Tag Archives: middle school

Miss Teacher

I’m on a bit of a mission at work. It has long been a point of fact that I have zero tolerance for any type of bullying. This includes any of that mean talk that kids indulge in, including notes passed in class with petty slanders about the girl in the corner. I believe passionately that no child should have to suffer in silence and if more teachers made it their personal mission to stand up and say no then the frightened victims would finally have someone on their side. Too often educators turn a blind eye to the cruelty of children and teens, stating that it is “just a phase”, “I wouldn’t know what to do”, “it will pass”, “it is all part of natural selection” or God only knows what else.

 

When I was 11 and 12 and one of the only English girls at my predominantly American girl’s school in Japan, I was bullied. Rude things about me were written in soap on the bathroom wall, my pencil case was thrust down the toilet to a chorus of laughing girls and the entire time no one did anything about it. Even my own mother said at one point “ Well did you do anything to provoke them?”

 

I feel no shame in the fact that I was bullied. Occasionally I search for reasons why it was me that was relentlessly picked on and I come up with the idea that perhaps I was different from the others. I spoke with a different accent, I wasn’t allowed to wear make up or go to see movies like Endless Love or Blue Lagoon. I spoke off the cuff, tried too hard to have friends…. I have no idea what combination of facts led to me being the IT girl for those girl’s nasty behaviour. I do know that while I was pinned down at a sleep over and rubbed all over with lip sticks that stained my pajamas, that there was nothing I could do to stop it.

 

The other day in PSHE ( personal, social and health education) I combined both Year 7 ( grade 6 ) classes to discuss this very subject. I told them that I would not tolerate any unkindness of any sort and that what they might deem funny could, in fact, be very painful to the person involved. I also told them about the importance of the bystander and witness and how powerful a role that person plays in stopping the meanness. I explained that I knew how hard it was to be a snitch and tell on someone and for that reason they could, at any time, drop a note on my desk explaining anything they had seen.

 

Bullying is not rife in my school by any means. It is a small school where every one knows each other and I don’t believe that any one of my students is particularly cruel. However, things do happen as I was soon to find out. I handed out sheets of paper to all 40 students and asked them to anonymously write down anything they had seen or done. Reading these notes later made me quite sad. One boy was pushed into the gym shower where three other boys turned the tap on soaking his clothes. One person confessed to breaking into a few lockers. Someone else explained how they had passed mean notes in class. Simply the act of writing these facts down helped to make these 11 year olds realize the little cruelties they were inflicting on their classmates.

 

Since that PSHE class I now have a reputation for being a fighter for all students who feel excluded. My door is always open to any one who feels slighted and they all know that I will always be on their side. Just the other day I received  note from a sweet young girl who is certain that none of the girls in her class like her. She wrote a litany of examples of times that she was excluded or sniggered at. I will invite all the girls involved into my class room for a chat next week. Once they realize that some one is watching, someone who refuses to stand by and allow meanness to exist, maybe they will think twice.

 

I am not a fool and I know too well that girls between the ages of 11 and 15 can be extremely unkind. I also know that I cannot change this fact, but I can let the victims know that some one has their back. I will not stand by and do nothing, at the very least for those kids who have the bad luck to be the chosen targets.

 

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Gout, riots and lice. Really?

We have started week 3! Already! Half way through September, we are already starting to plan our half term safari trip.

I have never met a set of better behaved children. The students I teach are all respectful, polite and attentive. There is only one class renown for their big personalities and rowdy tendencies and of course that is my homeroom. (I like it like that!)

Friday I gave my first set of spelling and vocabulary tests. Now that I am teaching the younger years I have implemented the old fashion system of testing.

Best definition for Gout: A disease caught from eating goat.

Best definition for Aquiline: To acquire something by pulling on a line

Best definition for Wince: A very small place.

There is one young chap in year 7 who, when asked to go home and find definitions for the vocabulary words, took it upon himself to make up his own definitions. The above are the results of his ingenuity.

While I was calling out the words for the year 9 spelling test I realized that anyone with a dirty mind might find these words better suited to the set of a porno flick than an English classroom. Lacerating, Abrasive, Desperate, Submissive, Whips, Thrust, Extraordinary Dramatic.

Oh dear.

Many of you may have heard that there were riots in Kampala over the weekend. This is true. Sadly 14 people died during the violent outbreaks and when we woke up Saturday morning the road near our home was littered with the remains of burnt tires. So what was it all about? The King of Buganda was meant to visit part of his Kingdom on Saturday, but it is a contentious place as some argue that it doesn’t really lie within the borders of his Kingdom. When it was suggested by some members of the government that he should not pay this corner of Uganda a visit, riots ensued. Many people were angered by the politicians involvement in what was really a Tribal affair. In the end the visit was cancelled and the rioters calmed down. The main effect that the disturbance had on my life is that my classes dwindled down to almost nothing by Friday after lunch. Worried parents pulled their children out of school in response to advice that it was preferable to remain at home and off the streets. One student’s father had his car torched. We were all a little nervous driving home but we didn’t see anything. During the evening we heard gun shots, but they were probably warning shots fired by the police.

To be truthful I was far more affected by our own little rioters crawling over the scalps of Trooper and Princess. Yes. Lice.

The battle lasted two whole days, the weapons; poison in a bottle and multiple combings.

I think we have won.

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Kampala snips.

Well I survived week one of school, although week one was really only 3 days, but in my books that is still a long week. Between tricky names getting stuck in my throat and walks to and from the library to check out text books I managed to get to know a few students and learn the ropes. As I mentioned before I am teaching years 7-9 which translates as grades 6-8 and those little year 7 boys are tiny! It is a sharp contrast to the 16-18 year olds I have been teaching for the past 2 years. Those little guys take ages to copy anything down, need everything to be explained slowly and most often twice but they are not yet cynical and their innocence is pleasing.

The only views of Kampala I have had this week have been through the windows of the Beast as we travel between home and school. One thing I have observed is how busy everyone is. While traveling in India I often remarked that a lot of people, in particular men, squatted around for much of the day chewing, spitting and talking with each other. I imagined that in a city with a growing population such as Kampala I would see similar displays of languid behaviour. The Boda drivers do their share of nothing while waiting for customers but on the whole what I have witnessed is a hive of activity. Early in the morning people are carrying water on their heads, pushing bikes loaded with bananas up hills, washing clothes, firing bricks and a lot of digging. Everywhere I look someone is digging a hole.

This city is growing. It has only been the capital since 1962 and at that time was built over 7 hills. It now stretches over 21 hills and counting.

Here are some fun and fast facts about Kampala.

The name comes from the animal, Impala, which happily grazed on these hills and were happily hunted by chiefs and kings. With a little Lugana thrown in (the local language) the city soon became known as Kampala.

There are many mosques here. (With loud speakers.) It turns out Islam arrived here before any Christian Missionaries. So I guess they got here first.

Kampala is only 32 km to the equator but the reason it has a reasonable temperature is because it is 1200 meters high. (That is 4000 feet for you Americans.)

Kampala is home to only 1 of 7 Baha’i temples in the world. It is know as the Mother Temple of Africa. 3limes will bring you more on that when we visit the temple in the coming weeks.

More fun facts, photos and cutting edge visions from the window of a Beast, coming soon!

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