A City Education: We Can Only Overcome Bullying if We Do it Together

Bullying permeates all aspects of schooling. We can only overcome it when we work together.

Through A City Education, City Year corps members share their experiences working as tutors and mentors in schools in hopes of closing the opportunity gap and ending the dropout crisis.

I made the decision to go to a high school where I knew almost nobody. It was the largest school I had ever seen. The buildings were huge and beautiful and there were hundreds of students. I thought I’d find myself and where I fit in. I thought that high school would be just as fun as it seemed in the movies.

But I was invisible. No one spoke to me and no one showed interest in being my friend. I found myself at the wealthiest school I had ever seen, and as someone who had almost no possessions, this was terrifying. I became fully aware of what I lacked and realized how unlike my peers I was. Eventually I stopped eating lunch, because I lived in fear of the day that others might find out that I got my lunch for free.

I sported the "goth" look, which caused me to become popular amongst my peers. Not popular in the way I longed for—I was ridiculed. My classmates' interest in me was solely to find new things to mock. They would ask me about the music that I was interested in, and then they'd laugh about it. There was one girl that would actually follow me to my locker so she could make fun of my acne. Sometimes she'd be waiting there with friends. I dreaded those days.

Bullying permeates all aspects of schooling. From a young age, students feel pressured to look and act a certain way—any sort of difference is threatening. Being bullied is difficult not only because of the actual act, but also the residual effects. It made me feel powerless, like nobody would help me even if I cried out for it. I felt weak because I couldn't stop it, and I thought the things they mocked about me were true.

As a City Year Orlando corps member, many of my students have shared their experiences with bullying with me. One of my students talked about being in fifth grade and moving to a new apartment complex. "There was a taller boy who lived there who bothered me regularly, calling me short, pushing me around, or kicking in my door," he said. "One day, other kids were playing football but I didn't want to play, so that same boy started throwing rocks at my head. This caused us to fight, and during this fight I was dropped on my back. I ended up in a back brace for some time afterwards," he said.

My student is now a leader at school—a participant of many clubs and organizations—but he still faces insecurities due to his height. His peers know that all it takes to hurt him is to call him "tiny" or "short."

Another student I work with also faced trouble in fifth grade. He described two girls who he believed were trying to get him suspended. "Eventually they got the entire class to call me gay," he said. "They would call me this when I walked by, as well as saying stuff like 'he touched me.' My friends told me that when I wasn't there, they'd put notes in my desk accusing me of touching them. I eventually had to go to the principal because of this, but the principal didn't believe me, so I had to transfer classes," he said.

This student, while certainly very bright, still has behavior trouble. He's a self-appointed class comedian, but many times he jokes to hide his insecurity. Alexy Santos, a City Year corps member serving at Orlando's Walker Middle School, held an assembly to address bullying with students. Each grade discussed and defined what bullying was, and then watched a powerful video by spoken word poet Shane Koyczan. The video highlighted multiple types of bullying and how we can find the inner strength to overcome bullying together.

Signs are now visible on the walls of the school. The words "I promise" appear in bold and the signatures of every student from each grade represent a promise they're making to unite against bullying. A united effort is the strongest ally we can have against bullying, and since bullying is often learned, changing our behavior is necessary. It doesn't just affect a few students with similarities. Most people at some point in their lives will experience ridicule or bullying. The assembly at Walker Middle School is the first step in a long journey. Education is the most important tool to help our students learn to accept others.

Sometimes, when I find myself discouraged about bullying, I remember my students that regularly stand up for people they don’t know. They call out disrespectful comments and keep each other in check. Moments like these remind me that the cycle of kindness and acceptance is alive and capable of continuing. Moments like these remind me that I'm going to learn so much more from these kids than I thought I would—and that sometimes it's good that high school isn't like the movies.

Do this: Confront bullying and raise awareness about the long term impact it has.

Unhappy girl being bullied in class image via Shutterstock

Ottawa Humane Society / Flickr

The Trump Administration won't be remembered for being kind to animals.

In 2018, it launched a new effort to reinstate cruel hunting practices in Alaska that had been outlawed under Obama. Hunters will be able to shoot hibernating bear cubs, murder wolf and coyote cubs while in their dens, and use dogs to hunt black bears.

Efforts to end animal cruelty by the USDA have been curtailed as well. In 2016, under the Obama Administration, the USDA issued 4,944 animal welfare citations, in two years the numbers dropped to just 1,716.

Keep Reading Show less
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less
via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less

There is no shortage of proposals from the, um, what's the word for it… huge, group of Democratic presidential candidates this year. But one may stand out from the pack as being not just bold but also necessary; during a CNN town hall about climate change Andrew Yang proposed a "green amendment" to the constitution.

Keep Reading Show less
Me Too Kit

The creator of the Me Too kit — an at home rape kit that has yet to hit the market — has come under fire as sexual assault advocates argue the kit is dangerous and misleading for women.

The kit is marketed as "the first ever at home kit for commercial use," according to the company's website. "Your experience. Your kit. Your story. Your life. Your choice. Every survivor has a story, every survivor has a voice." Customers will soon be able order one of the DIY kits in order to collect evidence "within the confines of the survivor's chosen place of safety" after an assault.

"With MeToo Kit, we are able to collect DNA samples and other tissues, which upon testing can provide the necessary time-sensitive evidence required in a court of law to identify a sexual predator's involvement with sexual assault," according to the website.

Keep Reading Show less