Shocking Teacher’s Thoughts On Bullying

My friend Ben is a Scorpio, but he has Aquarius rising with Uranus in Leo conjunct his descendent, and you just never what he’s going to do. His antics continue to surprise me and I’ve known him for three decades!

He was telling me about a girl in one of his classes, she’s a weirdo.  Try not to react to that. Just stay with me on this.

The girl is a weirdo and Ben has other weirdos in some of his classes. This is true now and it’s been true over the course of his 30 year long career in teaching. Let’s face it, some people don’t fit in as well as others.  But this particular girl was getting bullied for being a weirdo.

Ben made a point of telling me that these other weirdos were not getting bullied, which makes a person think.

The girl’s parents complained to the school. They placed the blame on for the girl’s problem on Ben. He was called into the office to speak with the parents and the principal about the issue.  Here comes the surprise…

“I told then, yes your daughter is bullied. She’s a weirdo.” I gasped and laughed involuntarily. “I was a weirdo when I was her age too,” he said, before I could get any words out my mouth. “I was the weirdest kid in the school at her age. Do you think I was not picked on? I know what it’s like to be bullied.”

Ben is half white, half black and he was an out-of-the-closet gay boy, back when none of this was okay. On top of that, his father weighed roughly 500 pounds at a time where no one weighed 500 pounds.

“I was picked on all the time because I was different.  I had two choices. I could either buckle under the pressure…or I was going to have to decide I was going to like myself no matter what anyone said about me.  I decided I did like myself and your daughter better learn to like herself and appreciate what she has, otherwise she is going to be bitter all her life. If that happens, it’s not going to be because me! This is up to her. It’s her choice! Is she going to let them take her down?  She doesn’t have to do that.

Your daughter is weird and so is everyone else in the class. They just don’t know it yet. But your daughter knows it. She knows she’s weird and she has the chance right now, to learn to like herself, right now, at this age.

If she does this, she’ll be ahead of everyone.  These other kids will be trying to figure this out in their 20′s and your daughter will have this squared away. So don’t come here and tell me to fix your daughter’s problem. I can’t fix her problem. If you’re weird, you have to deal with.  She’s weird, she has to deal with it, so there you have it. That’s my advice.”

I like myself. In fact, I have thought I was super-great, most of my life and it does help tremendously.

Do you like yourself?

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Comments

Shocking Teacher’s Thoughts On Bullying — 61 Comments

  1. Elsa, Ben’s advice is so true! I was deemed weird in grade school and it helped tremendously to embrace my weirdness and like myself.

  2. I have some flaws I’d like to fix, but I like myself overall. 90% of the time, I’d say, and I think that’s a respectable percentage!

    Funnily enough (?), I had to learn the “weird” lesson early, too. By the time I was 10 I’d already found out that a) I’m an oddball, b) I can’t force people to like me, and c) fuck ‘em; I’d rather make myself happy and be outcast than be a miserable person who was still failing to be an insider. And, yeah, I’ve met people in their 50′s and 60′s (my parent’s generation) that still haven’t learned this lesson, and they’re miserable and don’t know why. It makes me happy I learned this fast, even if the lesson was hard. :)

    See Also (Synchronicity Files):
    I read this article last night and it reminded me of the blog posts you did a few years back, talking about brain-wrinkles or thought-kinks or something like that… but couldn’t remember it clearly enough to find the posts I was looking for! *laughs* Was going to post it to the boards, but this is a good place, too. :)

    http://threecatyard.wordpress.com/2011/07/31/walking-the-line/

    It’s about a cat that the other two cats in the house don’t like for some odd reason, but one day his owner noticed a kink in Gus’ tail that meant he couldn’t signal, “Hello! I’m friendly and want to play!” but was always in the, “Who the hell are you? Wanna fight?!” position.

    So… yeah… *grins* I thought it was an interesting analogy for what we give out that can be off-putting but aren’t aware of, or are aware of but can’t change for some reason.

  3. I like what Ben had to say. It made me laugh. I was semi-bullied in high school and even towards the end of primary school (age 10-11). It did make me upset but now at 26 I pull no punches about who I am and I like me. I like who I am. And if someone doesn’t like me then I don’t like them either. Boo-hoo!

