the dogs are barkin' today


North of San Francisco, California,
November 16
I teach, I parent, I learn, I contemplate. I am constantly putting my toe in the water. I dove in, now I'm trying to keep my head above the surface.


Sweetfeet's Links
NOVEMBER 19, 2011 11:02PM

The Bullies Win Again

Rate: 22 Flag

He’s one of those kids who is wired differently. Outside the box, the odd duck, however you want to put it. They are the ones we write about after all, not the ordinary ones. I had asked for him. We had developed a bit of a rapport when he was in the class next door, on his good days. I was happy to take him on, add him to my crew. After 18 years of teaching, I felt I had the tools to deal with him.  And on that point, I was not proved wrong.

He has rough time, this kid. There are forces in him that he can’t always control. They result in the yelling and the hitting and the strange ways he leans on chairs to calm himself down. He is angry a lot. I don’t know if that’s because of those inner demons themselves, or his inability to control them, or the world’s reaction to him. But it’s there. And it keeps him from being the full person he wants to be.

He draws trees. Trees after trees after trees. Beautiful trees, and he knows their names and where they grow and the nature of their cones and seeds. Pretty remarkable for a six year old. His family spends time hiking and camping; they are a part of his culture. But the trees also speak to him. They are beautiful and regal and don’t challenge him. They are quiet and undemanding. They just are.

He’s as obnoxious as hell, this one. Lashing out at adults and children alike. He can tell if someone doesn’t like and respect him, and he treats them with disdain whether they are three feet tall or six feet tall. That’s gotten him in the most trouble. We call it disrespect. He’s just reacting with his emotions. There are days when I simply can’t take it, so I send him to a quiet corner or the principal’s office with his notebook. It doesn’t matter if he listens to the lesson or not, he’s smart enough to absorb it by osmosis.

I see his gifts. I see his light. The others don’t. They see his violence and his anger and his disruption. Their baby is in Kindergarten, and this kid is interrupting their child’s “perfect” Kindergarten experience. They want him out. They complain and cajole and bully until he is gone. I see no compassion in their actions.

Children come and go in a school, it is the way of education. But I am grieving more for the loss of this student than I have for any. I was particularly attached to him. I worked hard to bring him to a place that wasn’t so bad, where he had begun to see his self-control as useful, and find healthier tools to deal with life. The complainers have taken this away from me, have taken him away from me. Have interrupted his progress and mine, and forced him into a place where he has to start over.

I am angry. I won’t see him again, but I will see them. They have precious children under my care, innocent ones who deserve my attention as much as anyone else, and who I will hug really hard as we mourn the loss of their classmate.  I’ll have to look the adults  in the eye and pretend I don’t care what they did. And walk away from the comments and the questions. This is no solution in my book. Not for him, not for me. And not for the children who will never learn about understanding  and compassion from a boy who is just a bit different.






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This is dreadful, sweetfeet. I feel and hear your pain ... your anguish ... and I think I can see his too. I am saddened for that little one ... this will be his life ... a life where the majority won't want to try and understand ... a life where only few will show compassion and understanding. That makes me sad.
I have been there many times. Sometimes the adults are the bullies. They are tougher to deal with than a kid like this, in my view.
OMg heartfelt and raw. I hope one day we all get to at least break even.
Your love is obvious, Sweetfeet, but I'm wondering about the other parents. Maybe they were fearful he was a danger to their kids. I can understand their concerns, too. A knotty question.
OMG, Sweetfeet. This just tears me apart. Suffice it to say, I understand...every word.
I know, simply and certainly know, you are the kind of teacher our schools should have, the kind that sees beyond the external, the outward, the kind that asks "why" and "what does this mean," the kind that finds in the little behaviors a path to the inside where some real progress can be made--the kind of teacher, in short, whose primary concern isn't his or her own comfort and convenience. You are the kind of teacher whose salary, however much it might be, will never adequately compensate you for the hard, the really hard, and really important, work you do.
I wish you had been my son's teacher.
Your comment on the "perfect" kindergarten experience speaks volumes. The entire process is exactly like bullying. The popular parents gossip together and then the mob mentality takes over. I was touched by the obvious love you had for the little guy.

