Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” Stop and think for a second. Have you ever felt afraid to stand up to a bully? Have you tried to stand up to the person that is making you feel miserable but you couldn’t hold your own because you feared what would happen if you did? It is so easy to lose our strength, courage, and confidence when it comes to facing bullies. Think about what Eleanor Roosevelt said though, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.” Looking at a bully straight in the face is your “fear” and by standing up to them, telling them you are hurt by their words or actions, you have gained so much for yourself, as you have faced something that scares you and now you have taken the leap into not letting their words and actions define who you are.
When I think about the people who bullied me as a kid, one name in particular jumps out: Myrtle. Besides her hurtful words to me, what stands out the most as I reflect back on her is the fact that she was a teacher. Usually when I think about bullies I am thinking about my peers, not a teacher, not an adult. She was a woman with a scowl on her face, a body shaped like a stretched out pear. She never smiled, she never made a kid feel like they were a good student in her class. The best part about her was that she was not my teacher. I did however have to deal with her cruel behavior on one particular day.
I was in third grade, we had a day where each third grade class would rotate and do a special activity with one of the other third grade teachers. I recall going into one classroom and learning special things on the computer, another classroom playing games with classmates, in particular moncala, and finally it came time to enter the classroom of Myrtle’s philosophies. Though I hadn’t had her as a teacher before, I knew about her and wasn’t looking forward to her activity. When I entered the classroom and sat down at a table with other kids, I began listening to Myrtle’s explanation of what we were going to do, while trying to ignore her stern face. Suddenly, I felt hope, as she explained that we were going to be drawing an intricate design and coloring it in. I remember feeling relieved that we would be doing something right up my alley: art.
It was a tricky design to draw, something that required a lot of focus and tenacity with using a ruler and pencil. Lines were going in many different directions, crossing over each other, and forming tiny little shapes that would eventually be colored in. I remember erasing a bunch of times, trying to make my lines perfect, but occasionally feeling frustrated as I eventually just wanted the deign to be formed so that I could start coloring it in. Time passed, others began coloring in their design, and I was still in the pencil and ruler phase of forming patterns. More time passed, I was beginning to feel tired and hungry, but still I pushed through. Finally, Myrtle announced it was almost time to go back to our regular classrooms and that before we leave we needed to show her our design, as we needed to have it completed by the following day when we would return to her classroom. I sat in my chair, still holding my pencil and ruler, and sat waiting for her to come to my table to look at my progress. When she came over to me she looked at my piece of paper and scolded me for one my my lines being slightly crooked in the design. She handed me an eraser and told me to erase it and make it straighter. I listened without argue and erased it and redrew the single line. She looked and again it was erased. I redrew lines and erased them multiple times until finally I was getting really upset and fighting back tears. An assistant helper looked over at me and said to leave the current line as is and to just go. I told the woman, Myrtle standing towering over me, that it wasn’t straight enough. She looked at my paper, erased my current line, and held the ruler straight while I drew the line. I then showed it to Myrtle and at last I was free to go.
I’ll never forget that moment or rather the feelings I had that day. Here was an adult, a teacher, who made me want to burst into tears. An adult who should have known better and should have not scolded a child for a line drawn on paper being crooked. Rather than being a teacher who shames a child for doing something that doesn’t meet their standards, Myrtle should have a been a proud teacher, a teacher in awe of this child being so persistent in making sure her drawing was perfect. I pushed through a difficult process, I didn’t give up when things got tricky, and I didn’t let this “meanie-weanie” of a teacher ruin my continued happiness of doing art. So the next time a bully makes you feel sad, whether it be a child or an adult, just remember what Christian D. Larson said, “Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle.”