    I like myself so much to the point that now a days when people say ‘you’re really nice’… I look them and say ‘I’m really not that nice… seriously’. That’s not to say that I say it because I’m horrible or have low self-esteem but I say it so that people don’t get fooled by this veneer of niceness when they meet me.

  4. I think the parents and the principal learned something in that office that day.

    Ben is a epic teacher. He’s just extraordinary in this way.

  5. So, I get the whole you need to like yourself idea. Its important to be able to keep your self esteem against opposition. But that doesn’t absolve adults from the responsibility of trying to keep kids safe and instead turning a blind eye when they can do something about it.

    Hear me out from the perspective that there is extreme bullying in schools that has led kids to killing themselves… not to mention that there are kids who suffer from mental illness that can lead to uncontrollable negative emotions (very often bully magnets). And not all kids are equipped with the understanding and comprehension to put those concepts of liking yourself into action. Its depends on the specific situation whether that approach is appropriate or not.

    I know I totally put a damper on the positive momentum there, but I thought it was important to explore some other very important issues.

  6. MissRachel, your point is a good one, I am glad you made it. My friend is not insensitive in the least. For example, he is well aware how many gay kids kill themselves!

    This is a short piece about an isolated incident, involving a specific individual. It’s also part of a larger conversation, as I tried to indicate (not all weird kids get bullied).

    I was told this girl does all kinds of things to invite problems…she is simply off-track and he would not have said this if he did not feel she had the ability to get on-track.

  7. Ben has a point, but he’s assuming this girl has the tools to reform her self-esteem based on self-referencing, which is pretty rare and can backfire.

    I think when a person looks back on something and has achieved some mastery over it, they believe that anyone else would be capable of the same thing. This isn’t always true.

    But more to the point, he’s right that everyone is a weirdo. No one is really normal, but they have the desire enough to be accepted by their environment that they learn the social skills or use the innate ones they have to benefit in social settings. Without those skills, the kid is at a disadvantage.

    It’s not her personality that’s under scrutiny, it’s her ability to manage and defend herself in her peer group. No matter how much she is assisted in accepted herself, her weirdness, and the weirdness of other people, the kids around her are better at figuring out *how to not get bullied*. That is their developmental advantage, and her disadvantage.

    My theory about this is that there is a heirarchical dynamic at work that’s really primal and innate in children. The “pack” is looking for the alpha and the omega, and once that omega is chosen, she either has to go along with her omega status or leave the group. It won’t ever be different in that group.

    If it were my intervention, I would get her out of the group. We’re not animals, and that group is not the only group around. I don’t see why one particular child would be required to navigate all that painful experience just because everybody else around her thinks this is a good lesson for her.

    Ben sounds great and I see his point but if I were in the room I would suggest a different course of action.

  8. I’m slowly learning to like myself, but to some extent I still don’t. Kind of wish I’d been taught how to do that, instead of simply being told to ignore the bullies!
    One thing that I think can also help is having people in your corner, no matter how self-confident you are. Even the strongest person has low moments, and that’s where others come in. They can protect her in a sense as well. Bullies LOVVVE lone rangers–easier to target and circle around for the kill.

  9. I was just thinking this mornin that I would probably have been better off if I would have just learned early on to say FU somewhere inside myself and carried on. But nooooooo, I had to doubt and question myself. Either which way, opposition made me stronger. I am intrigued by those that make it through the opposition without support and validation. The ones that don’t opt for suicide.

  10. Great story! Finally someone being blunt and telling it like it is instead of tiptoeing around afraid to hurt someone’s feelings, it’s about time! I was (still am)a weirdo and so is my daughter but we know it, love it and own it. We were lucky enough to know/find ourselves (encouraged) early and have confidence in who we are. A very helpful quality to have when trying to survive high school. Confidence is what people need at any age to excell in any situation. If any kind of weakness or doubt is shown, people will eat you alive.

  11. (((Ben)))

    Can we clone him, please?

    Kinky-tailed cats. I love this analogy.

    @eva-I understand what you mean, but removing her from the group only reinforces to the pack that they can exclude whom they choose to exclude.

