Bullies thrive on the vulnerable and they come in all forms, professions and walks of life. The weak mind of a bully will intimidate, scare and otherwise stunt the growth of a person attempting to flourish in a world that presents enough obstacles.
Without discussing whether or not you have a belief system of being born with original sin, I think most of us will agree, when a child comes into this world it is a joy that one finds hard to explain. The freshness and innocence of a baby brings in the newness of life. Oh, the possibilities for the newborn ahead seem endless. We nervously watch mom’s stomach grow in anticipation of receiving a joyous being and never do we want or expect anything deplorable or disastrous to happen.
My early years were spent in an extended womb of safety, encouragement and love which was abundantly slathered over me from doting parents and grandparents. I was their toast and they were my butter and together I was nourished with a breakfast that fed as a primer for childlike glee. Mid way through First Grade I was given a test and promoted to the Second Grade. Second Grade proved not to be overly challenging and I passed into Third Grade. Then my parents had a home built, we moved and a new school and teacher would turn my idyllic world upside down.
Bullies come in all professions, as mentioned above. My new Third Grade teacher, whom I’ll refer to as Miss Nasty, left me with emotional scars that lasted throughout my school years. Fifty plus years later and I honestly still get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when thinking about this woman. With demonic red eyes of a hideous dragon, her flames burned with the vile hatred she exhibited toward me on a daily basis. Never had I been exposed to someone as mean, despicable and abusive. How can you call yourself an educator when you are flagrantly and blatantly abusing children? However, in hindsight the dragon lady of Third Grade did educate me on some things. I learned I was “short,” and “too young to be with other classmates.” I was made to believe I wasn’t worthy and didn’t belong. For crying out loud, I was even mocked at when trying to find solace in eating my lunch. Whatever her reasons, this woman loathed my very presence from the moment she laid eyes on me and the grip of her talons didn’t ease for the entire school year.
The word bully, usually leads one to focus first on classmates. Yet, my abuser was the one who ran the classroom. When my mother excitedly brought me to meet my new teacher the confrontation began almost immediately. Miss Nasty had passed judgment even prior to our meeting, and she reached her conclusion without knowing anything about me. My mom was informed that in the instructor’s humble opinion I was too young and too short to be in her classroom. I stood there – scrubbed clean – in my finest first day of school clothes – clenching my mom’s determined hand. The words spoken by the educator still rattle about in my head all these years later, as she stated, “Oh, your little boy is a year younger than all of the other children and he is so short he will never fit in with the rest of his class. Therefore, I highly recommend you put him back to Second Grade.” My first day of excitement in a new place was trampled on by someone who had already made up their mind about me. Mom tightened her hand around mine as she looked Miss Nasty in the eye and said, “You haven’t even given Dennis a chance. He’s a smart and well adjusted boy and I’m sure he will do fine in Third Grade.” “We’ll play it by ear,” was the prison matron’s quick retort and my incarceration into hell had begun.
Prior to this school I had always brown bagged my lunch, so having a cafeteria tray of an entrée, vegetable, fruit, milk and dessert delivered to my desk was certainly a unique experience. I watched in apprehension as my new acquaintances and potential friends dove into their plates like rabid dogs. Okay, deep breath and now it was my turn. I did it wrong. How could I be so stupid? “Children, look at Dennis….he’s eating his dessert first. Ha, ha, ha,” came the words of my tormentor. Being somewhat embarrassed I attempted to choke down the remainder of my meal. My short lifespan had exposed me to adults who were kind, nurturing and trusting. Now, however, my safety net was gone as I tiptoed around ever weary of the viper’s poisonous venom and acidic tongue that would lash out at me on a daily basis.
The meetings between my parents and Miss Nasty went on throughout the year and each time my mother would express her desire that I forge ahead. There was no doubt I could perform my seat work, but that wasn’t good enough. Then, in an effort to break my will and beg my parents to let me be demoted, the physical abuse started. Several times per week I would be yanked from my desk, dragged and literally thrown under the teacher’s desk. After I was tossed into the dungeon beneath her desk, the slender woman would pull her chair in tightly and repeatedly jab me with her bony knees. Over and over again would be my punishment, for being short and too young. Seriously, if I was a bad or unruly student and one who deserved the punishment being doled out on a regular basis, then why was I NEVER sent to the Principal’s office? In my opinion, I didn’t get sent to the Principal’s office because my bully teacher took pleasure in the abuse she administered.
The school year rang in with me being an innocent, curious child. The year ended with me bearing the emotional scars that lasted for many years to come. Yes, I did fail Third Grade and it was the final blow of humiliation from Miss Nasty….who, I might add, left the school when the semester had ended.
As if being blessed with the healing hands of an angel, Miss Moon (I still remember her name) became my beloved new Third Grade teacher. I was me again and I was included and made to feel an important part of my class. The ogre of the previous year came to visit Miss Moon and when I was told, “Look who’s here Dennis,” I would not raise my head to see the serpent of my past. I felt power that day and I continue to rebel against those who try to control me in any way.
So, you might be wondering how I overcame my bullying tormentor and her destructive behavior. Quite remarkably and miraculously, I married a woman who has taught First and Second Grades for 38 years now. Not only is my wife an exceptional educator, but she is my very own angelic Miss Moon and you don’t get any luckier than that when healing from the wounds of a bully.
Written By: Dennis L. Page