Tag Archives: Bullying

What Happened When I Got Really Mad at A Big Bully

Yesterday I read a post by my buddy Jaye at Jaye’s Brain that made a connection between adoption and bullying.

In a book review of an anthology by adoptees, Perpetual Child, that I’ve been reading, she wrote:

An essay by Matthew Salesses stood out for me not only by what it said regarding adoption but what it said about bullying/adoption. I started out blogging, unintentionally, by writing about the bullies on the bus. Again, I thought it was my over-sensitivity and my desire to prevent anyone from having negative feelings (or perhaps, any feelings at all) that made me a (bullied) target.

Salesses, in his essay, wrote about being bullied because he was a transracial adoptee. Jaye was adopted, and she writes about the power of the essays and other pieces in Perpetual Child. She shares her very first blog post–which, guess what, just happens to be about being bullied. Go read it (link is in her quote above)!!! And the topic is bus bullying, a subject that I wrote about here.

In 2012, I started my first blog, Don’t We Look Alike?, writing it with my daughter. The subject of DWLA is adoption, and over the past almost two years, I’ve learned a lot about the subject–and revised some of my viewpoints. I want to share with you the first post I wrote. I’m not sure that today I could write my story with the same tone I do here, but this is how the experience seemed to me for most of my life.

The post didn’t have too many readers, but a couple of the “likes” were by bloggers who I still read and who occasionally read this blog.

It’s interesting to me how different my response was to this bullying than to the subsequent bullying I myself was subjected to at my new school in 3rd grade. At the time of the following story, I was in 2nd grade, and at my familiar “old” school.

Here’s my story:

I’m the mother of two young adults, both adopted from Korea when they were babies. But my relationship with adoption began much earlier. I’m the sister of an adoptee, too. Back in the early sixties, it was still a new idea that adoption wasn’t a secret to be kept and that an adopted child could grow up knowing he was adopted and still feel loved and accepted by others. My parents embraced this idea. When they started the adoption process for a boy, they explained all this to me and I thought I understood. Yet it wasn’t quite that simple.


It was a March day, when my parents and I drove downtown to pick up my brother Teddy from Catholic Family Services. We weren’t Catholic, but Mom explained that their agency was the one with the babies and we were in need of a baby. We pulled up in front of an old house on South Street and went in. Teddy lay in a white bassinette in a small room. My parents and I encircled him, looking down at our new baby. Our case worker said, “He’s just six weeks old. Isn’t he a darling?”

Though shocked to see his face covered with a red rash, I quickly decided not to be picky since I had been waiting all seven years of my life for a brother.

A few months before, when the case worker was going to visit us for the first time, Mom and Dad had warned me that she would ask questions, and I sensed that our family getting the stamp of approval rested on me and my answers.

I kept things businesslike, asking for a brother since our family needed a boy more than another girl. Since it was 1963 and I’d never met anyone who was adopted, I assumed that kids, adopted or not, would automatically look like their parents. I had my mother’s brown hair and blue eyes, so I put in an order for brown eyes to match Dad’s.

Now I peered closer at the baby with his frill of reddish-brown hair. “He’s got blue eyes like mine!” I’m sure I sounded accusatory. The case worker explained they were fresh out of baby boys with brown eyes, so they had chosen Teddy because he looked like Mom and me. I considered the logic and figured he would do.

When we got him home, all the relatives started coming over to meet him. For two weeks, we had somebody at our house almost every day. They liked to have me sit on the couch and hold Teddy while they took our picture. Teddy felt like one of my dolls, but warm and heavier, and yet I was conscious of how fragile he was and how careful I had to be with him. Every day I rushed home from school so I could see him. Day by day, I learned to be more comfortable with him, and how to hold the Playtex bottle with its plastic bag insert so he could get formula without swallowing too much air. I learned how to burp him, patting his back which seemed barely bigger than my hand. He relaxed and smiled at me when I picked him up, and he wrinkled his forehead when I lay him back in the crib.

I’d been in the choir at the Methodist church all school year. A group of us would walk from school to the church [once a week]. We were six kids, all ages, from an afternoon kindergartener to a tall fifth grader, a girl I’ll call Jane. Her size and confident demeanor gave her a lot of authority.