    When parents/teachers intervene on low-level bullying, it makes it worse.

    Good: I’ve noticed some of you behaving like jerks. Bullying others is a jerk move. Now, math.

    Bad: Hey everyone, stop picking on “the Outcast”.

    Unfortunately, that is just kind-hearted bullying.

  12. @notch…I have a guy friend who is gay and was bullied all through school. He said the best advice his mom gave him was to say FU but make sure you do it with a smile!

  13. @Eixziander
    I see what you mean about removing a child, but I think it can also show people that they don’t have power to control someones life… and that the one bullied can in fact disengage and make a better life for themselves elsewhere.
    You abuse it, you lose it.

    I think it all depends on the individual situation. Severity, etc. We can only speculate tho.

  14. From my perspective (not Ben’s), if you remove a kid from a situation like this and there is something they are supposed to learn from it, the same thing will manifest in their new situation.

    Generally speaking, it’s better to face your problems if at all possible.

  15. Yup got bullied as a kid. There were only 2 redheads in my elementary school me and my sis and she was in the kindergarten class. On top of it I was fat. I heard things like red headed freckle frog. I struggle liking myself. Most of the time now I do but sometimes I repulse myself. Then I have to pull up by my boot straps and figure it out.

    I’m wondering though how did the parents react?

    Has anything changed since this conversation?

  16. The parents took it in. Ben catches people off guard, but he always makes sense.

    I don’t know what happened next, but will get an update when I talk to him.

  17. Please tell us what happened? How did the parents & school respond?

    I LOVE what Ben said! We need to EMPOWER our children. I do hope the girl has a good support system at home otherwise who knows what could happen when a child feels so alone.

  18. Like I said, the comments were accepted by all.

    I have been the parent in a situation like this. I’m telling you, a therapist told my son why he was being bullied (no mommy goo goo from me). I cringed and winced and he was hurt, but guess what? Within a week he stopped what he was doing…got everything changed up.

    He’s still insulted for being “pasty-white” and he is also younger than everyone, but his life was completely changed by an outsider’s candor.

  19. @Elsa
    I agree with your thought about facing your problems. Its important to do. I’m more-so speculating from that place of someone being bullied, who may like themselves just fine, but are still being preyed on by certain individuals. I realize that’s different from the particular situation Ben is dealing with.
    I tend to explore a wide range of possibilities, lol.

  20. @MissRachel My comment was more a response to eva’s remark, just to be clear.

    I love this conversation. Thanks everyone, for weighing in. :)

  21. I Love Me. I like me a lot. I make a point of always doing my best. I am happy. I smile, smile smile. I am kind and generous! What’s not to like! Your Ben is Golden!

  22. Around this neighborhood, pasty white it’s frowned upon. People go on and on about my son’s white skin on a daily basis.
    I don’t think he likes his skin, because of it, but he does accept it.
    It’s just one of those things.

    We don’t insult skin color in my family. We’re not that stupid. :)

  23. By the way, even my Mother said I was weird. I took it as a compliment. It was always my intent to be different. I was the kid who walked up to the bully and made them stop. They were always caught off guard by little dressed for a party me. They usually laughed and paradigms shifted.

  24. :D
    I am pasty white and was often criticized when I was younger too. But I always liked my pastiness.

    Isn’t the whole vampire craze supposed to be embracing pastiness now? Lol.

    Sorry.. tangents!

  25. We live in a Mexican neighborhood. Being a gringo ain’t the greatest thing. But my son has overcome this. His best friend is Mexican, but he has friends of all colors, which is how he grew up.

    You’re welcome, EarthDog. :)

  26. @MoRich, I tell my daughter she is weird all the time. She loves it (Aries rising). People will tell me I shouldn’t say that to her, it’s rude and I will hurt her feelings. She knows I mean it as a compliment and it just empowers her to continue being a leader and herself regardless of what people say or think.

  27. I wonder what type of aspects Ben’s Saturn does to this kid’s chart. Does it aspect her personal planets? Is it square her own Saturn?

    I’m curious.

