The Tale of a Sixth Grade Nothing
|Picture from http://hellogiggles.com/bullying-sucks|
(An honest post about bullying from author June Stevens.)
I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not to write this post for weeks. October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness month, and I think that is great. However when asked to actually talk about bullying, I get physically ill. It’s strange. I’m a fat chick that talks out about size acceptance all of the time. I’ve worked with victims of domestic violence in the past and advocate whenever I can. But when it comes down to talking about childhood bullying my stomach cramps and I just want to curl up in a little ball. I’m forty years old, but it seems that certain childhood traumas never go away.
My experience with bullying wasn’t the occasional experience with the big, bad school bully that many are unfortunate to encounter. Every school has that one kid. You know the one. The one that every person in school picks on, even if you don’t know the kid. If you are a kind, good kid, you don’t pick on them, but you do ignore them, just out of shear self-preservation. If you don’t, their fate will become your own.
For more than a year I was that kid.
It happened in the first couple of months of fifth grade. My family moved around a lot, so I was new to the school at the beginning of the school year, yet somehow I lucked into the “cool” crowd. The fifth grade Queen Bee and her drones were in my class and for a couple of glorious weeks I was a proud drone. Then one day it happened. I ticked off the Queen Bee.
I was a shy, quiet kid (though no one who knows me now would know it) that spent most of her time reading, always did her homework, and above all else, obeyed rules. I didn’t have the greatest home life and I’d learned the best way to stay out of trouble was not to be noticed and follow rules.
One morning while sitting in the gym and waiting for school to start the Queen Bee asked me to copy my homework from the night before. I was torn between wanting to be liked and not wanting to break the rules. The part of me that was too afraid of getting caught won the battle and I told her no. It seems no one ever told her no. She stood up and screamed “You are a nasty little booger.”
That one little sentence was the beginning of a life of torment. That became my name. “Booger.” I was teased and tormented and my tiny circle of friends dwindled to zero. I was granted a merciful reprieve when, just a couple of months into the school year we moved again. We only moved a few miles away, but it was into a different district and I moved schools. At that school I made friends, but the damage had been done and I had to go to counseling every week.
Unfortunately the next year was the beginning of Junior High. All of the elementary schools in the area fed into one Junior High and it only took a few weeks for the kids from my old elementary school to recognize me and start up the name calling again. I was a poor kid and my mom only bought me boy jeans and my shoes were worn out. I was also a “fast developer” so I looked more like a fifteen or sixteen year old girl than the 11-12 year old girls in my class. All of these things added fuel to the bully fire. I was teased, hit, kicked, spit on, slapped, pinched, tripped, had nasty notes taped to my back, and threatened. I was called ugly, nasty, slut, tramp, b***h, booger (that was the main one), and so many other horrible things that I wouldn’t dare repeat.
I got zero help from teachers. As a matter of fact, any time there was an altercation that was seen by teachers I was the one sent to the principal’s office. I repeatedly got detention for causing disturbances and when things got so bad that I couldn’t go in the lunch room without getting food dumped on me I was punished by being made to spend lunch hours in the office. To avoid that, I started spending lunch in the library and often went without eating.
I didn’t get any support at home. Yes, my mom went to the school a couple of times, but only to protest my detentions. She worked and couldn’t come get me after school if I missed the bus. Eventually she just started making me walk the three miles home. At home I got in trouble for not taking up for myself and if I was hit at school and didn’t hit back, I got hit at home. So, I stopped telling anyone. I retreated into myself and reading.
The ultimate insult came about six weeks before the end of the year when someone broke into my locker and stole all of my books and threw them into a pond behind the school. I had a lock on my locker but it would not have been hard for someone to stand over my shoulder and see the combination. The halls were crowded and I had a lower level locker. The school refused to replace the books. They said it was my fault. My mom refused to pay for them, finally standing up for me to the principal and saying it was the school’s fault for allowing the bullying to go on all year. Though a few teachers took pity on me and let me use their spare books in the classroom, most did not and I had to take zeros on almost all of my school work. At the end of the year I’d failed the last grading period. I’d had pretty good grades and could have passed the year (barely) but the school would not pass me to the next grade until the books were paid for. I failed the sixth grade.
There was more in my life that year than being bullied. It was the year we started learning about poetry and doing a lot of creative writing in language arts class. I became consumed with writing. I read over two hundred books that year and got a certificate from the librarian. I was in Young Astronauts and wanted to be an astronomer. I won first place in a kite making contest in Young Astronauts, I had two baby teeth pulled, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded the day before my twelfth birthday, we did a gymnastics rotation in gym class and I loved the balance beam so much I had my dad build me one out of some old planks and sawhorses we had at home. I lived, I survived, and eventually I even started thriving again.
The next year my mom sent me off to live with my grandmother several hours away. That year I was one of the most popular girls in school. When, by the third week of school, I was acing every test, my teachers went to the principal and had me take a test to test out of the sixth grade. I did, and passed with flying colors. So the principal called my Grandmother in and they gave me the choice of going forward to seventh grade (which at that school meant moving to another school), or staying and going through sixth grade a second time. I had so many friends in just a few weeks of school and was even a candidate for student council. Knowing how hard the last year had been for me, my grandmother left the choice up to me. In hindsight, going forward to seventh grade might have been better academically, but I chose to stay with the friends I had rather than move to yet another new school and risk being the outcast again. While there are always hardships and drama in 12 year old lives, it was an easy year both academically and emotionally. I even had my first (and fourth) boyfriend that year, went to my first boy/girl party, and got my first kiss (a quick peck that barely landed on my lips). I had a normal year. For once, I was a normal kid.
After that year I went back to live with my parents and while I had lots of ups and downs, I was never that picked on kid again. I eventually found my voice and took up for myself and others, but it took a while.
I have never shared my sixth grade experiences publicly. As a matter of fact I have only ever told them to a very few very close friends. I’m sharing it now in hopes that it can show that there IS life after being bullied. I wish I could say that effects of being bullied are temporary, but the truth is that even now I’m a little afraid about putting my story out there. There is a tiny bit of that twelve year old left inside that is afraid that if people know what happened, it will start up all over again. But I have people that love me and I know that whatever happens, they will always stand by me.
There isn’t a lot of advice I can offer, except that there is always hope. For me there weren’t any adults that really listened, but that was a very long time ago. Bullying is seen differently now. If the adults you go to don’t listen, go to someone else. Never stop trying. Don’t hide, don’t retreat into yourself, and keep telling adults what is happening until someone listens.
The most important thing I can tell you is that you are not the words other people use to speak to you. You cannot be summed up by someone else’s ignorance or hate. Their words have nothing to do with you. You are, no matter who you are, beautiful, unique, and special. You are your hopes and your dreams, so never give up hope and never stop dreaming.
ABOUT JUNE STEVENS:
June Stevens is the pen name of DJ Westerfield.
DJ uses the pseudonym June Stevens to write ROMANTIC fiction in a variety of genres including contemporary, suspense, fantasy, paranormal, urban fantasy.
DJ is a wife, step-mom, sister, auntie, daughter, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, friend, and Mommy to four adorable and mischievous four-legged babies. She writes non-fiction, blogs, and co-hosts an internet radio show as DJ Westerfield.
Voodoo Moon by June Stevens, is scheduled to be released by Crimson Tree Publishing in early 2015.
JUNE STEVENS BOOKS:
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