Sometimes you just get an epiphany, that’s what happened today. Before that, I wasn’t sure what this week’s post was going to be about. I have a long list of topics saved on Word but I just didn’t feel inspired to write about any of them. Then this morning, I was on a substitute teaching assignment when I was asked to listen to some children read. One child read from a book called “Pumpkin’s Downfall.” While the story was still near the beginning and I only heard three pages, there was enough to light a bulb inside my head.
The part of the story I heard was about a new girl in school who was being bullied because she was perceived as weird. I know all about that so she had my total sympathy straight away. The instance of bullying I heard read to me was a case of the class, spearheaded by one girl, putting a dead spider in the girl’s glass of milk. Fortunately, the girl discovers the spider in her milk but she doesn’t scream or fuss. Instead, she simply takes it outside and buries it. She was followed by the chief bully, probably the alpha-female who reports back to her friends that it proves that the victim is weird.
What inspired me most was who was actually telling the story in the book. It was told from the view of one of the boys in the class. What struck me more was that he says that he never wanted to bully this girl but being one of the smaller and younger kids in the class, he feared that if he didn’t join in, he would become the target. It got me wondering, how many children join in with bullying because they don’t want to be the victim?
My suspected answer is probably a lot more than we think. In “He Was Weird,” Mark is briefly guilty of this. In sixth grade, his class turns on the perceived ‘ugly’ girl and he joins in with them. Furthermore, members of his class coerce him into bullying her more by telling him that if he doesn’t they will tell everyone in the school that he likes her. That is enough to put the fear of God into him so he complies. However, this is only short lived and it’s not too long before the bullies are back on him anyway. That part of the story was drawn on real life experiences. Kids in my sixth grade class would say that the ‘ugly’ girl and I were an item and would get me to “prove” I wasn’t by being nasty to her. With the wisdom of old age, I see how wrong I was. If I were ever to run into Jodie Miller again, I would apologize to her for this. At least unlike that town, I would be man enough to admit my fault in this.
On the reverse side, I wondered, when bullied by a group, how many of my bullies joined in for the same reason. They bullied me out of fear that the bullies would turn on them. I have a sneaking suspicion that the numbers would be very few and some would use it as an excuse to justify their actions. It doesn’t, joining in bullying out of fear of it happening to you is not an excuse. What that person or I need to do is to stand up for the victim. If numbers are an issue, bring it to the attention of someone in authority. That way, it can be addressed and stamped out.