  28. I was bullied as a child, at school and by my siblings. My family was poor and I was overweight. I struggle with self-esteem even now almost 50 years later.
    I work for a non-profit after school program and I see bullying on a daily basis. Some of the kids seem to be bully magnets. Perpetual victims. You see the things they do that attracts the attention of the bullies. On the other hand the bullies are usually extremely insecure. It’s almost like they’re striking out at these kids to deflect any attention on themselves. Almost all the kids I work with are at-risk (poverty, LD, ADD & ADHD, etc).
    I have to honestly admit that some of the kids I work with are so difficult to deal with that it’s hard to muster sympathy for them. I try to treat all the kids with respect but it’s really hard to like some of these kids and their parents. It’s a difficult job. Your friend Ben should be commended !

  29. I’m a weirdo. Always have been, always will be. And I do love myself.

    But this is a total B.S. cop out. This girl is being bullied. That means other humans are going out of their way to bother this girl and NOBODY is stopping it (a teacher could start handing out detention like candy, making bothering her more of a hassle then it’s worth).

    “Don’t let them get to you.”

    I am tired of being expected to have nerves of adamantium.

    Any phrase that turns the oppressed into the self-oppressor is complete B.S.

    Someone hurt you – you didn’t “let” them hurt you. Nobody says “Don’t ‘let’ someone rear-end you at a red light.” So why would they say “Don’t ‘let’ someone name-call you in the hall.”

    That’s B.S.

    I know people will clarify and say “Well, you control how you react to things. If you let them get you angry, then they’re winning/you’re sinking to their level.”

    Guess what? BEING ANGRY OR HURT IS A LEGITIMATE RESPONSE TO BEING ATTACKED. Especially if the attacks are constant and unavoidable. Eventually cracking and FEELING SOMETHING is bound to happen. 

    F*ck anyone who tells you that the appropriate response to being treated like crap is to harden your backbone, stiffen your upper lip, and thicken your skin.

    You can’t stop feeling bad things without being eventually unable to feel good things, too. That’s how emotions work. And if your advice for someone facing dehumanizing attacks is to make them LESS HUMAN, you’re an attacker too and you deserve the anger they show you.

  30. Ms.Pennynickle – nice rant, but you don’t have the whole picture here. My friend does. And he’s got credentials on every level.

    But your opinion has been registered, and we like variety here. :)

    @ydee, I don’t know anything about the girl’s chart.

  31. Nope. I’m better about it than I used to be–it helps to get out of an environment where you are the “weirdo” by all means. So that will help this girl, eventually. But I am still pretty damn annoyed at myself for a fair chunk of traits that I have.

  32. I had to come out of “retirement” to comment on this one Elsa! hahaha

    I LOVE Ben’s response to the parents. He is 100% right and unless you’ve been through what he’s talking about, you have no clue what it is like and what it takes to turn it around. At least he wasn’t one of the TEACHERS ridiculing the girl as I had to endure as a fat kid in school. It was horrible and the counselors back in my day didn’t know shit about how to deal with it. No one did.

    I had to do it. Me. Not my teacher. Not my parents. Not anyone else. ME. I had to decide I was OK, worth living, loving and taking care of, and worth liking. Even after I lost 40 lbs in one month and started freshman year looking like a new girl in school, the a-holes who teased me continued when they discovered it was me. I remember slapping one of them across the face after he called me a pig and telling him, “you have NO RIGHT to call me that any more.” He never did. And no one else did either. I stood up for myself. It was then that I enjoyed the rest of my school years. Had a blast. Will never forget the fun I had.

    I had no where to run and my parents weren’t going to rip the family up and relocate because we lived in a town of bullies young and old. I had to learn. So glad I did. It changed my entire life from that point on.

  33. I have not before recently, but I am liking myself more and more everyday. You are soooo right, liking yourself makes things so much easier. I love Ben, he is an AWESOME teacher/mentor. I wish someone had told me THAT when I was growing up. I had always struggled with being different.

  34. Ben is a winner. He’s got an Aries Moon. He is trying to tell the girl how she can get ahead – pull out of the pack.

    If you’re young, you probably have little idea what someone like Ben went through in his era.

  35. Hmmm…I love myself minus the physical flaws. But perfection isn’t reality and I’m flawed and I like myself less with the flaws. In trying to fix these superficial flaws, I’m damaging myself. I wish I could embrace them. This is going to take time.

