Monday, January 25, 2016

on being bullied.

You guys, I'm turning 30 this year. 

But that's not what I want to talk about right now. 

I really want to talk about bullying. Because even though I'm 29 years old and, to gently toot my own horn: articulate, professional, educated, and qualified for my job- haters gonna hate. 

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I work at an elementary school. I am a child therapist, and I'm contracted into my school through a mental health organization to work with kiddos who meet the criteria for an SED (severely mentally disturbed) diagnosis.  But I don't work for the school or the district, so I'm kind of in a weird outsider role, too. Basically I work with the kids who the schools have tried everything with, and just don't know what to do anymore because their behaviors at school are so disruptive, dangerous, or extreme.

So yeah, my kids are the tough ones, and they're great. I love working with them. I think they're actually little bad asses for all they can do despite some horrific pasts. 

So I'm there to give them a safe place to put big feelings and to learn some better coping skills and to work with their teachers to make accommodations for them in the classroom so that they'll have more success with the learning process. 

Although it's not really in my job description, advocacy is a big part of what I do. Sometimes I advocate for the teachers, but most of the time I'm advocating for the kids I work with, because the traditional classroom setting, for whatever reason, is just a really big struggle for them. And some of these kids are incredibly bright. Not like, shiny and wonderful and special in my own eyes. Like, really high IQ bright. 

Which brings me to the bullying that I mentioned earlier. 

I work with a lot of truly wonderful teachers. I work with clearly devoted educators who put in way more than the required minimum because they care and they take the task of facilitating the learning process very seriously. I work with a lot of warm, funny, friendly teachers. And one who happens to be a bully. 

This particular teacher has been teaching for almost forty years, and I believe her to be a good educator and someone who cares about children. And I honestly don't know what makes her want to chip away at my fragile, 2nd year therapist confidence. At first, I kind of thought I was taking things too personally, and it was just in my head. Then I started to feel targeted, disrespected in front of children I work with and consistently undermined. And it became this yucky, dread-filled haze every time I saw her walking toward me down the hallway. 

Luckily, only two of the 13 children on my caseload spend any time with this particular teacher. And as I'm writing this, one of them has been pulled from her class, in large part because of her unwillingness and inability to alter her teaching style even a tiny bit. 

How does someone who has taught for forty years not understand that she may need to try something different when a child is blowing out in her classroom every single day? At what point do you not ask yourself if what you're doing is part of the issue? Or maybe try the behavioral plan created to give the child consistency with all of the adults they comes into contact with at school. But then again, I authored that plan, so I'm sure she never even read it. 

I realize now that I was just a punching bag for this teacher's own issues and insecurities. She is unwilling and unable to collaborate with someone clearly younger and less experienced because she believes that forty years has made her all-knowing. I would have nothing to bring the the conversation because not only am I younger, I am also not a teacher. I just spend my days studying the behaviors and emotions of traumatized children, trying to help them heal and help their teachers find a way to get through to them that feels safe and doesn't trigger them into a full blown escalation. 

Boy, did I try to kill her with kindness. Time and again, I put myself out there with a validating comment or an offer of meeting to work together, even after I started feeling condescended to and verbally abused in our conversations. 

So when, day in and day out, the child in question was triggered by her method of teaching, it became my fault. Instead of facing her own insecurities and trying to work with me to come up with a plan that used both of our knowledge, she gave up on the child and now ignores me completely. 

And it makes me kind of sad, really, because I think I could have learned a lot from her.  And I know the kiddo could have.

Bullies, man. Turns out they're really just insecure, sad, and a little lost. Doesn't matter how old they are. 

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