The Mean Teacher. How Mean? Really Mean.


“I am VERY scared…”
 
We move to New York when I am five.

It is the middle of May, and the kindergarten year is almost over. I am very sad that I won’t end the school year in Chicago.

My kindergarten classroom there had a miracle happening in it: In the back of the room, inside an aquarium, a tadpole was growing legs and arms! The teacher said it was going to be a frog soon, and its tail would fall off.

 

Half Tadpole Half Frog

Now I Won’t Ever Get To See It.


 
On my first day in New York, my mommy takes me to the door of the kindergarten classroom and pushes me through it. I don’t know what to do.

Someone tells me to sit down at a very long table where other children are sitting. Paper is being passed out. The children have already been told to do something with the paper.
 

Kindergarten Boys Writing At Table With Crayons

See? They’re Already Getting to Work.


 
They all start to write on it, and I don’t know what to do.

Scared Little Girl

I Am VERY Scared I Will Get In Trouble For Not Doing What I’m Supposed To Do


 
I look around me and try to do what the other children are doing. Then, I hear the rest of what the teacher says to do, and I feel better.

After the teacher takes our papers, she looks at them and gets very mad.

“Whose paper is this!? Who did this?!” she yells.

It is my paper.

The teacher takes me outside the door of the classroom. We stand in the open doorway under the big American flag while she yells and yells at me.
 

Angry Teacher and American Flag

I Look Up At The Flag So That I Don’t Have To Look At Her Face


 
Scared Frozen Little Girl

I Am 5 Years Old, and I Don’t Know What I Did Wrong


 
It turns out that THIS is what I did wrong:

The first direction the children were given, the one I didn’t hear, was “Write your name.”  I had copied what another child was doing, and so I had copied another child’s name.

Annadora Perillo was that child’s name. I hadn’t recognized those Italian sounds as a name. Most everyone in our Chicago neighborhood had been Polish.
 

Happily, Annadora and I Wound Up Becoming Best Friends. Here We Are in 3rd Grade. I Have No Front Teeth, But I Still Have Annadora


 
Mrs. Armano was that mean teacher’s name.

She used to throw things at us: Pencils, chalk, and once, a big dictionary that she threw at Lloyd Calmenson’s head.

I never thought to tell anyone. Maybe New York teachers were like that.

Two years later, my little sister had Mrs. Armano’s daughter Mrs. King for HER kindergarten teacher.
 

Angry Big Head Young Woman

Look Familiar?


 
The daughter threw things at the children just like her mother had. But my sister was smarter than I had been. (Those of you who read my post The Best Toy Ever, Troll-La-La-La-La may notice a pattern here. Grrr.)

My sister told my parents about Mrs. King, and the other kids told their parents, and Mrs. King got fired.
 

Satisfied Young School Children

I Feel Good About That.


 

ADDENDUM–What YOU Can Do

When I was a teacher, I told my students’ parents that they could enter our classroom at any time, as long as they did so quietly, stood or sat silently at the back, and held their questions until I, not they, felt I had time to meet with them. In public schools, you may learn that you have the RIGHT to enter your child’s classroom to observe, as long as you do not do it overly-frequently or disrupt learning.

When teachers know that a parent may drop into classroom, lunchroom, or playground at any time, children are safer from bullies–adult- or child-sized.

But be prepared: You may discover that your own child is the bully.

 

Not MY Child

Not MY Child!?


 
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Sst! Buddy! Wanna See Pics of a Girl Fight?


Every morning, while we big kids wait for the school bus, Lauren walks up to the tiny kids waiting and stomps their lunches flat.
 

Paper Lunch Bags

From Happy Bags Like These…

Crushed Lunch Bag

…To These


 

We keep telling them to hang on to their bags and not put them down, but they keep forgetting. They’re only little kids.

Lauren picks on older kids, too. Luckily, I don’t know Lauren, and she doesn’t know me (she’s two grades ahead of me). This day, though, Lauren and I are introduced.

 

Putin and Obama Shake Hands

It’s Always Nice to Make New Friends


 

I’m sitting on the bus in the next-to-last seat, next to my friend Vicky. Lauren is sitting in the last seat: The bench seat. The troublemaker’s row. Suddenly, right through the back of my spine, her giant fist is introduced to my breastbone.

