Tag Archives: 1000 Voices for Compassion

When the Bully is the Teacher

1000Speak - Voices Are Strong

Let me start what I anticipate to be a controversial post by saying this, loud and clear:

I’ve had some wonderful, amazing, inspiring teachers.

My kids have had some wonderful, amazing, inspiring teachers.

Several of our friends and family members are wonderful, amazing, inspiring teachers.

This post is not about you. Or them.

This post is about Ms. K.

Ms. K. teaches chorus to seventh and eighth graders.

Middle schoolers.

You remember middle school, don’t you?

You’re 13. You’re incredibly self-conscious. You’re trying to fit in. You’re trying to figure out who the hell you are and who you’re going to be. You’re overwhelmed.

They’ll never admit it, but this is a time in a kid’s life when grown ups have so much power and influence. Those of us who are parents know that It doesn’t seem that way, at least in my house. Far from it. But these kids of ours, deep down inside they’re looking to us, the grown-ups who supposedly have our shit together, for lessons on how to make our way in this crazy world.

As if we have a clue.

My daughter used to love Chorus.

In her middle school, students are able to take Chorus as a class and earn a grade. As someone who enjoys singing and has acted in several plays, my daughter embraced the concerts, the hard work that paid off in a triumphant performance.

There’s little joy anymore in what my girl used to love.

At first, back in September, Ms. K.’s antics seemed somewhat amusing. At the dinner table, my daughter would tell us all about Ms. K’s daily dramatics.

The change was gradual, slight.

“She yelled at us today and said we were pathetic,” my daughter said one day.

People say stuff, we said dismissively.

“She told us that there wasn’t a single brain cell in the entire class!  I mean, who says that?”

We’ve all had crazy teachers, The Husband and I said, regaling both kids with stories of the middle school and high school teachers who were the banes of our existence. Someday you and your friends will laugh about Ms. K., just like we reminisce about our crazy teachers with our friends.

Besides, Ms. K. was providing a good life lesson. In life, you’re going to encounter some impossibly ridiculous people in the world, I espoused. And if they’re not your teacher, they’re going to be your boss or your co-worker or the company president or someone you need to get along with. So, buck up; better learn now how to accept the real-life reality that some people are simply difficult to deal with and unhappy with their lives. That their miserable-ness has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.

The comments got meaner. Nastier. More personal.

Ms. K. has told her 13-year-old students that they are “going to die before their parents” because of the amount of “processed junk food” that they eat. She supervises lunch and has come up to my daughter’s lunch table to scrutinize her classmates’ meals.

Ms. K. has announced their test grades out loud. To the entire class. By name.

And on Wednesday of this week, when a student asked whether they can refer to their binders during a performance, Ms. K. replied,

“If you don’t have the songs memorized, I’m killing you all. There will be bloodshed.”


Really? Bloodshed? Really?

I asked my daughter several times if Ms. K. really used that exact word. In the classroom. In a post-Columbine, post-Newtown, post-Everytown classroom. How, exactly? What was the tone?

“She was sort of joking, but … well, Mom, a teacher shouldn’t say something like that, should they?  I was horrified. I mean, I don’t think she would really do anything ….”

Her voice trailed off.

I wasn’t going to say anything to anyone at the school about this. Maybe I was making too big of a deal about it. After all, people say stuff ….

I don’t consider myself a reactionary, knee-jerk parent. I’m not the type who has the principal’s number on speed dial or fires off emails to the superintendent when my child is slighted. I know when something is said in jest and I am usually willing to give teachers more than the benefit of the doubt.



To me, after what has been six months of insults and demeaning remarks to 13-year-old kids, bloodshed is where I draw the line.

Because although I am not a knee-jerk, reactionary parent, I watch the news and I happen to know what kind of knee-jerk, reactionary society we live in and I know that if my child made a remark in the classroom such as “I’ll kill you all. There will be bloodshed,” my child would be looking at expulsion and I’d be needing a lawyer and there would be a horde of media at our doorstep.

Still, I slept on this. I didn’t want to jump to conclusions. I realized that I was hearing things second-hand.

But I also know my kid and what my kid – who I have no reason not to believe – has been telling me about what has been going on in this classroom every damn day since August.

I know what I’ve experienced as an adult from email exchanges with this teacher.

I know what I’ve heard from complete strangers in the community about their encounters with this teacher.  For whatever reason, a double-standard is allowed to apply here.  I’m wondering who the hell she’s related to or who she knows or what she has on someone because I cannot believe I am the first parent to call this behavior out for what it is.


I don’t think that’s too harsh of a term to use in this situation, because I’ve seen the effects firsthand. I’ve seen the dread in my child, seen the joy that has been taken from her with something she used to enjoy, seen her extreme, out of control anxiety and obsessiveness over HER GRADE IN CHORUS, for Christ’s sake.

