Bullying is as predominant today as it was a hundred years ago. It’s the “same old story”...a feeling of power over someone or something that leaves its mark on the victim forever. It’s cruel and can damage those you love...especially your children.
As a child, I remember being bullied from those I tried to be friends with in school and in the neighborhood. Talking about it with someone close to me always received the same response, “Just don’t pay any attention to them!” It didn’t help because sometimes the bullying came from someone my age or it was from an adult. I think I just learned to live with it. But that wasn’t right either.
Fast forward twenty years when I became an educator. I saw the “same old story” repeating itself which brought back memories of my childhood.
One afternoon following recess, I put my lesson plans to the side and asked my students to come and sit down with me so we could talk about their feelings of being bullied. I saw the pain on my students faces. It was like opening a can of worms...the stories, the sadness and the tears from children who, like I, felt that they had to live with the feelings of being bullied. They thought it was normal. From that day forward, we had many ‘talks’ about bullying and how to diffuse it...and that it wasn’t right and certainly not normal.
Those years I was known as the teacher who wrote the anti-bullying series Belden Boy. This series was based on my childhood and the stories from my students of bullying. I created two boys in the 1890s who were pals some of the time....but not always. Their friendship was tumultuous. The kind teacher tried her best to steer the boys in the right direction, but it wasn’t until a young girl, new to the farm community and school that things began to change. Yes, she had a disability, but that didn’t keep her down. The children in the school even learned to side step the new schoolmaster who was also a bully.
The award-winning Belden Boy Series is not an old tale, but one that rings true today in our world. Tied to Core State Standards for perspective and figurative language, the story continues on....the setting for the series is in a real 1959 one-room school, Belden School, set deep in the heart of the hills of the Territory of historic Galena, the driftless area by the Mississippi River. In this gem of a school, the heart of the series, we have a writing class for children each summer for three days. The end result of this unique experience for the children is the creation of their own picture book under the direction of educators. Our students write on different topics, including stories about bullying.
I would never have dreamed that from my bullying experiences as a child, that the creation of a book series that allows children to see all sides of bullying and the development of a writing class would follow for children. As I say to the children, “Let’s be kind to each other... always!”