reflections

teachers can be bullies too!

by jani on October 17, 2012

I’m a teacher. I support teachers and I love teaching. It’s what I wanted to do from the time I was quite young. After receiving my degree in Elementary Education from the University of Denver, I used my skills throughout my life in mostly voluntary positions. I chose to be an at home mom… but took an active role in working at the various schools helping my children and others succeed. I thank all of the great teachers who had positive influences on the lives of my children! I’m confident in who I am and feel comfortable in most situations. It wasn’t always that easy for me.

In my fifth grade year, I had a bully for a teacher. He seemed to find pleasure in harming those children who were shy or otherwise socially awkward. I will always remember one of the worst days of my young life. Mr.____ (let’s call him “Fox”) decided that we would participate in a volleyball game outside, boys on one side, girls on the other. I had to go to the bathroom very badly, but was too embarrassed to go up and ask the teacher. I remember standing in the middle of the volleyball court;  I just couldn’t hold it any longer. I walked up to the platform that Mr ” Fox” was standing on…  I’m sure he could see the anguish in my face as I asked if I could please be excused to go to the restroom. With a smirk, he looked at me and said, “There’s fifteen more minutes to our PE class, Janice! You can wait!” I couldn’t. I hardly made it back to my position when my legs began to tremble. I felt it streaming down my legs, as tears were stained my face. I wanted to die. I turned around and  pleadingly looked into the face of the class’ most popular girl. Looking down, we both saw the puddle I was standing in. And then, without even a pause, she grabbed my hand and raced me to the restroom. It didn’t take away my shame or the emotional scar that Mr “Fox” caused. But I have raised each of my children to stand up for anyone who is being bullied… even if it is by a teacher!

Me in 5th grade

For years I struggle with self esteem, but by the time I graduated in 1971 with my BA in Education, I had come to realize that the beauty one carries within, so far outweighs any outward appearance. It’s lovely that one may find you attractive and compliment you. However, always remember what we do to reach out to others far out ways the outer layers!

It became very apparent just how important it was to interview our children each day when they came home from school. I never wanted my children to suffer the way I did. Sadly, there was yet another teacher who reminded me so much of “Mr. Fox” that I’ll refer to her as “Mrs. Fox”. In my sweet daughter’s case she had not only been emotionally abused by this teacher, she had also been physically abused. Another parent happened to be standing outside the door and called to inform me what she’d heard. My daughter had already told me that “Mrs. Fox” had yelled at her and made her stand in front of the class finishing her math assignment… how mortifying in itself. What I found out through role playing (this is quite helpful) was this teacher had grabbed my daughter and pulled her to the front of the class, knocking her into a desk as she continued to berate her in front of the entire classroom. I took action, which involved the superintendent of the district and disciplinary action for this teacher. Personally, I think she should have been fired… but she had tenure.

There are marvelous teachers; each of my children knows who their favorites were. But among the many marvelous teachers, there are also bullies that are influencing our kids. My grandson told me about a teacher that yelled at him in the lunchroom the other day. Then his brother affirmed that this particular teacher has a habit of yelling at all the kids in her classroom. Really? Is this necessary? Absolutely not! Our children follow by example. If they hear their teacher yelling… it’s a green light for them to yell! I don’t care how bad you’re life is or how tired you are, or any other excuse… if you can’t handle children with the utmost respect, helping to build character and self esteem…STOP TEACHING!

My daughter in 4th grade

I get a bit emotional when it comes to bullying. I was crying as I wrote the foregoing experience from fifth grade… that was over 53 years ago! You never quite forget something like that. But if you can use your experiences for good…  f you can help your children and in the process become that child’s advocate…. I repeat, become your child’s advocate – then we can help prevent much of the incumbent emotional or physical trauma in our children’s lives.

And… Kelli found happiness, joy and beauty within, that radiates outward!

 Have you had experiences with teacher bullies? I’d love to hear any comments.

