She wished Mrs. Baird would not do that!
The little girl, 10 years old, squirmed in her seat and wished she could slide down under the desk and disappear.
Once again she aced the test and her teacher was talking about it to the entire class. She was comparing her results with those of older children who had not done as well. She was the youngest in her class, although she was tall for her age.
Every time Mrs. Baird did that, she was afraid to go out on the playfield because she knew “they” would find ways to make her life miserable. They would call her names and find reasons to laugh at her and taunt her.
She never told Mrs. Baird because she knew what would happen. Mrs. Baird would punish them with her cane and they would find a way to make her pay.
“They” were a large group of girls who seemed to be all related to each other: sisters, cousins and perhaps even aunts. They were from different grades and lived in the same community several miles from the school, so traveled together. Secretly, Janey thought of them as the ‘wolf pack.” She dared not share that thought with anyone else though. They were a powerful group and she did not know who exactly were close friends with them, especially with the two girls in her class, who seemed to be the leaders of the pack. She knew only too well that the easiest way to get an “in” into their group would be to suggest that she, or anyone else they did not like, said something about them.
Janey could not remember when or why this hatred for her started. She was not sure she knew of any other reason other than the fact that every time she did well in a test or wrote a good essay, Mrs. Baird would speak about her grades and reprove the class for not getting better grades in many subjects since most were older than she was.
Mrs. Baird was a superb headmistress with a stellar record. This was why her mother, in particular, who placed a high value of getting a very good education by-passed many schools to send Janey to this school. Janey, however, felt Mrs. Baird could do with some lessons from her mother. She remembered her mother always saying that ‘one of the worse things you could do is to compare two children with each other.’ Her mother even chastised a lady who was always comparing her two sons, praising one and criticizing the other telling her she should never do that as it could result in enmity between the two boys.
This was 1964 and not many public buses traveled between that area and her hometown. The only direct bus passed before school ended. Thus she had to walk a mile after school to get to another bus for a 45-minute drive home. Many times she walked alone, as no one else in her class walked that far in that direction. Most of her classmates went in the opposite direction to their homes.
Unfortunately, the ‘wolf pack’ walked the same direction, for about half a mile, before turning off.
Things came to a head one evening after school. As she walked by herself she came around the corner and they were waiting for her. Although it was on the main road, they chose a spot that was out of sight of the school. Her heart sank! They told her they were going to teach her a lesson for being a show-off and thinking she was better than they were.
Janey saw sympathy in the eyes of one girl but knew she would not get any help from her as they pushed her to the ground and dragged her by her long braids. She did not fight back because that was NOT something you were brought up to do. And fighting on the streets? That was against every rule! In addition, she knew she could not fight all of them. They were raised totally different from her and she sensed that if she hit back they would hold her so the leader could do more damage. They were smart! They did not attack her on the school premises where they could have been expelled or severely punished, and they did it where residents could not easily see. It was her word against theirs.
She would tell her parents a long, long time after as she knew it would break her mother’s heart and she’d blame herself.
TAKEAWAY: Today bullying is a lot worse than it was in 1964. Even as you teach your children to be peaceable, teach them to speak up for themselves. This may be to speak to an authority figure or someone to whom they can look to for support. Help them how to deal with bullies. Do not leave it to chance! Often bullies work in a group. Protect your children or grandchildren so they can know how to conduct themselves when faced with bullying at school.