 

Punched In the Back

I Remember Exactly How It Felt


 

Once I manage to straighten up and resume breathing, I wonder what to do.

If I ignore her, she’ll just punch me again. If I punch her back with my puny baby fist, she’ll just bite it off, and still punch me again.

So, tapping into my autistically-intuitive people skills, I decide that shame might work. I turn around and slap the meanest bully in school right across her face.

She goes CRAZY!! Lauren LEAPS over the back of my seat and starts punching me with the Volkswagens at the ends of her arms.

 

Breaking Bad Hank Punches Walt

We Had Surprisingly Little Hair, For Girls in Grade School


 

“Fight! Fight! Fight!”

I draw strength from the hearty encouragement of my classmates and curl up into a turtle shape, protecting my soft squishy center. Vicky, my wonderful, loyal friend, jumps on Lauren and pounds on her back, trying to distract her from my fragile shell.

Vicky can hit hard, but Lauren doesn’t feel a thing. She’s built like a long-distance trucker.

 

Girl Bully

Lauren’s Idea of a Casual Hello


 

The bus reaches our stop. The driver, responsible adult that he is, makes us get off. We’re not HIS problem!

As soon as we hit the ground, Lauren knocks me down to it, and starts kicking the h#ll out of me with her steel-toed work boots.

 

Boot Above Scared Ant

Guess Which One I Am.


 

“Ooh–she got in a GOOD one!” “Kick her again!”

Who is it who decided a direct kick to the privates doesn’t hurt girls as much as boys? Again wonderful Vicky jumps in gamely, but Lauren instantly flips Vicky on her back, too, and is able to use one hand and foot to fight each of us.

 

Girl Fight With Gentle Hair Pull

Yeah, Girl Fights Look JUST Like This (“Oh, What Silky Hair You have…”)


 

Suddenly, the clouds open! A ray of sunshine breaks through! Actually, the crowd of cheering kids opens, and a big ole’ station wagon careens through:

Vicky’s tiny German/Russian/Polish (depending on which year of the war you pick) mom comes riding to the rescue. She crashes the front tire into the curb, jumps out leaving the door wide open, and brings the full wrath of her four-foot six-inch body down to bear upon Lauren.

 

Angry Badger

A Wee Woman Wi’ A Wee Bit of Temper


 

“WHAT do you think you do!? (Swatting her with her purse.) “Are you CRAZY girl? Go home right NOW!”

Then, she gathers Vicky and me under her full skirts and into the car with her. Once home, we tell her the terrible tale while she repins and smooths her coiled braids, loosened during battle, and clucks and fusses and smooths us over, too.

 

Braids Around Head Back View

At Night, She Unwound Them and They Reached Her Hips


 

We tell our story again to Vicky’s professor dad when he arrives. The two of them share our outrage, and blanket us with their warm sympathy. Then, they call Lauren’s mom and have an extended phone conference.

Afterward, Vicky’s folks sit us down seriously, and take the time to explain to the two of us girls that Lauren’s mom has recently divorced her dad. That her brother joined the Marines. That he has been teaching Lauren Marine fighting moves when he’s home on leave. That Lauren’s mom now understands that this isn’t appropriate, and she will do something about the bullying, but we should try to understand that Lauren has a lot of anger.

 

Mom and Dad Arguing

Anger That Has Nowhere To Go


 

I feel proud that Vicky’s parents speak to us like we are almost grown up.

Feeling Proud Peacock

These Wonderful People Turned “I Was Beaten” Into “I Feel Proud”


 

Then, I head for my own home.

I tell the story of the attack to my mom. Her sole unsmiling response? “Tell your Dad when he gets home.”

 
Deflated Balloon on Asphalt
 

When my male parent arrives, he sits on the ottoman, and points me to the floor at his feet. I get to only the very start of the story—to where Lauren punches me for no reason—before he interrupts:

“What did you do to her first?”

 

Indignation Gif

“I Didn’t Do ANYthing!”


 

“Don’t give me that! She didn’t just punch you for no reason! What did you do to her to make her punch you?!”
I repeat my denial. He repeats his disbelief and accusation. We go back and forth.

