Monday, February 23, 2009

How To Beat A Bully

Disclaimer: I have never been bullied like Moriah, Henry or Fidgety. If I had been, I am sure that none of the things you are about to read would have worked. My tactics have helped me to survive the day to day stuff so many teachers are forced to endure.

When I was sixteen years old, I was mugged on the Fordham Rd and the Grand Concourse. A girl grabbed my new purse with my brand new driving permit. I reacted fast and jumped on her. When I jumped her, three of her friends jumped me. I did the only thing I could, I sunk my teeth into her upper arm and bit down as hard as I could. I still hear her yelp and clearly see her dropping my purse and running away. My mom almost had heart failure when I got home and told her the story. She ran to the synagogue to make a donation, thanking Hashem for not letting me get killed. I would thank Hashem for giving me the strength to stand up to bullies, something that I did unwittingly then and knowingly now.

I was just reminded of this story as I sat with a colleague at lunch a few weeks ago. We were discussing the bullying of teachers by certain administrators. I decided to share my secret of never being bullied with her.

When you come up against a bully you can show no signs of weakness or fear. When attacked, you must attack back, consequences be damned. You must show your teeth and not be afraid to use them. You have to show that there is nothing you cannot take and there are plenty that you will not take.

I've taught the best classes in the school and the worst. No administrator can threaten me with a bad program because if the class has been given, chances are I have already taught it. I've taught the kids who just got released from Rikers. I've taught the kids who have shot FBI agents. I've also taught the bright ones. I'm not afraid of kids that are smarter than me any more than I am afraid of the gun toting ones. I am okay with not knowing the answer to all the questions the bright ones might throw at me and I know enough to keep the other ones as my friends. As for room assignments, I've spent years in the trailers. I've taught in split rooms where the teacher next door and I coordinate to give exams on the same day so the kids will be able to work without hearing the participation from the next room. The term I was pregnant, my wonderful AP assigned me 5 classes in 5 different rooms, rooms, rooms so spread apart I had to walk through a crowded cafeteria to get from class to class. Did I whine and take it? No, I fought back and got the rooms changed. I don't like late session but I am willing to take my turn when my turn comes. In other words, I'm not afraid to fight because I know that the little ploys administrators like to use will not work on me.

I refuse to show anyone any sign of weakness. Sure I get upset but I won't let it show. When I am losing an argument I use my favorite word, "fine", to end the discussion. Everyone knows that things are not fine but since I am agreeing, the argument is over. By giving in, I have won the current battle.

I also accept the fact that in the whole scheme of the school I am nothing. If I left tomorrow, I would only be missed until a replacement was found. Once the system found that nice sweet teenie bopper to take my place, I am history. Accepting my value to school keeps me grounded. Yes, I know the kids would miss me, but they are the only ones and even they would forget me once they got accustomed to the new person in the room.

I could have gotten killed when I fought the girl on Fordham Rd. I didn't. The only thing I thought about was not getting bullied and beaten. I've carried that lesson with me for many, many years.


AFantaske said...

WoW - that is perfectly written. I feel the same way. But the 20 years it took me to get here were challenging.

JUSTICE not "just us" said...

Thank you! You should never retire.
Too many of our colleages are moral and physical cowards. We need brave and competent people like you. If and when you retire we will be diminished by one and we can not afford it in these times.

"A man can not ride your back unless it is bent." Dr. King life long friend of the avowed socialist and openly gay Bayard Rustin