    I’m not at all a winner with a Sagittarius Sun, Virgo Moon and Aquarius Ascendant.

  36. Oh, I lurve Ben, too.

    I was teased when I was younger, too, but by my teens I don’t recall caring, for the most part. I think my Mars trine Uranus means the courage to be different comes easily for me.

  37. Eva.. well said.

    Ben’s fabulous.

    Elsa.. I agree that it WILL manifest elsewhere in the person’s life. But that is sometimes a good choice. Sometimes just a tiny difference, makes all the difference. The lesson is still learned,but the negetive effects are not as devestating.

    Notch.. the opposition..yeah i hear ya’. I’ve got mars just off my Asc and venus just off my sun and Desc. Making the opposition in my 1st and 7th houses respectively. NN and SN are piled in there too. It has been difficult. But ofcourse it can also be a blessing, but my lord you have to work hard for it.

    This is a lovely story. What a wonderous character this Ben person is.

  38. Thank goodness for teachers like this! Kids have to learn to get along with each other. They don’t have to all like each other, but they need to learn to share the same space. She will need this in school, work, and in life in general. What a fortunate young lady because it is clear that her teacher and her family are concerned for her and want the best she can have. She will fine with this kind of support in her formative years, she has plenty of time to blossom.

  39. ❤ This is similar to my argument to my parents when they freaked out about naming my daughter Maud. “She’ll be teased in school!” they claimed. To which I said: that’s the point! It’s the way I grew up and it is the best way to grow up.

  40. Your friend is awesome! And its true what my lesbian friend says (I dont call her my lesbian friend all the time) but she said that gay men have a way of making you feel good about yourself! And this is just that. I love what he said. Its very very true. And to the question, yes I like myself, in fact I love myself. But when I am in a pitiful mood I am not loving myself. So it depends on the moon dammit!!! Which doesnt make sense so I guess Im confused lol. But I sometimes mean about myself and sometimes good.. Its just that I know deep down inside how really good I am as a person and have all these good qualities but I tone it down so as to be modest and not piss anyone off cause they’ll get jealous. Its not easy to explain what I mean.

  41. I still am not really comfortable with the bullies skating by. It’s just that education is compulsory and we are not able to provide a safe place for children to learn. There is something wrong there. It’s the victims fault, rings through my head.

    One of my nieces was part of an unofficial support group for the bullied. If one of the bullied was spotted alone in the cafeteria or anywhere on the grounds, one of the support team was there to friend them. If they were bullied in class, they spoke out. But yet when her brilliant 4.0 gpa bullied friend wrapped his car around a tree and they called it an accident, the support group knew better. It’s not so much do you like yourself. It seems to me that the question would be, is this a world I can live in.

  42. I was a ‘weirdo’ when I was younger and was never really bullied, but had a self-destructive streak that provoked a few good adult teachers to intervene with my family regarding my behavior. I agree with Ben’s decision to speak up and also his advice.

    I like myself. I have never really been that aware of others’ perceptions of me, though, nor terribly concerned by them, and I attribute this both to a very supportive mother and grandmother who both gave me a variant of Ben’s speech when I was around the same age, and astro supporting a kind of ‘meh, haters gonna hate, not interesting!’ outlook on most strangers’ opinions of me.

    Aquarius rising, Uranus/Mars/Mercury conjunct in Scorpio trine Ascendant. Sun, Moon and Pluto conjunct in 9H Libra sextile Neptune in Sagittarius.

  43. So interesting, Elsa. I have to say that I find this whole bullying thing interesting, horrifying, and mysterious at the same time. When I was a kid I wasn’t bullied, except for a couple of incidents that I remember totally distinctly to this day. I don’t connect this to liking myself or not liking myself – it was about trying to be liked by somebody else, and that completely backfired and led to the “bullying”. Maybe that’s not the way it works these days, but from talking to my sister about my niece getting bullied, that’s completely what it is about. It’s pretty transactional, which seems like part of what Ben was conveying. Somehow I came out of my childhood understanding that there was never any percentage for ME in being the victim. I suspect there probably is for plenty of other folks. And my Aries Moon thing probably doesn’t hurt me either. For me, it wasn’t just about whether I liked myself. It was about taking shit or not, once I grew up enough to get that. About knowing it was right or not. I always knew, even if I wasn’t up to fighting back or really get what was going on at the time when I was a little kid. But the seed was planted – it was always there (yup, the Saturn conjunct Sun didn’t hurt, but we all have Saturn in our chart somewhere). You gotta tap into that Saturn energy, which is so hard when you are young. It’s one serious backbone, IMHO. And, as I suspect you might agree, Elsa, Saturn in Scorp is all about this kind of lesson.

