Bullies & Their
was no saint, let alone an angel of any kind, while pounding
the books at St. Matthew’s. It was an elementary school run
by the Josephite nuns in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn.
I’m still haunted by memories of the vibrations from their
glares and stares and the sting from their three-foot long
rulers cracking down on my knuckles.
controlled the classroom and were in every part of our lives,
even though there were 36 of us in the classroom. They could
do it because we stayed in that one class and weren’t swapped
from teacher-to-teacher, subject-to-subject.
came the 4th grade. There was a new kid who had been left back.
He was the bully who was all over you in the cafeteria, in
the school yard. He’d come up next to you and whisper in your
ear, threatening mass destruction on your way to and from school,
courtesy of his pals who went to nearby public school that
got out 15 minutes earlier and could be ready to roll-up on
never beat you himself. He was a Fagan-like character. If you
complained, you’d get more grief. He’d ratchet it up. He was
empowered by this more than he feared the nuns.
was so much pressure, my grades plummeted from straight A’s.
I started looking for reasons not to go to school. I had an
appendicitis attack from the tension and stress, so I transferred
to a public school in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn.
manipulation broke my confidence, but it eventually made me
strong. The bully, unlike the prevailing profile, is often
the most charismatic, the most outspoken and gregarious. He’s
a real modern-day Eddie Haskel of Leave It To Beaver fame.
If left unchecked, the bully will eventually turn his sights
on the teacher, pushing to see how far he can get. Then teachers
will start calling in sick because it’s not worth it to them
to deal with these predators day-after-day, hour-after-hour.
our anti-bullying seminar that we are bringing to school systems
around the country, we use members of the Guardian Angels to
role-play, as victims of the bullies, teachers, apathetic students
and naturally, the bullies. It’s interactive, as teachers and
students rotate roles. There is more information and free step-by-step
guidelines on our Web site, www.guardianangels.org.
bullying may not be all out in the open for teachers to see.
It thrives because people in the school systems rarely, if
ever, communicate with each other.
why everyone has to share information. It’s vital for the system
not to separate itself—white-collar administrators and teachers
from the blue-collar school bus drivers, crossing guards and
cafeteria workers, who tend to be more street smart and have
a better understanding of what’s going on outside the classroom.
left unchecked, there will never be détente between the bully
and the teacher. You have to neuter the bully or remove him
before he creates more havoc.#
Sliwa is the Founder and President of Guardian Angels.
Update, Inc., P.O. Box 1588, New York, NY 10159.
Tel: (212) 477-5600. Fax: (212) 477-5893. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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the publisher. © 2003.