Bullying in the Classroom

Bullying means that a single person or group of people are deliberately cruel to another person – for any reason. And it feels somehow shameful to have to talk about it as an adult. 

Here’s the scenario; due to my current illness and treatment I’m more vulnerable than usual, I really haven’t got much mental resource. So when a classmate sought me out (I was having a cup of tea and reading a book), I thought she was being thoughtful, she seemed genuinely interested at the time.

The kind of dynamics in class behaviour that I miss – because I like spending time on my own – is that I forget everyone else in the class is sitting around together and discussing whatever’s on their mind.

So foolishly – or not – I shared my experience with the classmate. I talked about what had happened to me this year, about my treatment for anxiety and depression, that I was still in treatment and being prescribed helpful medication. She seemed genuinely concerned. Maybe she was.

I tend to go to the library or spend my breaks on my own reading, researching, working on an assignment. It’s what I like, its my kind of boring. Maybe she was being compassionate, but I also provided her with some interesting gossip for the rest of the class.

I’ve experienced baiting, teasing, badgering and general passive aggressive behaviour a few times after I started to disclose that I’ve been struggling with mental health issues this year. When I feel really weak, I can’t find any words to speak to the person who has hurt me and feel like part of myself just shuts down.

My dear friend, Lady Ferrari refers to this behaviour simply as ‘PANTS’ – a very appropriate acronym for Passive Aggressive Neuro Typicals.

This week, it was so blatant, I completely bypassed my usual  bewildered, ‘Why is she doing that?’ to revulsion.

To start with, I assumed that particular classmate had a great weekend when she unexpectedly made a point of coming up very close to me, her face flushed and her eyes glittering and asking me “how are you today?” with such intensity.

Then there was the body blocking, how she seemed to keep making it difficult for me to access my work bench, my work cupboard and tools. I still didn’t get it. 

In the last few weeks, I’ve been creating a natural, bright blue wood dye by placing copper wire in a mixture of vinegar and salt.  The classmate asked me with a certain tone what it was, so I told her the jar contents. The class Angel stepped in and said I was making a natural wood dye. The classmate said with that tone I now recognise as mocking – “Oh thank you, that’s exactly the answer I was looking for.”

I ignored it and carried on with my work.

The classmate couldn’t resist and continued the verbal heckling.

She tried to emotionally bait me and then plausibly advise me, whilst smirking, that I must have misunderstood her nuance.

But even I couldn’t miss the malice that time. Neither could the class Angel – because she kindly intervened as I turned and walked away.

I’m still getting ‘friendship’ and ‘friendly’ confused.

I must be more discerning. At times like that, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop that behaviour because its just something I don’t understand.

Adult bullies tend to be sly, and subtle. But the bottom line is the same, they knowingly hurt someone.

I’ve read that an adult bully’s aim is to gain power over another person, and make him or herself the dominant adult. They try to humiliate victims, and show them who is boss. They want to feel as though they are important and preferred, they think they can achieve this by belittling others, maybe by using language of patronising superiority. At worst physical violence.

My initial response to this type of behaviour is to actually feel like my physical form is shrinking. Maybe shrinking away from the hurt and maybe that feeling in me is a victory for the bully?

There have been many times like this throughout my adult life. Each time it’s unexpected and I try to respond from my buddhist training. I experience hurt, humiliation and even anger.  But I can also take that painful experience home to my buddhist alter and when immersed in my daily buddhist practise, can review it. 

When I started practising, years ago, I couldn’t get far beyond the initial hurt and bewilderment in these situations.

As my practise has progressed and understanding grown – and these situations have continued – I have developed the spirit of of being able to view these as just facts and can then determine to keep the true, deeper spirit of my life flowing. That’s a personal choice and a personal victory.

This year, I proved to myself that my beliefs in the power of my buddhist practise have become stronger than my suffering.

In the past I have found that admiring something in others’ work or in their life is a key to not creating a deadlock to my own suffering.

I was advised many years ago, “find something to admire in the person who you dislike/ has hurt you… even if it’s just the colour of their nail varnish!”  Whenever I’ve made the effort to find just one single little thing I can admire in someone, it feels like there is hope, like the door to progress and growth has not been closed.

Here’s a quote I like to remember, that was written by Nichiren Daishonin many hundreds of years ago to a follower who he was supporting, “When praised, one does not consider one’s personal risk, and when criticised, one can recklessly cause one’s own ruin. Such is the way of common mortals.”

These examples of human behaviour – whether predatory or self destructive – have always been there and they’re part of the dynamics of my life experience. What makes another difference is my autistic “mindblindess” – I just don’t see or hear the warnings, so even at my age, I don’t react as expected and potentially leave myself open to harmful bullying. 

Find your Anchor

By anchoring my life in well-proven principles of buddhism, I have the power to be aware on a daily basis, of the powerful life condition of Buddhahood within myself. To be aware of and be able to focus on that. I enjoy helping others to recognise and bring forth their Buddhahood and to become happy. I enjoy my buddhist practise.

My decision from this small experience is that I will find a way to continue a positive relationship with that classmate, I determine to not spread pain and suffering.

Maybe that blue wood stain I’m making is a very important element to the success of my time at college and the course, I will focus more on the success of that project.

In case you’re interested, I’ve put a link here about the buddhist principle of changing poison into medicine. It describes how we can transform the greatest of life’s sufferings into happiness.

Have a great day!


2 thoughts on “Bullying in the Classroom

  1. You’re approach to this is amazing, I have to say!

    It’s still a stigma to a lot of people to think that one adult can ‘bully’ another. ‘Bully’ is always used in reference to children in school, but not usually in post-secondary or in workplaces. It’s almost like adults shouldn’t take offence to bullying because we’re older. It’s not only an issue that young children face.

    As I said, your approach is great. Adults who bully, are looking to gain some sort of perceived power over another. By not giving in or bullying back, you’re completely defusing what the bully is attempting to achieve.

    I’ve been bullied in my past workplaces for some reason or other, and I always managed to brush it off by being my usually chipper self. I think the only reason I was able to deal with adult bully because I was constantly bullied as a child for the most ridiculous reasons (not being the ‘same’ heritage as my classmates, to the long last name), things I had absolutely no control over. So when it was over situations I could control, I did as you have done, and moved beyond inflicting more hurt. 🙂

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