  44. I was bullied relentlessly at school..! i ended up going to many schools because of this (4 schools)..to try & escape it. The second last school i went to i was around 15 years old, by then, i had a nose ring & colorful dread locks in my hair with plats & braids etc, wore lots of black & listened to lots of ‘heavy music’. I was called the ‘colorful hippie/Gothic’ amongst the very few other ‘weirdo’ friends i had from my previous schools.
    Around my hood, there were majority Samoans, Asians, Lebanese, Greeks & Italians. My weirdo friends & i would play a game called ‘Spot the Aussie’ since white Aussies were a rare breed in my town, even though we were in Australia..

    I remember my first day of high school in my new school (Year 9) i was sitting in English class, & this clown dude behind me thought it would be really funny for the whole class to watch him cut a couple of my locks off my head with scissors!! When i turned around to see what the whole class was laughing at..i was mortified..! so instead of curling up in embarrassment (like i usually did in previous schools when bullied) i turned around & quickly snatched the scissors out of his hand, & pointed the pointy end towards him & said..
    ”unless you want these scissors up your ass..i suggest you give my back my dread locks, so that i can take them to our head teacher..& show her what you have done!!!”
    the class then roared in hysterics..even harder than when they witnessed him cut my hair off…!

    without hesitation, he handed them over in complete embarrassment..

    From that day on, i was everybody’s best friend at school..EVERYONE..wanted to know me. I went from the girl who was always picked on, bashed & bullied from previous schools..to being the ‘to cool for school’ kinda kid. There were even girls who were starting to copy my fashion/style (Punk) & had their hair done in dread locks, colors, & plats like mine. Even though most of those girls came from an ethnic back ground!

    To this day..i am still friends with a whole heap of people from that school, & i am not even on facebook, or no longer live in that town!

    & it’s still the fave ‘good memories speech’ between friends, of any B’day party i have had. ;-)

  45. I completley disagree. We have few choices. Its like blaming the child for what she has been taught by her parents/taechers/friends/enemies. She was too young to be able to do anything about it. We are what we are – give me a child for seven years and I will give you the man – yeah you change yourself over night just for our benefit so that we can continue to bully you with your blessing – what BS.

  46. Its more like you change your thinking so that I can get away with it. If you change your thinking to what I want, to what is suitable for myself you wont complain about what I am doing and I wont get into trouble.

    No doubt this ben was more of a complex thinker than those around him. Does he do the longterm con now as a career?

  47. Ben’s response was so great I read the whole exchange to my wife. She offered, “You’re weird”, meaning I guess, that at least I have company. But it’s nothing new. I’ll say something, she’ll reply, “you’re weird”, and I’ll say, “it’s ok to be weird”. Then she laughs.

  48. You have to love painstakingly honest people! They just say it like it is with balls of steel. … That kind of transparency is admirable and Boy do I need some Ben in my life…..

  49. Never really got picked on in school for liking NIN, but I myself am somewhat intimidating. I was never picked on throughout my school years for anything. However not long ago one of my buddies told me “Nine Inch Nails fucking sucks.” I asked him why, unfortunately he was unable to come up with a reason. I also replied, “Wow, and I always thought you had a good taste in music…” He flipped out when I said that though, it was pretty funny. When I first started listening to NIN though, my current friends jokingly made fun of me, not because they didn’t like NIN, just because they wanted to be douches. That’s what friends are for though, right?

  50. I adore Ben. ADORE!

    And I think I’m pretty fantastic, too. If I don’t think I rock (and do my best to make that true) then who else is gonna think I rock? Pfffft.

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