Growing up 5’10 in middle school with no real curves, my body was the source of constant
ridicule from those that were jealous of my confidence. But even at a young age, I knew that
what others teased and bullied me for would eventually change as I developed, and so I
never let their words hurt me.
My Experience as an Educator
Now as an educator in high school, it pains me that I cannot pass on this confidence to my
influential youth. Oh, how I try and try, but self-love and thick skin is not always something that
can be learned in the moment; it takes a strong foundation and family influence from birth, and
even with that, can take years of practice to develop. Even 20 years later, the things that
others say that bring my students down still mirror the ugliness that I endured as a child.
Targeting one’s appearance never seems to get old for bullies, no matter the generation.
Although the bullying script never seems to evolve, the method in which bullying occurs has
expanded to places I could never have fathomed growing up. When I was teased in the past, it was easy to walk away and remove myself from the pain and suffering. However, today the harsh words seem to linger and follow my students to every corner of their existence. Bullies have adapted even if their tactics have not. Instead of personally attacking individuals to their faces, bullies now are allowed to hide behind social media to do their dirty work.
Given my many years of experience and strong classroom management, I rarely am faced with
bullying directly in my classroom. That is not to say that it doesn’t happen from time to time. In
such instances I am grateful, because it allows me the opportunity to address the issue
publicly and head on. When these types of problems occur, you must attack it then and there.
By allowing it to be glossed over or seen as “something teens just do,” you are invariantly telling
your students that this behavior is acceptable. And in doing this, you have become a bystander,
and have lost the safe space that all teachers attempt to create in their classrooms. So when
Billy calls Jamie ugly, it will be addressed.
What Educators Can Do
Attacking bullying issues head on allows my students to see that I am their ally, and that they
are safe and can depend on me for support. I cannot tell you how many times students who I no
longer teach approach me to disclose what is going on to themselves or others around the issue
of bullying both inside and outside of the classroom. When this occurs, I know that I have done my
job: letting students know that I will be here for them no matter what.
I am fortunate enough to work at a school that will not tolerate this type of behavior. Even if
issues occur outside of the school, the staff and administrators consider these issues as severe
and non-negotiable. Our students are jaded if they believe that their social media accounts are
their protection from repercussions, and we continuously remind them of this fact. Countless
times students have screen-shotted bullying that is occurring outside of school and forwarded them to their teachers; this is how I know we have created a system that works. No matter
where you are, you will be held accountable for your words and actions.
Thank you Jessica Rozmarynowski for your dedication to your students, ending bullying, and making a difference in this world. We love when teachers share their experiences and talk about how they manage their classrooms and address bullying head on. Your words are a true inspiration to all!