Keep plugging away--I remember a story I heard. A buggered up little boy was often in trouble and demanded the teacher's attention all the time in the classroom. An observer of the classroom visiting one day asked a group of kids at recess about this boy. "Doesn't it make you mad that he gets all the attention?" A little voice answered from the group: "No, he needs it." The others around the voice nodded their heads in agreement before scattering off to play. The little lad who liked to draw trees who didn't fit the mold. Fools still hate those who don't conform. The walking away part is probably a wise move but how about getting in a shot or two with a smile, of course, before you do? Keep loving them all....
Kids remember kind teachers, & it sustains them through life.
"I see his gifts. I see his light." Thank you for being such an extraordinary educator!
I am reminded here of my oldest son, who no teacher wanted to deal with in their elementary class after awhile, who only grew calm when we walked in the woods, who I only was able to relax with at the indestructible beach, where the waves we never turned our backs on were finally a fit for the energy of my son...
I could cry here at the words of a caring adult who doesn't have to love a child like this, but does, and so sees the incredible gifts these usually very intelligent children can bring...if only they could find calm.
Oldest son once said that he liked his back to the tree trunks because "they sing to me of strength and peace."
He was five then...
But I disagree that the bullies win.
They won't, sweetfeet, they won't...they just seemed to win a battle this time, but bullies never win. The results may be years in the making, but...
We must believe so,
I must anyway.
Thank you for all your supportive comments.

And Matt, I completely understand the perspective of the parents. They were worried about the safety of their children, and I shared their concern. Ultimately, I do believe that there is a better educational situation for this child. I just didn't like the way it was all handled, and I don't like to see any child ostracized. I felt caught between the proverbial rock and hard place.
Oh, I hear this. There's an autistic boy who was mainstreamed at my daughter's school. He taught those kids so much about compassion. They invited him to their birthday parties, accepted that he was just like them, just a little "odd." I'm so sorry that your boy was forced out. So unfair. What motivates parents to do that?
Maybe the answer is not all or nothing, but a little bit of something. He seems to not be able to be in class with everyone all day long, and kids who can comport themselves well or have consequences will also feel bullied. Perhaps some overlap time, because we aren't all equal and the same, as much as we would like to think so. Integration does not need to be a full body experience for everyone.
Wait...the kid is five or six? When I started reading I thought you were writing about a teenager. How can a five or six year old ruin the Kindergarten experience? No wonder you're upset. I hope he finds a kindred spirit in his new school, and that he doesn't get moved again if he does.
Well said, my dear woman.
As an assistant principal I dealt with bullies and their victims often. Very often they were children with ADD or Aspergers or just minds too "beautiful" for the world they were born into. I loved them when they locked their arms and told me nothing I said would convince them of something in which they did not, could not, believe, even if it meant being disciplined. I loved it when they barked out the truth in classes and were sent to me for that I could find out what the real story was, and marvel at their wisdom.

Our school was a "full inclusion" one, and it's one of the few things I'm truly proud of when I look back. These children were allowed to stay in regular classes, and the children who learned to "deal" with them learned more than their parents could ever have imagined about life in general.

There is a reason that my Hopi in laws did not understand why children like these were sometimes labeled as "special ed" cases who needed to be isolated. In their world, these were the "gifts" sent by the Creator to teach us things no one else could. They had their place in society, and were revered.

Thank God I had a chance to look at the world through their eyes for many years. I think it helped me "see" these children better. And love them more.
Damn, this evoked many things for me. The poignance of your current dilemma. Your justifiable anger, which has me angry now for you and that kid.

Behind that I feel how it was for me to be a differently wired kid. I never manifested anger. Didn't stop me from being bullied. For many people different is enough for them to ostracize you from the crowd.