As teachers, we know that National Bullying Prevention Month is every October. Our challenge is needing to combat bullying throughout the entire year—not only in the halls or playgrounds, but even when analyzing the Danielson rubric after an observation. Is the classroom environment “highly effective”? Are students comfortable providing one another positive feedback? While it is important to recognize and celebrate in October, the ideas represented in Bullying Prevention Month need to be embedded into the curriculum and culture of the classroom throughout the school year.
A few years into my career, I decided to share a bit of my bullying story with my students in order to make the realities of bullying more tangible and relatable. When I first started teaching, I never even considered sharing my story; for me, it was an embarrassing secret I didn’t want anyone to know about, least of all my students. I had this idea that it would ruin my career and taint my students’ views of me. I grew up in a time when bullying was brushed aside and not discussed; it was something to be ashamed of, or at least that’s how I felt. I was 15 when it started, but well into my mid-20s, I was still letting this experience dictate my life.
I started to feel like a fraud when I taught the mandated anti-bullying lessons at my school. Students would be brave enough to share their former experiences with the class, and I, as their role model, was denying mine existed. For me, facing the reality of what I experienced and sharing this story with my students were simultaneous. For a while, I was stuck being two people and living two different lives. I thought that acting like my experience never happened would erase the fact that it did; if no one knew, then maybe I could pass for being “normal.” But truthfully, denying your identity makes it harder to be yourself, and throwing away the wisdom you learned from undergoing a difficult experience does a disservice to those around you. We have been put on this earth for a reason, and I wasn’t being the best teacher I could be if I didn’t share all that I had to offer. We are always telling our students to value what makes them unique—this was my eccentricity and I finally decided to embrace it.