That is bullying.

When you tell a kid they are going to die before their parents, THAT IS BULLYING.

When you repeatedly call someone pathetic, THAT IS BULLYING.

When you humiliate a kid who has gotten a D on a test by announcing that score aloud to the class, along with her name, THAT IS BULLYING.

And when a child has to think twice to understand that you don’t really mean that you will kill them and their classmates and that there will be bloodshed, you’re goddamn right THAT IS BULLYING. 

As parents, we teach our kids to report bullying behavior. To stand up for what’s right.

So last night I had to ask myself: what’s the message I’m sending to my daughter when I say that bullying is wrong and then I don’t do anything about someone like this? When I don’t empower my girl to stand up to a bully? What does that teach her and how does that set her up for other relationships in her life when someone might make her feel unsafe? What does this say about me as her advocate?

And what does it say about the lessons we’ve learned and what we’re teaching each other?


“When the Bully is the Teacher” by Melissa Firman is part of 1000 Voices for Compassion, where bloggers write about kindness, compassion, support, and caring for others.  This month’s theme is Building from Bullying. Read more posts here and visit 1000 Voices for Compassion on Facebook.  Join us in flooding the blogosphere with good. 

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sunday salon: ides of march edition

The Sunday Salon

Time and Place:
Sunday evening / the couch in the living room. As per usual.

Weekend Happenings?
Not much. The Girl went to a SibShop yesterday. It’s a support group for kids who have a sibling with special needs. It took me awhile to find such a group and they’ve increased the number of sessions to three weekends per month. A bit of driving around on the weekends, but as much as I might complain about trekking around Pittsburgh, it’s worth it because The Girl loves going and the facilitators are wonderful with her. Afterwards we enjoyed lunch at Panera and I came home and took a long nap.

Today’s been a lazy day. Grocery shopping was the extent of my activity. I should have done more, but I’ve had a bad headache all weekend and wasn’t up to it.

The last week or so has been a mixed bag on the bookish front, with everything from a book that will likely be on my Best Books I’ve Read in 2015 list to two DNFs.

The Paying GuestsLet’s start with what I loved. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters is …well, I was unable to put this down. Set in 1922, Frances Wray and her mother live together in their large South London mansion following the deaths of Frances’ brothers in the War and then her father’s illness. Her father’s mismanagement of the family’s finances makes it necessary for Frances and her mother to rent out some of their rooms. Newlyweds Lilian and Leonard Barber join the household as “paying guests” and change the dynamic of the Wray house – not to mention each one of their lives.

The Paying Guests also is on the just-announced longlist for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize for Fiction) along with 19 other contenders. I’ve read only one other nominee (Station Eleven) and if I had to choose between the two, I would definitely choose The Paying Guests.  Anyway, I’m hoping to have a full review up soon.

My DNFs were Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O’Nan – about a group of restaurant workers during their last night at a Red Lobster which is slated for closing – and Inside Madeleine, by Paula Bomer. The latter, a collection of stories, has been hyped for being evocative and daring; however, I read the first two (“Eye Socket Girls” and “Breasts”) and found both to be eh rather than edgy. It didn’t do much for me, so back to the library it goes.


Still completely addicted to and immersed in House of Cards. I’ve just started Season 2 and will hopefully have a chance to watch episode 2 and maybe 3 tonight.

ZZ: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald was on my TBR Goodreads list, but reading West of Sunset by Stewart O’Nan made me more interested in picking this up.  Z is my audiobook this week.

Remember the #1000Speak post I did as part of 1000 Voices for Compassion? (Listening to Our Better Angels) Well, now this project has become a monthly thing and on Friday March 20 we’ll be writing on the theme of “Building from Bullying.”  Join us on the 1000 Voices for Compassion group on Facebook. 



Bloggiesta - Spring 2015Bloggiesta comes back this spring and it is better than ever! You guys, it is a week this time. A week! I have a to-do list a mile long for this blog, so I definitely could use that amount of time. Not sure what Bloggiesta is or what it involves? Click on the button to be taken to the Bloggiesta page or go here.


Daffodils - 3-8-2014

Look closely … my daffodils are coming up after a very long winter! You see them? Full disclosure: this is a photo from last March, taken on 3/8/2014, but they look the same right now.

This headache that I’ve had most of the weekend. I think it’s weather-related (yesterday was rainy and miserable) and I’m being very cautious about not taking much of anything like Advil or my Maxalt because I’m scheduled for a root canal tomorrow.

I actually hate the headache more than the root canal. This is long overdue – my dentist wanted to do this back in 2012, according to my chart (I conveniently forgot about that) and now this tooth is starting to bother me. So, as much as one can look forward to a root canal, I am.

