Posted by: joshjasper | April 19, 2011

I Hated Middle School

I spent my early childhood filled with rage. I had no friends and I was bullied daily for having big ears and acne. I was called nasty names, was never invited to social gatherings, and was physically assaulted more times than I care to remember. I spent much of my time wondering when the next attack was going to take place. I never walked home from school the same way twice, and I stayed in the classroom as much as possible between periods. The bullies were relentless.

As I got a little older, I convinced myself that I would never have close friends, let alone ever get married. I felt so alone and my self esteem was crushed. What had I done to deserve such treatment? Why couldn’t I be like everyone else? I was hurt and very angry.

Looking back it would have meant so much to have a teacher, mentor, neighbor or friend take me aside to tell me that everything was going to be all right, to let me know why those bullies acted the way they did. People knew what was going on, but no one did anything.

It was during my 7th grade year that I discovered an effective way to draw attention away from my ears and acne and onto something less painful. I became the class clown. I did anything and everything to gain attention and to stop the harassment. Too often teachers would call home reporting that I was acting out in the classroom. Parent teacher conferences were always the same. “If Josh would just stop all of the horseplay, he would excel in all areas.”

During the next year though, things drastically began to change. The harassment was beginning to dissipate. I was no longer being made fun of and people wanted to have me around. But I knew better. It was at this same time that I grew more than six inches and soon towered over my fellow classmates. It wasn’t my friendship they were after at this point. They were simply hoping that I had forgotten all of their hate over the years and that I wasn’t looking for revenge.

It is no coincidence that I work for an organization that is charged with the mission of ending all forms of violence. Every day one of our educators meets a student that discloses being bullied and harassed by their peers. In a recent study, 77% of students said they had been bullied. People are harassed on their Facebook pages, sent threatening emails from people that hide behind anonymous screen names, and stalked through their cell phones. Recently, a middle school girl shared with me that she had received hundreds of messages on her Facebook page from her “friends” calling her a “slut” and a “whore” and was encouraged to kill herself.

But with this increase in interaction comes additional allies that can step forward to provide empathy and support. Please don’t stand by and let these hurtful behaviors happen on your watch. We all have past hurt that we don’t want others to go through. Share those experiences with others so they know they aren’t alone. All adults have the power to defend, protect, and encourage others to be themselves rather than desperately trying to blend in with the crowd. Step in to be a role model for your children, friends, and neighbors to help put an end to bullying as we know it.

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Responses

  1. I too suffered during middle school. There were things going on at home that I couldn’t talk about and that caused me t be terribly withdrawn and insecure. We didn’t have an agency like Riverview Center though I often wonder how different things might have been if we did. In any case the people I remember being a help to me were Sister Dorothea and Sister Magdalita. They both had totally different personalities and approaches towards their students and they both shared one major similarity. They put their kids first. And they put my feelings first and believed me. They were angels in a very dark time. So to my fellow violence prevention educators and teachers, never ever underestimate the influence you have even if it isn’t always expressed. 🙂

  2. i was never physically threatened (having my mom as a teacher in my middle school opened me up to more of certain kinds of tormenting, but protected me from anything that could get people in real trouble), but i was teased about the same things you were. my “best friend” in 2nd grade called me dumbo because of my ears, and there were 2 boys in middle school who made it their life’s mission to make me miserable. i still have really strong negative feelings toward them both because of the years of torment. even though i know, from personal interaction, that they’ve grown into pretty decent men, the pain they caused me, very intentionally, is just too deep for me to completely forgive.

    in high school, there was a 3rd boy who took up the cause and after he pushed me over the edge one day, i lost it, screaming at him in the hallway, where any and all could hear me. it was after school, but there were still teachers and students around. i heard 2nd hand that one of my teachers said to a parent aid who was there at the time “i don’t know why it took her this long to do that”. while i appreciate the sentiment, it pisses me the fuck off that they obviously saw what was going on and never stepped in! i may have been 17, but i was still a child in their care! it’s just infuriating to know how many adults apparently saw, knew it was wrong, and did nothing to stop it, ever.

  3. I’m definitely another data-point in support of your “size” hypothesis – while I was relentlessly bullied verbally and emotionally, I had a combination of height and, after puberty, a broad build which seemed sufficient to deter escalation.

  4. Between the ages of about 9 and 12, I used to spend all my break and lunchtimes lost in a book in the school library, along with a half a dozen other friendless kids. Miserable, miserable times. At that time, one teacher wrote on my school report “No problem!”, and my mother very nearly marched right up to the school and hit him. It’s amazing how some teachers can just wilfully ignore the abject misery of bullied kids.

  5. That is a heartbreaking story. What a living hell to have to endure at such a young and unequipped age. Most adults would lose it under that much bullying.

    Nowadays it’s exacerbated by facebook, camera phones, you name it. Suffering from bullying is now overwhelmingly multidimensional.

    I was picked on a little bit, and even that could put such an incredible strain on the school day. I can’t imagine what it would’ve been like had I been able to see all the nasty comments and cruelty online as well.

    I saw kids getting ruthlessly bullied, and I feel guilty to this day for having not done more to stop it.


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