Beating the Bully
Each year for the fourteen years I taught, there was at least one kid in the grade level who felt the urge to make life difficult for someone else. According to the rules of most schools, teachers were never to refer to such children as “bullies,” because that wouldn’t be nice, but really, that’s what they were. In my experience, most bullies would not stop until they got a dose of their own medicine, and for some of them, the lesson needs a few repeats.
One year, I had a bully in class who needed a few lessons. School had been going on for a while, and we were, in fact, well into the spring. I had a big-for-his-age bully who thought his personal duties involved belittling a smaller boy in the class. The smaller boy did nothing to instigate the problem as far as anyone could tell. I’d already applied consequences to the bully several times, and the principal had applied a few more. The parents had come in for conferences, during which they insisted their child was innocent.
One day, however, the bully must have been pesky one time too many. We were at recess, and I was monitoring a game of tag when the bully came racing across the playground. He skidded to a stop in front of me and promptly complained that his usual target had just hit him. Sure enough, there was a new scratch on the bully’s cheek.
Right about then, one of the other teachers blew the whistle for the end of recess, and all the way to the line, the bully lamented about how vicious his usual victim was. Personally, I wanted to say, “Good, now maybe you’ll stop bothering him,” but as a teacher, I couldn’t say that. Instead, I assured him that I’d deal with it. We lined up and went to our restroom break. While the class was cycling through, I sent the bully to the nurse to confirm that the injury was not mortal. While he was gone, I pulled the smaller boy aside to find out the other side of the tale. I’d been teaching long enough by then to expect an outright denial, but that’s not what happened.
“Yes, I hit him, but he called my momma a bad name!”
That didn’t surprise me. The bully was not known for his G-rated language.
A bit of effort was needed to find out what ugly language was used, and well, it involved an F-bomb and a couple other choice words.
The class finished the restroom break, so I took them to music then headed up to the office. Technically, I was supposed to write a referral, but that just didn’t seem fair. He’d put up with so much garbage so far.
I walked into the principal’s office and related the incident as I understood it.
The principal thought for a moment. “Did you actually see this incident?”
“No. I was monitoring the game of tag on the other end of the playground.”
“So, then it’s all hearsay, isn’t it?”
“Yes, but both boys say it happened.”
“And we can’t do anything about hearsay, can we? That mark on his face could have been from something else, like falling on the playground or bumping into someone or something.”
That’s when the light bulb came on. I thanked her and left. I’d like to say that was the end of the trouble, but no. The next week, the bully was back at it. Some lessons are harder to learn than others. This one took a couple repeats, but the bully did get it in the end.