Monday, March 26, 2012


Dear God,

So I sit here on my sofa starting at an empty room and I think to myself: I should be grading papers. But really what I focus on is that I wish "Smash" would hurry up and start playing because then I could focus on the glitz and the glamour and the story of the young ingenue-in-training, all of which would be a perfect escape from what I'm currently thinking. I like escapes, because they are another way of working on avoiding, and avoidance is important.

So I'm listening to "Breathless" by Dan Wilson and figuring I should say hi.

There's a new film coming out. It's called "Bully." It's a really important movie. And just watching the trailer brings back a lot of memories.

A lot of memories.

We never really outrun or outgrow our pasts, now do we? Instead we carry them with us, as the turtle carries his shell.

I will always be that sensitive kid. It was my weakness and now it's my strength. It's what makes television and movies and books a totally different experience for me than it is for most people. It's what makes me see through to issues and morals that others don't carry with them. It's what makes my life more difficult and more complicated. It's also what makes me hate confrontation and feel like my only option is to shut down when it comes to that. I don't cry anymore, but I laugh...nervously. Nervous laughter is my weapon of choice because I still don't have the tools for more sophisticated ones.

I find it ironic that I teach 7th grade. That was the worst grade of my existence, the loneliest grade of my existence, the year of my life I would never repeat over, not for all the money in the world. It's like in this, too, God takes my hand and shapes my life and says that out of ashes there will come the phoenix, and all things build on one another.

Because in my life, they always do. Don't they, God. Everything is just another step to take me to the next level in the drama in which I star.

Some days I see that fully, understand it, respect it, work with it. Other days I struggle.

There are the days where I feel like crying, but instead I laugh. In the face of an absurd and difficult existence, I laugh. I feel like Gandalf at the maw of the bridge. "You shall not pass," I declare to my Balrog. "I shall conquer you." I wander through catacombs and mazes in search of the path that will finally lead me out of here and into somewhere brighter. I will get there through sheer effort of will and of course, with Your help.

I have my "The Show Must Go On" days where I wonder, "Empty spaces- what are we living for?" But in the end, as always, I concede to the song and determine that indeed, the show must go on, the curtain must rise, and it's time to dance my way across the stage again. (To be sure, I sometimes invoke a bit of the Black Swan when I do so. No one ever pegged me for a cooperative mortal.)

Let there be meaning! is my warcry. For in the absence of any, I find that I fade.

Thanks for the lessons,


Tzipporah said...

<3 Love this.

My 2 cents said...

I think that the most effective way to stop bullying is to a) explain the gravity of the sin. (and the concept of "what goes around, comes around") And if that doesn't work, then b) A stern warning about repercussions, and if it's still to no avail, then c) punitive measures. i.e. detention or public humiliation ("Miss Plonit keeps flagrantly committing a sin worse than eating pork, or theft, so we have to shun her. Plonit, turn your desk around and sit facing the back of the class!")
The lesson to the rest of the class is very valuable.
And speaking of lessons, I was taught early on that strength of mind is more admirable than strength of body. (But it's the effort that counts the most.) I would hope that more teachers and parents would emphasize this.
If all else fails, and after the parents have been notified a few times, then comes suspension.
And, most importantly, a teacher who ignores the situation, or worse, instigates it, should be fired! He or she is not fit to chaperone children.
It should also be pointed out that often-time the bully ends up changing the oil of the Geeky nerd's Mercedes. (:
Chana, you're a teacher, so how do you (or would you) handle bullies?

Shades of Grey said...

This really spoke to me. The deep, emotional thoughts and feelings inside your mind have been conveyed beautifully into words - though I imagine this is only a portion of what is actually contained within - considering the limitations of speech and writing.

My 2 cents does pose a good question, though. While you are reflecting upon your past and how that has shaped who you are, your role is now an entirely different one. As the authority in the classroom, your ability to deal with bullying is a very big change from your previous position as the one receiving the bullying.

However, based on your experience, I think you will be more equipped to handle such situations, keeping in mind that your should let your past guide you, but not influence you into being overly harsh or vengeful. Not that I expect you to take out your frustrations on 7th graders, but we all have our limits.

I envision you coming to terms with these difficult notions, and being able to work peace and understanding as you teach and role-model for your students.

Anonymous said...

You remind me a little bit of Harry Potter.
You both had a difficult childhood. Suffered from enemies that you never wronged. Experienced things that would give adults nightmares. You survived and and emerged a hero.
And now you can wield your own magic, in peace.
(I'm sure there are also loads of non-fictional successful people that you can be compared to.)
Now you can take all your experiences and help make this world a better place. A bit at a time.

JerusalemStoned said...

New here. You write beautifully.

I feel like we always have to look over our shoulders for the return of our monsters. But it also makes us more sensitive and aware--of ourselves, and of others.

Scraps said...

I, too, am a teacher now. And my students are also at an age which was entirely miserable for me (fourth, fifth, and sixth grade). It kills me when I see them treating each other badly, and I try to do whatever I can to alleviate the situations when it is in my power to do so. I was especially glad when one girl who was being bullied (both in my class and in others) felt comfortable enough to approach me to talk about the situation. She wasn't comfortable going to a higher authority on her own, but I was able to speak up for her and as far as I know things did get better, b"H. Most of the time, though, there is so little I can do, and it breaks my heart.

I know that I am who I am today because of the difficulties I faced earlier on in life. But I relate on so many levels with what you wrote: I still have extreme difficulty with confrontation. I am blessed - or cursed - with a high level of sensitivity. Knowing that someone is angry with me or dislikes me, especially when there is no particular reason for it, still hurts me very much. I struggle to find meaning in the struggles, because as you said, in the absence of meaning, I fade.

Never stop searching and striving to find the meaning of all of it. For even on the days when the answers are unclear and the glimmers of understand are precious few, giving up is even worse.