He just can’t accept the truth of what I am telling him, and his voice gets louder and louder as he repeatedly seeks the trigger incident. Terribly frustrated at my refusal to provide “the truth”, he finally moves on, yelling at me,

“And THEN what did you do? After she punched you, what did you do BACK to her?”

By this point in his third-degree, I am stressed and flustered, and extremely worn out—let’s face it, I’m nine years old, my adrenaline has been pumping hard all day—so, suddenly, my mind goes blank, and I yell back:

“I don’t know—I don’t remember!” and burst into tears.

Stressed Girl Doesnt Remember

It’s All Too Much

My father (yelling loudly): “WHAT DO YOU MEAN, YOU DON’T REMEMBER?!!”.

After a few moments, in the middle of his yelling, the light dawns, and, with great relief, I say, smiling through my tears, “Oh—I remember now! After she punched me, I turned around and slapped her!”

Which is when…

…my father slapped me. As hard as he could, right across the face.

 

Gasping With Disbelief Gif

Just Like I Had Done To Lauren


 

“Don’t you lie to me! You’re going to tell me she punched you as hard as she could, and all YOU did was SLAP her?”

I repeat the truth. And am slapped in the face again for lying.

 

Crying Because I Want to Punch You But Cant

sigh.


 

Thank you, Mom and Dad. By being the worst parents you could possibly be, you taught me how to be the best parent I could possibly be.

All I had to do was the opposite of everything you did.

 

Repeated Face Slaps of Man By Woman

Today’s Mantra: “Let It Go… Let It Go… He’s 90 Years Old Now… Let It Go… The Next Time You See Him, Let That Hand Go, Right Across His Face…” (Darn! Time To Get a New Mantra.)


 

ADDENDUM ONE–What CAN Be DONE?

Like our Mr. Hickey did, schools CAN decrease bullying. One effective way is by challenging bystanders to do more than just STAND BY.

Joyce Ott of the research-proven “Olweus” anti-bullying program: “Bystanders…are one of the most important groups to reach…they can [otherwise] look like [the bully’s] supporters.”

In one implementation of the program, bus drivers were told to report any bullying they saw on their buses, or as students entered or left them. Students in grades 3 through 12 filled out questionnaires with items such as whether teachers interfered to stop bullying.

Victim rates dropped (at one school) by 27 percent.

This information comes almost verbatim from here.

Isn’t it interesting that it never occurred to any of us kids to tell an adult about Lauren? Why didn’t we?

1. Kids Don’t Tell Because They Don’t See Adults Helping

Like that bus driver.

2. Kids Don’t Tell For a Buncha Reasons
 
CURIOSITY ADDENDUM

I would very much like to know what happened to Lauren. She never bothered me again, and I heard no more about her after that year, so my guess is that the bullying calmed down. I hope she and those around her found happiness.

I really hope those little kids stopped having their lunches squashed the rest of that year. (I can’t remember.) They were so sad every time that happened!
 
BELATED THANK-YOU ADDENDUM

Thank you, Vicky. If I know the girl I was then, I never thought to thank you then. I would have been badly beaten that day–possibly even bones broken–had it not been for you. Thank you, my friend.

Tiny Heart Beating Gif



SANITY ADDENDUM

 

Credit For Not Being a Psychopath

Like It Says.





This is the second part of a multi-part series on bullying

America’s Unsung Heros: Spaghetti Defender


“Wilson, would you come up here?”

Mr. Hickey, our well-loved elementary school principal, was standing up in front of my fourth-grade class, beckoning to one of my classmates.

It took Wilson some time to get out from behind his small desk and up to the front of the room. For Wilson was fat. Quite fat.

Well, perhaps not by today’s standards, when grossly-overfed children are not uncommon, and the majority of children are fat, but the very round Wilson stood out in those days.

Fat Boy Winking Retro Cartoon

Adorable, Isn’t He? No One Except Their Mommies Really Think So, Though, Do They?


 

When Willie finally made it to the front, Mr. Hickey, a warm man who was loved by all—despite the well-worn paddle kept on the wall beside his desk—Mr. Hickey stood Willie facing the class and hugged him affectionately with one of his own meaty arms.

For Mr. Hickey himself was fat. He was almost as big around as he was tall.

