"Seems we have a rat in the class." My freshman geography teacher stated that a quick data analysis revealed to him that the later classes he taught were getting higher scores on his tests as if to suggest answers were being passed around to students. So, by the end of the day, the day's last couple classes knew the answers for which they needed to study. For whatever reason, I was targeted and everyone eyeballed me. The irony in the situation? The teacher would give us a study guide that had all the answers on it already! Why are you looking at me?! You, THE TEACHER, gave EVERYBODY the answers already!
But the damage was done. My new nicknames included "Narc", "Rat", & "Teacher's Pet". Because my past test scores were among a few to set the curve in the class and the boys in my class were intimidated (maybe?) or irritated(?) by that? I didn't party on the weekends? Whatever the reason, I was a target. And I'd hear those lovely nicknames throughout the halls and in the commons during lunch at least once a day if not numerous times. And who stuck up for me? NOT. MY. TEACHER. (who started it all).
One blessed day, we had a sub in that geography class. An older gentleman who was obviously hard of hearing as the insults flew throughout the period. He did, fortunately, hear the smack of the chalkboard eraser hitting the wall right above my head as one of my enemies hurled it at me. I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and I was able to duck in the nick of time. The sub looked up from his desk for a moment, saw the laughter, my wide tear-filled eyes and again, who came to my defense? NOT. THE. TEACHER.
I don't remember telling my parents much about what was going on. "Ignore them." "They're jealous." "Maybe it's their way of flirting." (yeah, right). But they definitely heard about everything the morning my dad walked out to get the paper at the end of our driveway only to find our front yard littered terribly. At first, he thought it was someone's creative way of asking my sister to Homecoming. Then, he started reading the words written on our driveway and garage door in ketchup, mustard and squeezy cheese. Our cars had been egged, juiced, and trees toilet papered. I couldn't hold back the tears anymore as my dad hosed down the driveway and the ketchup and mustard words stayed as stains on the cement. I helped my mom clean up the toilet paper and shielded my face as the perpetrators drove past my house, circling our cul-de-sac, to view their handiwork.
Humiliated. I wanted high school to be over. And it was just the first quarter of my freshman year.
I know this post seems like such a downer when we are in the midst of the holiday season, so I want to tell you how the story (happily) ends! Thankfully, all it took was one person to bat the enemies back. In another twist of irony, it was the boy who started calling me names way back in 4th grade when he chanted "Teacher's Pet" at the lunch tables. Jimmy was in my geography class and, after a particularly hurtful morning, finally stood his ground and said, "Enough guys! Knock it off. She's one of us." I was so relieved that from then on, things stopped as if they'd never existed.
That's all it took. One person.
This all happened before cell phones were common place, before Facebook existed or any other social media outlet. What our students face today is astronomically more-a potential torrent of Hate. A garden hose versus a fire hydrant, if you will. But the fact remains: It takes just one person to make it start (my teacher, inadvertantly) and just one person (Jimmy) to make it stop. Just. One.
You could be that one person for someone near you-in your class, at your place of work, in the grocery store aisle. Dare I say it? Even at your church.
And, if you're out there Jimmy (James) Head: I don't think I said thank you in the midst of my astonishment that day, but THANK YOU a million times over. You saved not just my front yard from another assault, but me as well.