How Bullying Shaped My Life
Every October, schools and organizations across the country observe National Bullying Prevention Month. The goal is to encourage communities to work together to stop bullying and cyberbullying by increasing awareness of the prevalence and impact of bullying on children of all ages.
There is a very fine line between teasing and bullying. How do help children be aware of the difference and how it impacts those around them? Below is a story written by one of our students and submitted to the university she is taking college credit courses at explaining how bullying has shaped her life.
How Bullying Shaped My Life
Like a ferocious dog with a bone, my teacher, Snape*, yelled, “You are the most selfish person I have ever met, and you will never be happy in life!” As I burst into tears, the whole class stared in shock. I never understood why I was so different and socially awkward. I just knew I was. I ran to the dark locker room in shame, feeling like a half-eaten sandwich at the bottom of the trash can. This was just the beginning of what would be a horrific three years of middle school at Durmstrang*. Bullying affected my life, the way I treat people, and the way I view myself.
In sixth grade, the whole class went to camp for three days and little did I know that this would be the worst camping experience of my life. I was in the same cabin as the girls who would torment me, but at the time, I thought they were my friends. Every day, I would wake up and not be sure if we were really friends. This uncertainty made me feel like I did not deserve friends. Upon returning from camp I went to my room and cried. Sometimes, the girls I thought were my friends would treat me right and I would fall right back into their trap. They would come up to me and say, ” I am so glad we are friends.” “Do you want to come to my house on Friday.” I would agree only to be made fun of for the evening. One day, Malfoy* decided I was only good enough for her if I had something to offer. I usually had homemade cookies and brownies to share, but on this day, I didn’t. I was thrown aside like yesterday’s newspaper. The other girls were terrified of being targeted by her so they agreed with her and made me feel isolated and alone.
Another traumatic experience was the time I went to Goyle’s* house. We were talking and laughing. Suddenly, in the middle of a story, she said, “Hey Shirley, don’t get offended but you need to control your ADHD better.” I could not believe she would say something like that. I felt as though I wasn’t doing a good job at fitting in, even with my closest friends.
The behavior of my peers may seem hard to believe but, you haven’t heard anything yet. Imagine feeling socially awkward during conversations with friends and being turned against in a moment’s notice. This happened the first time I got my period. I was participating in track practice when all of a sudden I thought, “Oh no! I need to go to the bathroom.” I waited in the bathroom until someone came in to check on me. When someone finally came in I asked, “Hey, can you get me either a pad or tampon.?” The girl went and got me both and said, “Congratulations!” After I finished getting cleaned up, I went into the gym and Malfoy announced to the whole track team including the boys, “Shirley just got her first period!” This made me feel like a bumblebee on a cold winter night. I couldn’t understand why someone would do that.
All of this bullying made me fall into deep depression, and I frequently thought, “I want to die.” This feeling of hopelessness and despair went on for years. I remember crying to my mom about how I felt different and knew something was wrong with me. My mother would say, “Those girls don’t deserve you.” These feelings and thoughts led to many doctor’s appointments. When I was in seventh grade, I finally found the answer. I was diagnosed with Asperger’s, a form of Autism. After learning more about Asperger’s, I thought, “Finally, it makes sense. This is why I am so different.” I was angry and upset with God that he made me this way. If he loved me why couldn’t he make me normal? The icing on the cake came when my mom wanted me to go to a school for kids with disabilities. I was appalled because I wanted to be normal. We fought for a year, neither of us giving in. I continued to go to school where I was bullied and not receiving the accommodations I needed. And I was miserable! One day, I finally realized that I deserve to be happy and I had enough.
In eighth grade I started at New Horizons Academy (N.H.A.). As their mission statements say they “offer a holistic, all-encompassing educational path for kids with special needs”. The transition was rough because I didn’t keep in touch with anyone from Durmstrang. I was thrown into a new environment with no connections to my past. This journey to the unknown was very scary. With not knowing anybody at N.H.A., I felt less lonely than all my years at Durmstrang. I was with people like me, and my teachers were equipped to educate kids with disabilities.
At N.H.A., there is a no tolerance bullying policy and teachers that actually enforce it. At Durmstrang, teachers would say they would do something about it, and then nothing would ever happen. When Snape said those things to me, I told Principal Umbridge*, and he said he would take care of it. However, no action was ever taken against Snape. That made me feel like a Hawaiian pizza which is disgusting and wrong! In all seriousness, I felt like I was the one who was in trouble and that I was the one who was wrong and not the teacher who failed his job at being a positive role model. That made me feel like crap!
When I was younger, I wanted to be an actress/dolphin trainer/dress designer. I, now however, see that the correct career path for me is to be a special education teacher. I came to this realization when I was volunteering in the preschool classrooms. I chose to volunteer in those classrooms, because I have always had a passion for helping little kids. I never knew how good I was with special education kids. Unlike Snape, I am patient, kind, and understanding. For example, one day while I was volunteering in the preschool class Collin* got upset and was hitting people and throwing things. I was afraid he might hurt someone, so I took all of the kids out of the classroom and calmed them down. We played with the rubber cows, which you sit on and bounce around on. I was kind and understanding when it came to why Collin was throwing a fit, and I listened to how the kids felt. I wish that Snap had treated me with the same kindness and understanding at Durmstrang.
He may not have known it, but he left a lasting impression on me and how I treat others. I know that I never want to be like him. Some lessons you learn directly, and some lessons you learn through other people. I learned many lessons at both Durmstrang and New Horizons Academy. Some were positive, and some were negative, but both shaped me and made me who I am today. I am an advocate for those in need, and I will always try to be better than I was the day before. Bullying was and is a huge influence in how I treat people and how I view myself.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the guilty.