I Was Bullied

7.28.14 Sad by Bully iStock_000020165037_SmallI was bullied.

Were you bullied?  It seems like everyone has experienced some form of bullying or they know someone who has.  I was bullied.  My students found it hard to believe.  They mostly saw me as either a powerful, stern, loving father figure or a cruel task master (hey, some kids don’t like to be told to get to work).  But seeing tough old Mr. D. as the object of bullying?  You’ve got to be kidding!

Yes, I was bullied throughout my childhood.  Bullies have always given me the impression of being insecure cowards who feel they have a right to make themselves feel superior by putting someone else down.  They give themselves reasons for their actions which are really only lame unjustifiable excuses for cruel behavior.  Somehow, I appeared to have the personality and habits which gave every bully in my neighborhood and school a lame excuse to go after me.  That is why, as an adult responsible for the safety and welfare of my students, I was merciless with bullies in my classroom.  So, how was I bullied while growing up; and what did I do to survive, you ask?

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The Laughable Paradox of Naive Sophistication

Sexy baby pink patent platform high heelsNaive Sophistication

Some adults (parents, teachers and pundits) believe that today’s teens are very sophisticated (see my posts on sex education).  Some adults (mostly parents and politicians) believe that teens are still very naive (or you could say innocent).  What I have observed is a strange combination of both.  This can lead to very comedic situations.  And although this concept of naive sophistication applies to both boys and girls, the following narrative is about the girls.  Now don’t get upset.  This probably doesn’t apply to your daughter but it most probably applies to the girl sitting next to her.

The most glaring example of this laughable juxtaposition of worldliness and naiveté can be witnessed in the teenaged girl who comes to school in the morning dressed as if she was looking for love in all the wrong places on a Saturday night and then she flops down a ‘Little Mermaid’ backpack, takes out a ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ pencil and begins writing in her ‘SpongeBob Squarepants’ notebook.

A more subtle example of precocious sophistication can be found in the lyrics of the Eagles song ‘Lying Eyes’ in which they sing about “girls… [who] find out early, how to open doors with just a smile.”  This is a story of just such a smile; but it didn’t work on me.

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Responsibility, Repression or Status Quo: Criteria for Policy Decisions

7.14.14 Status QuoiStock_000019973407_SmallResponsibility for reform

Over the last 25 years I’ve seen a lot of educational reform movements come and go and there has been little overall improvement. Experience has convinced me that the reason that educational reform movements show such little improvement is because responsibility for reform is always directed at teachers and only at teachers. This narrow focus on teachers releases all other stake holders from any responsibility.

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How I Got Gangsta’ Street Credit Without Getting Shot

7.8.14 Credit Cards & Benjamins iStock_000016074423_SmallGangsta’s

I taught the most hated and feared course in the curriculum to the most hated and feared students in the district.  For twenty years, I taught Algebra at a CDS school.  Community Day Schools (CDS) are ‘last chance’ alternative schools.  We’d get the most troubled, the most violent, the most at risk, the most hard headed, the unluckiest (personal problems or behind in credits), and the saddest (as well as the sweetest) teenage students you could possibly imagine.  My novella What Happened to David describes in greater detail the challenges these students face, but for right now just accept that I regularly had some very difficult clients.

Now on the particular day I’m talking about here, my class was made up of all boys and equally divided between hard core gangsters and wanna be gangstas.  I run a tight, goal oriented, mathematics classroom but even the best classroom manager will tell you that some days, you just have to go with the flow.  Today the flow was going toward a contest of who had survived the most impressive wounds – usually from gunshots or stabbings.

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The Gun in My Classroom

6.27.14 Gun iStock_000016146459_SmallI see a gun!

‘It’s really there!  A pistol in his left hand.  He’s showing it to the girl sitting next to him.  Be cool!  I don’t think he realizes I can see what he’s doing.  Stay cool and think fast and figure out what to do next.’

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