Friday Two Cents: Reflections On My Old School And Being Bullied


This past week during my additional qualification (AQ) course, I was inspired to write about an experience that I have talked about but never written down. As many of you may know, I am an occasional / supply teacher and have been for some time. During a discussion topic I told them about an interesting experience I had a couple of years ago that helped me with exorcising some old bad memories and feelings. Some told me I should write and post it. So I am doing it.   Hopefully my experience may inspire others into action or help them in some way.

It all happened when I went into a school for a supply job, yet this was no ordinary school. This was the first school I went to when I was a student. In fact my supply job was in the very classroom where I attended kindergarten. To say that I had a feeling of awe once I entered the class would be an understatement. People asked me how it felt; the first thing I noticed was that everything was smaller. Ha. Ha, but it was true. I remembered the cubby area where I hung my jacket, the tables where I drew, painted or counted to 100. It all felt surreal because of the other feelings I had about this school. You see I was bullied at this school and picked on for about four years after kindergarten.
It started at the end of grade 1 and did not stop until I finally stood up to the bullies, in a matter of speaking. I was bullied not by one person but by a group of boys. It was not just Caucasian boys but a couple of African-Canadian boys too. The only thing I could think of why they did this was because I was different from them. I was European, 1st generation Maltese and these boys were very Canadian, maybe 3rd or 4th generation. I eat different food then them, I played different games and I spoke a different language besides English.
Everyday it got worse. I even got into fights. I would never start a fight but I always finished it. My parents told me to never start the fight but make sure you finished it. Yet at the time I was always being punished for the offence and my mother had to be called into the school on several occasions. I never saw the other boys or their parents and my mother told me that they called her because I threw the second and final punch and the other boys were always in worse condition than me.
Yet one day a boy pushed my head into the metal drinking fountain and I broke my front permanent tooth. I had blood in my mouth and in the fountain and the other boy just laughed. I ran to the teacher to tell her what happened and she said “So what. You probably deserved it.” I got so angry because the boy was laughing and I knew he would not get into trouble so I went up to him and punched him in the face several times until his nose was bleeding. Of course I got in trouble and went to the principal’s office to wait for my mother. I told him about what happened and still I got in trouble.
Well my mother came and heard the stories and was livid. But there was nothing she could do. The neighbour that looked after me would only take me to that school and I was only 7 and I couldn’t go to another school because it was too far away. So I had to put up with it for a couple more years.   So the bullying continued and the fights continued. I was even placed in a special class because my reading level was a full grade below.
When I reached 10 years my mom had enough and I was able to walk to the catholic school down the street by myself for grade 5. Once at the new school I made new friends and when my mom told them about the special classes they tested me and told her that there was no problem with my reading that I was about grade level and by grade 8, I would be a grade above.
However that first year at catholic school was hard, not because of the new school but because of the bullies from the old one. They lived in my neighbourhood and they continued to bully me until I finally stood up to them.

Mad Max Bike

My dad was working at a steel mill at the time and sometimes he would bring metal bits home. I used some to Mad Max my bike with spikes and even a spear. Today I would be arrested but back then I feared for my life and I wanted some protection. One day in June, after swimming lessons I was riding home when the same five boys came after me on their bikes. They pushed, punched and threatened me with violence and I feared for my life. So I pulled out the spear and stuck it in their rear tire spooks and they all went flying. I was not unhurt either; I had fallen too and had scrapes on my elbows, knees, right thigh and my forehead. I got up and rode as fast as I could home. My folks saw me and were sacred and angry beyond belief. The worst part was that the five boys came to my house after and there were ten of them now and asked, “Can Paul come out and play?” My parents said if they came near me or the house again, they would call the police and told them to get lost before they do it right now. They left but the next day I went to Malta for the summer and stayed with my grandparents. When I got back in September, those bullies never came after me again. Now you know why I truly hated that school.
I turned the page of that chapter in my life and years later I did see those boys all grown up. I found out from mutual friends that their lives were vastly different from mine. Many were in unhappy work and home situations, one didn’t finish high school and none went into higher education. I found some comfort knowing that I worked hard and went to university and I am happy with my chosen field and my life. Yet that school still was a symbol of pain and hatred. It took many years for me to come to terms about that place but it all came to an end when I supplied there. I was able to let go of the bad memories and then begin to forge new positive ones. The students in the school were very nice and the same for the staff. In fact I went back several times as jobs came available.
When I reflect back, it took some time to heal the wounds of the past but not until I let go of what happened and be grateful for what I had accomplished, did those scares begin to disappear. Those experiences will always be with me, however they do not define me. I choose to look to the positive experiences once I left that school. I went to another school with great friends and experiences that continued into high school, college, university and my professional life. I discovered music and art, which became a large part of my life to this day. I broadened my views and experiences to take on different challenges, to a point where I have been called a Jack-of-all-trades. All of these and much more came about after I stood up for myself and basically told those bullies NO MORE! And when I did I was saying good-bye to the past. For when I let go of what I was and what was done to me, I become the positive and happy person I am today.

I supplied in the Kindergarten class that I was in as a student.

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Friday Two Cents: Inspirational Quotes


 

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This week I did something that was a bit different and maybe a bit bold and I was not sure how people would react.

I guess it all started with my latest trip to Stratford Ontario to experience an amazing production of a ”Sound of Music”. The show was spectacular but I got the idea for this week’s trip into uncharted territory, after the show in the gift shop. There they have wonderful t-shirts and fridge magnets with famous quotes from the show and Shakespearian plays. I have always looked to these quotes to help inspire me in my daily life and to be honest I even post these quotes in places around my home.

I have always looked to them as a wonderful source of inspiration and strength, and wondered how I could share them with others. Then I remembered an anti-bullying campaign I read, where a girl who was trying to fight off a bully. She was sent a message on Facebook saying to ‘kill herself”. But instead of responding to the message, she decided to fight back by posting positive messages on every locker in her school. Messages such as, ‘You’re beautiful’ and ‘You shine bright like a diamond.'” That was when I thought that I would combine the two for the staff and students in my school.

Positive Post-it Day held to encourage Airdrie teen’s anti-bullying campaign

 

I decided to use quotes that have always inspired me and I tried to match them to the staff members as best as I can. An example was the quote I used for the kindergarten staff.

‘You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.’ Plato

I felt it appropriate for a group of people who teach the students through a play-based curriculum.

Others where:

‘There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.’

Walt Disney

for our librarian

‘If music be the food of love, play on.’

William Shakespeare

for our music teacher and

‘Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.’ Winston Churchill

for our principal.

I had several staff come up to me and said they enjoyed the quotes and thought it was a great idea. One staff person came up to me and said that the quote I placed on their door suited them. Another staff asked if everyone knows that they are from me. I said, “No I did not do this for recognition, I just wanted to place a little inspirational rainbow in everyone’s lives.”   Well that person appreciated it and I hope that everyone enjoyed them too.  

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An example of one of the inspirational quotes I posted around the school.

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