That day we decided to cut through the backfields to the church, although we usually just marched down the side of Gull Road. Jane said it would save us a lot of time to cut through, and nobody wanted to argue with her, although the snow was melting in the field, leaving ruts filled with mud.

Since having a baby brother was a new phenomenon in my life, I liked to bring up the subject–a lot. After having been an only child, I loved the sound of the words my brother. As we walked, I chimed in with something about my brother Teddy.

Suddenly Jane, who was leading, turned around and said, “He’s not your REAL brother. Don’t lie about it.”

My skin seemed to peel back from my limbs, and my stomach got a sick flipfloppy feeling. “What do you mean he’s not my real brother?”

“He’s ADOPTED. That’s not REAL.” A sea of bloody red anger splashed across my eyes. Jane had no siblings and, since she was eleven, probably thought she’d never get any. But I wasn’t thinking from her perspective. To me, her words were an act of violence against Teddy.

That’s the first memory I have of being angry. I lowered my head, aiming straight for her stomach. Eventually Jane and I got back on friendly terms, but I never forgot that some people don’t really understand what adoption means for those of us whose lives are changed by it. My parents’ philosophy had become my philosophy, but I now knew it wasn’t shared by everyone.

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When I was in 7th grade, a very large girl sat on me and started to beat me up, but I was rescued by my friend’s father who jumped out of his car when he saw what was happening. Other than those scary few moments, the only time I was ever in a physical fight was when I head-butted Jane. In case you’re wondering, not much happened after that point because Jane apparently was shocked somebody stood up to her and not inclined to fight.

Have you been in a physical fight with a bully?

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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Nonfiction

Pick Pick Pick

This post picks up (pun accepted) where the last one–“Incorrect. Wrong. You Don’t Fit Here.”–left off. It’s still the first day of Miss Slack’s 3rd grade class.

Daddy had told me to take the bus home, and as class let out that afternoon, I asked Miss Slack which bus. She marched down to the principal’s office, dragging me behind. After finding out which bus I should get on, she shooed me down the hall, toward a backlit glass door, which looked like I would be walking into the light at the end of my life.

I sat on a seat mid-way down the aisle. The bus driver cranked the lever, and the door swung shut, but just as we were leaving, two girls ran up and banged on the door. The driver let them in and they quickly walked down the aisle. The brunette girl must have been a sixth grader as she was tall with an adult figure. The other girl was small, maybe my size but skinnier, with the skin of an albino and hair the color of a young pumpkin. They looked like misfits. I was eager to make friends with them.

When they got near my seat, the bigger girl noticed me and stopped. She turned to the other girl and said, “Get in there.”

The redhead moved into my seat, and I scooted over, but she didn’t sit down on the outside. She climbed over me, stepping on both my feet in the process, and squished down between me and the interior wall of the bus so that I had to move over a bit. The big girl then sat down on my other side and pushed heavily against me so that I was pressed between both of them.

I looked from one to the other, wondering what in the world was going on. “Uh, hi,” I ventured.

They ignored me, but nodded at each other. That’s when they each took an arm. The afternoon had gotten warm, and I had taken my jacket off at the bus stop. I had a thin long-sleeved blouse on, but that didn’t deter these girls. They each started pinching an arm in earnest.  “Ow!” I repeated ow over and over, looking around at the other kids for help or at least moral support, but everyone ignored us. It was as if we had moved into an alternate universe, and although I could see and hear the others, these two girls had whisked me away to a place where we had become invisible to the others. A dangerous place where I was totally on my own.

Scene of the crime

Scene of the crime

It seemed as if the four mile drive took an hour. Unfortunately, the girls got off at my bus stop. I had to follow the big girl off, while the redhead followed me, kicking at the back of my knees along the aisle. The minute my feet touched ground, I took off running, while I heard them laughing behind me.  I ran all the way down the street with tears rivering down my cheeks. At home, I ran to my bedroom and slammed my door shut. I ripped off my blouse and saw that the skin on my arms was shredded with their pinches. Wiping my face with my blouse, I threw it on the floor, and then flung myself onto my bed where my tears turned into sobbing.

By then I was crying at missing my friends Vivian and Michelle, as well as Miss Dixon. I was crying for my old neighborhood and my sandbox that I hadn’t played in for two years. I was crying because I hated Miss Slack and her horrible class of mean kids. And I was crying for myself, lost in a world which had suddenly become dominated by an intolerable bus ride to and from a place which had no room for me.