Don’t laugh, but I really want to do some spring cleaning around the house. (I know … those of you who know me are probably thinking my blog’s been hacked.)  Every room in this house is a disaster and could use some freshening up. Nothing major – we don’t have the budget for anything crazy. I’m talking about some significant decluttering and deep cleaning (I might hire someone for that), framing some photos for the walls … simple things.

Hope your weekend has been a good one!


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Listening to Our Better Angels: 1000 Voices for Compassion


“One blogger shares a sentiment of compassion that resonates with another blogger. That blogger has a vision of more bloggers joining together as a whole to flood the internet with compassion much like tiny drops of water causing a ripple effect across the internet, across the world. Within two weeks over 1,000 bloggers make the commitment to share compassion individually yet together as a force so strong it takes on a life of its own because so many of us crave acts of good, positive deeds, a spark of kindness, empathy and good will that has been missing for some time.”
~ “Compassion Is In Our Nature,” as published on 1000Speak for Compassion

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” ~ Abraham Lincoln, Inauguration Address, March 4, 1861.

I’m blogging today as part of 1000 Voices for Compassion, a worldwide initiative to get a thousand bloggers to write posts about compassion, kindness, support, caring for others, non-judgement, care for the environment etc, and to publish these posts on the same day – today, February 20. The goal? To promote good.

It took me about two nanoseconds to sign myself up for this project. Blogging about compassion?  Easy.

Among the things I strive to do as a blogger is to use this small forum as a place to share with you what I care most about. Most of the time, that’s a good book or a new-to-me author I’ve just discovered. I enjoy sharing what I’m reading with you and I love talking about good books, especially with like-minded people.

Maybe it’s the been-doing-this-for-too-many-years nonprofit professional in me, but what I am most compelled to write about here are the stories of the people and the issues and the causes I care most about, such as:

the need for acceptance and greater understanding of people with autism and other special needs;

domestic violence and how it can leave a family shattered;

our country’s deeply flawed foster care system that allows a four-year-old girl to be all but forgotten and ignored by the Wisconsin child services agencies and professionals whose jobs are to protect her legal rights – and whom a judge has bounced from one, two, three foster homes in her four years after she was taken away screaming from the adoptive parents who loved her in their home;

the still-present reality of long-term unemployment and my belief that it will alter our country’s workforce and our economy forever;

the loss of so many creative, inspiring and loving souls to the epidemic of AIDS while our country’s leaders turned a blind eye, and why our legacy to those lost too soon must be continued striving for equal rights and protection for those identifying as LGBTQIA.

All of these topics have something in common.

Yes, they’re all ones that I have written about here.

But they are also subjects that tend to bring out the worst in people.

People with AIDS? “They deserve it.”  People who are unemployed and can’t find a job? “You must not be trying hard enough.” People who are abused by those they love? “Why don’t you just leave?” People who have a child with special needs? “You wanted to be a parent, so stop complaining.”

This is tame compared to what you’ll find on the comments section of certain websites or blogs or newspapers.  The haters are rabid – and becoming even more so. I’m not sure why people feel the need to be so nasty. Whether it’s the sanctity of feeling safe behind a computer screen under the cloak of anonymity or whether we’re just so hyper-stressed that we need to vent and take our anger out on some unsuspecting person or whether we are just so desperate to be heard, I don’t know.

So what do we do? I don’t know the answer but one thing I’ve started doing is not reading the comments – or, trying not to, anyway. Mainly my reasons are that it’s a time vacuum and also unhealthy for one’s soul. Even a few minutes spent with the comments makes one bereft of feeling – or, at the very least, numb. Not reading the comments is not feeding the beast, and it isn’t polluting my sense of compassion toward others.

(Edited to add: I need to clarify this based on, ironically, a comment from earlier today: I read all the comments here. What I’m talking about are the comment sections in the online editions of the newspaper or certain websites or whatever that just seem to fuel the crazy. With the exception of certain posts – mostly the adoption ones  – this isn’t much of an issue here on my blog. .)

I admit, there have been several posts where I’ve wondered if I should “go there.” I’m not a big-time blogger. I’m not going to change the world.

But deciding not to post about certain controversial issues doesn’t help with awareness and genuine healing. Because it’s a collective effort that starts with one person realizing a different perspective and gaining understanding.

We won’t get there if we don’t address the negativity and the snark that is so prevalent while re-committing ourselves to turn outward – not inward – toward others. And the good thing is, it’s easier to do than we think.

Notice those who are struggling and those who have suffered. As the quote (attributed to many people) goes, “Be kind, for we are all fighting a hard battle.”

Extend a hand or a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on.

Be proactive in asking someone how you can help, or … just help.

Only then will we be able to fully hear the still and emerging voices inside us:

The song of our better angels.

To read links of #1000Speak Compassion posts from bloggers all over the world, click here.  



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