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if I could ask daddy…

by jani on October 10, 2012

Daddy was born in Kentucky in 1896, but spent his boyhood in St Louis, Missouri. He often spoke of watching the Wright Brothers piloting their “flying machine” while attending the St Louis World Fair. It was fun listening to his stories. But now in my later years, I am filled with so many unanswered questions. As I read the history about the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (or simply referred to as the St Louis World Fair). Does anyone remember Judy Garland’s, “Meet Me At The Fair”?

If I could, I would ask Dad if his lifelong love of puffed wheat came because it was introduced at that fair. “Is that the first time you ever tasted it, Daddy?” Maybe I wouldn’t have disliked that cereal so much… maybe there would be so much more to that story…. Or ice cream cones… Daddy loved ice cream cones.

According to Wikepedia: “A number of foods are claimed to have been invented at the fair. The most popular claim is that the waffle-style ice cream cone was invented and first sold during the fair. However, it is widely believed that it was not invented at the Fair, but instead, it was popularized at the Fair. Other claims are more dubious, including the hamburger and hot dog (both traditional American foods), peanut butter, iced tea, and cotton candy. It is more likely, however, that these food items were first introduced to mass audiences and popularized by the fair. Dr. Pepper and Puffed Wheat cereal were first introduced to a national audience at the fair.”

Daddy never really liked cotton candy… I did. But did he stand in awe watching it being made for the first time, almost afraid to try it?

Ever try puffed wheat? Growing up it was a staple in our kitchen cupboards. I didn’t like it!

But, this fair had a darker side. The following story, to me,  is horrifying. Did Daddy go and see these people? Did he feel ashamed? Did he point and laugh like in the movie “Phantom of the Opera” or “Elephant Man”? I don’t know, because I never asked. I want to believe that even though my dad was only eight years old, he had the character to know this was a travesty!

From Wikepedia:

“Following the Spanish-American War, the United States acquired new territories such as Guam, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico. Some natives from these areas were brought to be on ‘display’ at the fair. Such displays included the Apache of the American Southwest and the Igorot of the Philippines, both of which peoples were dubbed as “primitive”.

In contrast, the Japan pavilion advanced the idea of a modern yet exotic culture unfamiliar to the turn-of-the-century Western world, much as it had during the earlier Chicago World’s Fair.

Ota Benga, a Congolese Pygmy, was featured at the fair. Later he was given the run of the grounds at the Bronx Zoo in New York, then featured in an exhibit on evolution alongside an orangutan in 1906, but public protest ended that.”

As I read the story of Ota Benga, I couldn’t stop myself from crying… this young man was only 18 when first “displayed” at the fair in 1904. He then was taken, “displayed” and eventually released from the monkey house in 1906. But with the outbreak of WWI, with no hope of returning to his native Congo, he committed suicide at the age of 32.

Ota Benga in 1904

My tears kept falling as I read about Ota Benga. I wanted to learn more about this man… I knew there had to be more. After researching, I found the book I was looking for. Ota Benga Under My Mother’s Roof  is a compilation of poetry by the wonderful author, Carrie Allen McCray. Perhaps you’ve read Freedom’s Child? It’s yet another poignant book by this author. Ota’s story, beautifully captured through poetry, is a must-read. McCray captures the extraordinary and tragic life of this brave man in a very personal way, as Ota Benga had lived with McCray’s family. She paints images of what horrors can be inflicted upon our brothers and sisters in the name of industry, science and progress. It’s a sad reminder of where we were in the history of our country just over a century ago – and where we must never return!

Daddy died in 1978. He had a life filled with opportunity and promise. How did he feel about Ota… how did he feel about slavery? He was, after all, from a family of slave owners. That sentence is difficult to write. My grandmother… a slave owner? That’s right. I can’t change the past, but I can try to change the future. I can change me… I can try to influence how my children and grandchildren view the world and their fellow men and women. I can share with them the feelings I had as I marched during the summer of civil rights marches happening across the U.S. – and how it felt to sing, “We Shall Overcome”… I’ve sung it to them. There’s still so much more to be done!

Have you read any of Carrie Allen McCray’s books? Have you read, “Ota Benga Under My Mother’s Roof”? If not – I hope you will! 

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