How did I go from being on top of the world to being one of the downtrodden? How did it happen that two different incidents of bullying—1) by the teacher, and 2) by the girls on the bus who were not in my classroom—occurred at the same time?

So I don’t leave you hanging, Miss Slack continued to ask the class to show displeasure at my inability to remember to box my answers, and I became well acquainted with the health room from all my trips to get out of class. Those girls on the bus continued to pinch me for about six weeks. I finally told my mother and showed her my arms. The girls stopped, and soon it was as if it had never happened.

Well, except that now I knew what it felt like to be bullied, an experience that left me more empathetic to others, but also insecure and less confident.

I don’t know if my mother did something to get the girls to stop or if the cessation of bullying was a coincidence. If I ask my mother today, she wouldn’t remember. She never remembers events of the past, choosing to focus on the day-to-day.

Did you ever bully another child?

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I’m sorry if you were looking for a memoir review today. Next week I’ll do two reviews to make up for posting a two-part story this week!
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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing

Incorrect. Wrong. You Don’t Fit Here.

The media focus on bullying has got to remind a lot of adults of incidents when they bullied or were bullied. I know it reminds me . . . .

In March of 3rd grade we moved to a new house, and I was forced to change schools near the end of the school year.

I went from a secure position in a classroom led by a decent teacher to . . . Miss Slack’s classroom.

“Introduce yourself to the class.” The young blonde teacher nodded to me as I stood there next to the desk she had had someone vacate for me. It was in the middle of the classroom, in the second row.

I said my name aloud for the class.

She sighed with an exasperated spout of air. “Where did you go to school? Why did you come here in the middle of March?”

“Um, I go to Gull Road School. Miss Dixon is my teacher. We moved here.”

This time, instead of making a disgusted noise, Miss Slack looked at the rest of the class and rolled her eyes. OK, maybe she didn’t actually roll her eyes. But it felt as if she were making fun of me. She was putting me on display, and her manner was disdainful.

“Sit down. Open the red book to page twenty-four.”

I tried to find the page the rest of the class was on, but words and numbers blurred beyond recognition.

Ten minutes later, Miss Slack announced the beginning of reading period. The kids scrambled around the room, dragging and pushing desks into three circles. I looked for my reading group, the top one that I’d always been in. But Miss Slack pointed to one of the smaller groups and said to me, “Luanne, join the middle reading group.” Apparently the large group was the top group. I was being put in the bottom half of the class in reading. Me, the best reader every year.

I glanced at her in surprise. I had heard the principal assure Daddy that my new teacher already had my records and that there wouldn’t be any “gaps in her education.”

“Luanne, you might be used to being smart at your old school, but here we have a whole class full of smart students. There isn’t any room in the top reading group, so you will have to join the middle one.”

That afternoon, we worked on multiplication. I was the first student Miss Slack called to the board. She asked me to multiply 33.16 x 48.12 on the board. “To see where you’re at,” she said.

I did my work, carrying over and counting places for the decimal. Now she’ll see I am a good student, I thought.

“That’s not correct,” she said, when I was finished.

I looked back at the problem, feeling a thick crease between my eyes. I wasn’t sure where my mistake could be.

“You must make a box around the answer,” Miss Slack said. “Jeremy, go to the board and show Luanne how it’s done.”

Jeremy drew a square box around my answer. “Now it’s correct.” Miss Slack nodded for us both to sit down.

At the end of the hour, Miss Slack asked me to do another problem. The problem was easier, 7.04 x 15. I finished it and turned to sit down.

“Incorrect!”  Miss Slack gloated. “What’s wrong, class?”

The whole class sang out that I had forgotten to box my answer. I hadn’t redeemed myself at all, but had made myself out to be stupid and a fitting target for the teacher’s cruelty.

Next post: Part II of this bullying story.

Note: because this happened many many years ago, I don’t remember the exact problems I worked on the board. My memory tells me they were decimal multiplication, but I could be wrong about that. In the way of memoir, I just made up the multiplication problems here.

I’ve asked myself many times if there was some way that I had shown any arrogance that would have caused this teacher to treat me this way, but I was brand new and very shy and scared. Maybe my shyness irritated her.

Most of the pieces I share with you won’t go into my book, but they are from the same stock of memories.

Were you ever bullied by a teacher?

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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing