tease me.  To her standards, my clothing was odd, I wasn't athletic, I didn't have the bonds they had or anything in common with the rest of the class.  I was befriend by one student initially, (which I will forever be grateful for) but that friendship diminished year after year as the teasing and ridicule by the other classmate grew stronger.  As she taunted me, I fell silent and offered no defense.  The rest of my classmates remained quiet as the teasing persisted, sometimes a few would chime in.  No one to my knowledge ever spoke up about it.

For the remaining years of my elementary schooling I would remain being pegged as her target for teasing with taunting ridicule, crank phone calls, being picked last for PE teams, having our home toilet papered, etc...  At the ripe old age of 10, I was labeled "pink petunia" and "thunder thighs."  I don't believe for a minute that teachers were unaware of what was happening, but they turned a blind eye. Perhaps they saw this as child's play?

I never was given another award for achievement; accolades for citizenship never came my way either.  I lost interest in my school work.  My once in tact self esteem was chipped away little by little.  I no longer enjoyed school and would come home with my eyes filled with tears. 

I was thrilled when sixth grade was over, I felt seventh grade would finally be my chance for a fresh start.  I prayed for a clean slate.  You can imagine my internal stomach plunge when I saw that the student I had hoped to get away from was in my seventh grade traveling group.  At first, I grit my teeth and dug deep, she wouldn't keep up the antics would she?  I poured my heart out to my mom and pleaded for her intervention.  

My mom wrote a letter to our Vice Principal.  There was no way I was going to directly hand him the letter.  Rather, I headed to the main office while I knew he was on the playground.  I was a nervous wreck handing that letter to the office manager.  The letter's contents were never reviled to me nor were they ever discussed by my mom, or other teaching personnel.  Yet, a change was made.  I no longer was in the same traveling group as my taunting classmate.  It was over, or so I thought.

While I no longer had to be face to face with my bully in class, I still heard her in my head.  Even to this very day, I am affected by the years of criticism.  Thankfully her voice isn't quite as loud as it once was, but even though we age, we carry the years of our past with us.

I've had other encounters with bullying since her, but none were as damaging.  I will never know why they choose me, perhaps they sensed  I was sensitive and unprepared to defend myself.  Whatever their reasons, I will always carry the affects.
My mom and I during my sixth grade year

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Advice from a former teacher as another school year begins

I taught elementary school for several years before becoming  a stay at home mom.  Often I am asked for my prespective on education, parenting, etc... As we are approach a new school year I have a few words of wisdom to lend as both a parent and teacher.  I've listed my top recommendations for building a successful life long learner below.
  • Explore your child's interest with them.  Create opportunities to enrich their learning experiences.  For example, if your child is animal lover check out animal books from the library, visit the zoo or animal shelters, stop in at the pet store, research an animal on the internet and so forth. 
  • READ.  I can not emphasis the importance of reading enough.  Reading is essential to building vocabulary and background knowledge for further learning.  Set aside protected time each day for reading.  Make books available in your home for your child to explore.  Read to your child. Ask questions about what your child is reading.  Allow them to read to you too.  Model reading by reading yourself.
  • Get involved in your child's school.  There are many ways parents can contribute to their children's school.  Wether you choose to volunteer, donate to your child's classroom, chaperone field trips and/or attend PTO meetings your involvement will convey that you value what happens at school to your child.
  • You are your child's first teacher.  Parents will always have the most significant role in educating their children.  What we say and do are vital.  Our children are listening to our every word and watching our every step.  Learning happens everywhere not just at school.
May you and your children have a successful year of learning this school year.