|Ms. Varner in her classroom|
While the groundwork for the presentation had been laid, I still wasn't exactly sure what I was going to say to the class, how to really offer them that, Wow, this may have been life changing, moment. Finally, when my time came, I stood in front of the class and said, "My name is Lynne. Was anyone here for my last presentation?" A few hands shot into the air, and I smiled. I was suddenly among friends. "Well, that one focused a bit more on my home life. Today, I'm here to do a presentation on bullying."
|Osteo-Biflex, Eeyore, and a chapter|
from my memoir. The things
that helped me present :)
From there, I told stories, about boys who'd been bullied and turned into bullies. I talked about my sister being called Buckie-the-beaver before she got braces.
I discussed with the girls what they consider bullying, whether or not they think it differs from the way males do it verses females. One girl raised her hand, and told the class about getting calls on the weekends from girls saying, "We're having so much fun at this sleepover, why aren't you here? Oh, that's right, because we didn't invite you!" She finished with, "I don't understand why they were so mean, I never did anything to them." Most of the class agreed that girls are more calculated when they bully, that they truly intend to hurt people, where-as they feel boys are more physical (shoving, pushing, tripping).
Then, I talked about who I was at their age. How my house was disgusting, how my mother was never home. I asked them if they would have been friends with me, because while I looked clean that day, I was probably a mess at their age.
Closer to the end, I read an except from my memoir, A Walk to the Ocean which had to be slightly censored and more PG appropriate (I will cover my feelings on censorship hopefully Wednesday). The segment was about being bullied in college by my roommates and co-workers, to the point I tried to kill myself. The line I finished on said, "When I got home, my roommates continued to ridicule me that night, and for the remainder of the summer," then I paused to allow them to digest what I'd read. "When you say mean and hurtful things to people, you never know what's going on in their home lives. Take a look around the room," (I had them sitting in a half arc so they could see me and each other), "you don't know what's going on, whether or not people are getting along with their parents, fighting with their siblings. You don't know if they're being hurt at home, or even if their parents are home. I grew up in a flea infested house, where maggots were growing in the back room, and my mother wasn't ever home." I paused again as the girls looked around at each other. Some heads bowed, some faces turned red. "I came to school because it was clean, because it was safe. You don't know what will push someone over the edge."
From there, I wrapped the presentation up, challenging the girls. I told them that this is middle school. I know they're not going to get along with everyone, or even like everyone. But, maybe, they can just say hi to someone they usually wouldn't. Maybe if they see someone sitting alone during lunch, they can sit with them.
After that, I went to go see my manager from UNE, and we chatted politics, and results from the election. When I returned to Claire's she had dinner waiting:
|This looks like something out of a restaurant ad, no?|
A day or so later, I got a Facebook message from one of the girls in class. We've had a few exchanges since, but she was one of the girls who attended my last presentation. She thanked me for coming in, and also said, "My response to a question you asked is: I can honestly say I would be friends with you if we were the same age."
And for a time, I'm reminded, that this is what it's all about.