Mr. Hickey called out to the class:
“Who here likes spaghetti?”

Hands shot up all over the room.

I Like Spaghetti

“I do!” “Me, too!” “I like spaghetti!”


 

Mr. Hickey looked down at Wilson for a moment.
“Willie: Do you like spaghetti?”

Willie was shy, but he was a good, obedient boy, and the principal was asking him a question.
“Yes.”

“Me, too. It looks like you like it a lot! Maybe a little too much!” “Is that true?”
Willie hung his head a little. “Yes.”

Some children laughed.

“Me, too!” (Patting his own belly, smiling, rolling his eyes, and looking at the class.)

Fat Man With Loud Tie Laughing

He Was Nothing If Not Jolly.

Everyone laughed.

Mr. Hickey called out again, smiling just like before:
“Now, who here would want to be made fun of for liking spaghetti?”

No hands were raised.

“And who here thinks it’s okay to make fun of Willie for liking spaghetti?”

The room was dead silent.

“Then I don’t think I need to say anything else to any of you about this ever again, do I?”

Boy In Class Feeling Guilty.

No. He Didn’t.


 

Mr. Hickey asked our teacher if he could borrow Willie. Then, he walked that boy from classroom to classroom and repeated that lesson in each classroom and grade of our entire elementary school. When Willie returned later that day, he was beaming.



God bless you, Mr. Hickey.

Little Girl Kissing Resistant Little Boy

“Aw, Shucks–I Was Just Doin’ My Job, Ma’am.”




This is part one of a multi-part series on bullying.
 
ADDENDUM
 

Chubby Woman in Bathing Suit

Fat Shaming and Misogyny Often Go Hand-in-Hand. Google Returned THIS Image for “Fat Man in Suit”.

If you’ve missed this NPR item, you really ought to take a look. It’s a wowser. I find the misogyny it points out especially notable because the woman being criticized is attractive and not even that overweight. The attitude of some men today is, apparently, “How DARE a woman show her face or body in a public performance venue unless she match a standard no human can meet without starvation and surgery?” It is a given that all the male critics in question look like Adonis.

The Classical World World-Class At Fat-Shaming Women

Bullying Children For Entertainment


Oh, Jimmy.  How could you?

This past Halloween, how …disappointing… to learn that it was in response to a solicitation from you, Jimmy, that parents had chosen to pimp out their own young children and bully them in order to gain one minute of  TV fame.

All were amused by the awesome feelings of betrayal, and the broken hearts that resulted. 

Many Crying Babies

abc

A montage video for you to savor the different flavors child pain comes in (okay, some of the little darlings are clearly spoiled, but others just as clearly suffered honest feelings of betrayed hurt):


 
How extra-disappointing it was to learn, Jimmy, that, once you realized the pain you and their clod progenitors [very low-class parents] had caused, rather than womaning up and NOT showing the cruel videos, you chose to man out and show them anyway. 

(Yes, I get tired of the the outrageous insult to every woman and girl every time the sexist phrase “man up” is used–if you’re a male reader, how did it feel to have the high-heel on the other foot?)

Jimmy, you went for attention and fame yourself, giving a false apology to the child victims you were about to demonstrate zero empathy for. 

    * You could have instead explained to your viewing audience why you had chosen to NOT show the videos you’d asked them for. 

    * You could have said that you had made an initial error in judgement and didn’t want to compound it. 

    * You could have taken the opportunity to illustrate that care for others should always come first.   Especially care for our smallest and weakest others.

But you didn’t.

And although many of us were introduced to two of the most charming young gentlemen (their video appears at the bottom for the two or three of you who may have somehow missed it)

–two little boys who held up to their mom’s gentle bullying in the most delightful manner (a sign that she and/or their father DO display some awesome parenting skills when not behind a camera)– 

Even though we were so pleased to meet these sweethearts, that does not undermine the main point here:

You shouldn’ta’ oughtn’ta’ dunnit, Jimmy. 

Because for every one good parent, there are fifty unparents these days, and you only encourage people like this:

 

Now, here are those charmers–because, really, who can get enough of them (and aren’t I the very hypocrite for showing this, after reaming out ole’ Jimmy?):

2014–Retitled from “Kimmel Disappoints”.
 

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