Be the change, being a teacher, being me

That This Year…

Thea tells us that the only goal she has for fourth grade is to not be bullied.

She doesn’t care about learning how to read better.  How to strengthen her math skills.  How she will do more science, learn more geography, create more beautiful art.  How to do the work that fourth graders are supposed to do.

She cares about being safe.  About being liked.  About not sticking out so that “others will pick me on, Mom…” as she hides her new glasses and tells me she doesn’t really need them after all.

Her actions speak louder than her words right now.  One moment happy and carefree, the next riddled with doubt about what lies ahead.  The questions tumble from her, will I have a friend?  Will my teacher like me?  The uncovering of the hurts that were perpetuated against her continue.  They told me I was stupid.  They called me gay and I knew they meant it as a bad thing, Mom.  They told me no one liked me.  That I shouldn’t come back.  That school would be so much better without me.

And I hold back my tears and I put on my brave face, because damn it, what do you say to your kid when she would rather believe the awful lies her fellow students told her than the truth from her parents?

So we speak louder through our actions and our words than those kids could ever hope to do.  So we spend time simply being together, getting ready for the year ahead.  Telling her that this year will be better.  That this year will be different.  That she is awesome.  That she is funny.  That she is smart.  That this year she will find another friend.  That this year she will blow everyone away.  That this year she will feel safe.  That this year will not be like last year because how can it be?  And we try to piece back together what the kids who bullied her tore down so easily.

I think of her as I get ready for my own students to show up.  That while some may be dragging their feet simply because school is not fun, others may be downright terrified.  Others may lie awake at night wondering what this year will bring?  Whether this year they will continue to be picked on, picked apart, punched, pushed, and abused, all by those kids we tell to stop and “Be nice.”  Do they worry that we will not protect them?  That our nonchalance and our quick fixes will do nothing to actually change anything?

And what about their parents?  The ones raising them?  The ones who send them our way with the hope that we will see the very miracle they sent us?  Do they lie awake at night, like we do, wondering if the words we say will actually be true once the year gets started?

Thea has her first day of school outfit planned, aid out in her room, waiting for the moment next Tuesday when we wake her up, kiss and hug her and send her out the door with our love as her protection.  It took a long time to get it just right, what my seem small is now so large, because, who knows what will happen on the first day of school?

We hold our breath and expect the best.  After all, this is a new year, a new start, and for this kid it has to be.   So this is a reminder that it’s on us; the adults.  The parents, the caregivers, the educators, the staff.  That these kids are coming to school to feel safe.  To feel accepted.  To learn in an environment that will protect them no matter the child they are.    No child deserves to be terrified.  No child deserves to wonder whether this is the year, they will once again be bullied.


15 thoughts on “That This Year…”

  1. ❤️ praying for Thea to have the most amazing year. I hope she has a teacher who knows her and loves her, friends to count on who stand by her side, and her supportive family – right beside her.

  2. I will pray your sweet Thea has the most amazing year yet! That’s my hope for each of my students as well. Your heartfelt posts about your sweet baby brings tears to my eyes. May all of us have an even softer heart for all the kiddos that walk through our doors each morning, never knowing for sure the fears that each one holds inside. Hugs to you, Pernille and Thea.

    1. How was Thea’s first two days of school? I’ve been praying for her each night since I read your post. Fingers crossed that THIS YEAR will be a new and great start for her.

  3. As a high school English teacher who has Orientation Day today with almost 200 students coming in and out for a 10 minute meet and greet, and regular classes beginning the day after Labor Day, thank you, thank you, thank you for this brief glimpse into your life as a parent with a child who was bullied….it will set my resolve, once again, to encourage all my students to see my room as a safe spot, a place where they can share their fears and worries, a lighthouse, so to speak, in the sea of growing adulthood—one which will, hopefully, be able to help them navigate the rough sea waters and coast into the harbor of a good school year. I, too, was bullied as a kid in school–although, during my time, it was not called “bullying,” it was “my fault” for not standing up and taking care of myself. As always, I am awed by parents who understand that it IS bullying if the child sees it that way, and parents who care and try to help…I hope I can live up to that calling again this year…and I thank you again for this….

  4. Sending my hopes for Thea. I am so hopeful it will be better for her. Wondering how many sections they have for her grade level, hoping the teachers know, understand, care about and are ready to turn the atmosphere around for Thea and the others.

  5. I was bullied for most/all of my public school life, and I was very aware of it but unable to make a viable plan to make friends. (That might have been part of the problem.)
    Just having one friend turned out to be enough, it wasn’t even a friend at school. Encourage her to find something outside of her school to focus on- for me it was going to our sort of local marine science center and becoming a docent. I was the youngest by 15 years but it gave me a place to be an expert.

  6. As a retired elementary principal, please make sure your daughter’s principal is aware and involved. I realized my first year that the kids needed input from the top and started “Project Wisdom” for announcements every morning that talked about role models, kindness, etc. When kids laughed when someone fell off the swings, I got on the all-call and said, “This is not what we are all about!” Your daughter’s whole school culture needs to change.

  7. Please keep us posted. I pray she has a good year! My son was already bullied by a fellow freshman this year. Same sports team as well!
    Good thing the school calls every freshman into the counseling office randomly as a check up.
    My son was getting paranoid and for a kid like him who has overcome so much, it breaks my heart. Things are resolving and I hope both of our kids have a fantastic year.

  8. This is amazing and so very true. I have a son who is so smart but has a medical condition where he is never still. All we ask for each year is a teacher to be good to him. I truly love this post!

    On Tue, Aug 28, 2018 at 10:24 PM, Pernille Ripp wrote:

    > Pernille Ripp posted: “Thea tells us that the only goal she has for fourth > grade is to not be bullied, She doesn’t care about learning how to read > better. How to strengthen her math skills. How she will do more science, > learn more geography, create more beautiful art. How t” >

  9. Hello, I am sending best wishes to you and your family. I just got your book and it is on my to read list. I am attaching a poster I made for my classroom that was inspired by the poster your husband made for you. My classroom operates on the belief that when they walk into the door they now have two families…one at home and one at school. Everyday we interact on the belief that we are a real family just like at home. Thank you for sharing. Dee Gibson 1st grade teacher Deerfield, Illinois

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