Fortunately, I wasn’t bullied much. This is one advantage of being among the tallest kids in middle school. It is not an advantage on Valentine’s Day, however. In my experience, tween boys don’t dig girls who tower over them.
I took my fair share of teasing, though, including taunts from the back of the school bus for a big nose, flat chest, chipped front tooth, and boyishly muscular legs. On a bullying spectrum, this was very mild. Yet, it was enough to make me cry on occasion (when I got home). More often, I sharpened my tongue and answered back with a jab of my own, laughed it off (not one to let people know when they’ve struck a nerve), or conspiratorially counted the days when I’d grow into my nose, be allowed to shave my legs, maybe grow big boobs, and Just wait, I’ll show you.
I think I grew into my nose, or, at least, no one feels the need to tell me that it looks like a ski slope anymore. A dentist repaired my tooth. I didn’t grow big boobs. (That’s probably the most obvious sentence I’ve ever written). But I’m OK with it; they’re, um, humble as Shakira would say. Something tells me Shakira was exactly the type of gal that pre-adolescent boys dug: petite, blonde, nice nose. All this is to say that being a kid– a young adolescent specifically– is challenging enough without being bullied.
Something also tells me that if I was bullied, perhaps about things more formative and fragile than appearances or to a point where I felt unsafe, my middle school wouldn’t have stood for it. Not one bit. The video, below, was created at Morse Pond School in Falmouth, MA, where I attended, and it recently appeared on Fox News. I’ve always been proud of growing up in my small hometown on Cape Cod (yes, year-round), but this week I am reminded that my pride extends beyond its beautiful beach environs or Falmouth Road Race fame: it’s the people.
People like Brian Switzer and Anne Goulart, teachers at Morse Pond School, who created and filmed a one-cut, 7+-minute video of students lip syncing to Lean on Me and illustrating messages of acceptance, kindness, and non-bullying. Here’s the news clip.
Awareness around bullying is shifting, most importantly, for kids who don’t have the ability to stand up for themselves or the assurance that they’ll be supported by teachers, parents, and staff if they do. I’ll tell you something else I remember from middle school: I wished I had Mr. Switzer as a teacher. I’m now 32, and I haven’t quite outgrown that.