Ten-year-old Jenny handles new school bullies with care.
The Story Chat
The discussion of “Jenny’s Bumpy Start” moved quickly from a story about a new girl in school into an agenda story about bullying.
Your last paragraph hit the nail on the head. Blatant bullying used to be more obvious years ago. I think it likely still happens in new ways such as cyber bullying or passive aggressive ways.Erika
Then readers quickly turned their attention from bullying to reflect and postulate the causes of bullying, probably reflecting on their own experiences of contending with bullies in school and in the workplace. Possibly bullies are bullied because of disfigurements, body odor, or other differences.
It does make me wonder if Jeremy is being bullied at home, so he takes it out on somebody else. I see bullies as insecure, unhappy people who often don’t want to help themselves, so they believe the whole world is against them.
Then my thoughts moved to Jenny, and I wondered if she had been a bully at her previous school. Why? Because she seems to be handling Jeremy’s bullying quite well.Hugh
Those who were bullied frequently at school or outside of the home carry the scars with them for life, but also wonder how their tormentors turned out.
Most of those people who shared their thoughts publicly suffered abuse by peers. Is the abuse different when a child is tormented by an adult? Those who are bullied or abused at home or by an adult rather than a child rarely talk about it openly.
I often wondered what happened to him (a bully from Hugh’s past), given that the first bully I mentioned died in his late 20s.Hugh
Do hard core, incorrigible bullies end up in prison, dead, or have they turned around and become caring, model citizens? What about those in leadership like fathers, judges, priests, teachers, principals, even presidents. What is their place in society? We usually stereotype bullies as males, but what about women? One reader wondered if Jenny might also have been a bully.
I thought Jenny seemed to have a disfigurement, as she had been asked about her face before, but this wasn’t clarified. Jenny seems a discerning girl to realise that the unpreposessing (unattractive) Jeremy isn’t the only bully in the classroom, but it’s likely she has been bullied before if she has a disfigurement. Since she misses her former school, she must have overcome any problems there and made friends. She will probably make friends here as well, given time and her refusal to be provoked or intimidated – maybe even the unprepossesing Jeremy.
A well-revealed and perceptive story.
This discussion alerted me to the way the teacher handled bullying in the classroom, which I had not thought of before. A minor character and possibly superfluous one, Sandy Lassiter, showed fear, maybe of the other children or maybe of Jeremy’s aggression towards Jenny. None of the other children stood up to Jeremy either because they agreed with him, were afraid of him, or were in the process of finding out if there was a new victim to torment. This alerted me to the possibility that the classroom was not a safe place for students.
Both Anne and Cathy foresaw that Jenny might become the friend that Jeremy needed, although Anne thought she acted much too maturely for her age.
I imagine she’s going to rescue Jeremy in some way. But it might be stronger as a story if we the reader can share in the process of understanding the bully. What if she was initially pleased when the teacher shamed him and then noticed something in his reaction that reminded her of herself?
You’ve sparked a great discussion on an important topic.
A ten-year-old might have bursts of maturity and realization that there is someone important besides themselves, but it is rare, unless Jenny’s disfigurement caused her to learn to develop a thick skin. Based in my own experience, that was not the case, although in my case, most kids picked on something other than the disfigurement on my face. My mom taught me to try to ignore bullies and I argued that it was impossible. But it must not have been because I had few bullies at school or in the workplace.Anne
When I taught elementary school, I tried to teach a heavy-set child in my fifth grade class to ignore bullies. Her mother called me on the carpet for not handling the situation. As a new teacher, I was at a loss (and intimidated by the mother) because I only knew from my experience what had worked for me as a student. I was not wise enough to work with the bully. As a follow-up, the victim student became a teacher and I have stayed friends with her on Facebook. I don’t know what happened to the bully or bullies. Like the girl bullied in my class, Jenny seemed to be recognized as good student. Even though the kids don’t know her, Jeremy steals her math paper.
Hugh brought up a point that bullies are often bullied. If Jenny isn’t a bully, then she probably hasn’t been bullied much, at least at home. Jeremy didn’t threaten her with bodily harm, he stole her paper. She might have gotten mad or at least indignant. Maybe, being new, she might have been intimidated by the teacher and didn’t want to make a scene. If she were shy, she might just sink into her chair and wait for the teacher to come back into the room. I like the idea of her enjoying Jeremy getting in trouble. Unfortunately, she would have to hold her gloating until she got home because there were no peers to share it with except possibly Sandy Lassiter.
Yes, I imagined her family being very supportive and maybe at ten Jenny’s not as self-conscious as she might become later when puberty strikes.Anne
I love how reader reactions can help us delve deeper into our characters.
I love how (this story) turns the tables on the idea that bullies are always the villain. I love how perceptive and kind Jenny is, not siding with the teacher because although the teacher is trying to come to her defense, she’s going about it all wrong. I love the unwritten complexity in Jeremy’s character, that we’re able to sympathize with him despite his actions.
I don’t necessarily think Jenny is acting too old for her age, I’ve met some empathetic preteens. I also think it gives you the opportunity to explore how she got to be so mature. He (the empathetic child I knew) was bullied a lot in elementary school. Because he was such a sweet and kind-hearted (and sometimes annoying) kid, he was an easy target for bullies. I heard one day that one of the bullies was left out of something and this boy volunteered to be the bully’s partner (against his father’s advice). Even when he was very young, this boy would play games, but always change the rules to make sure everyone was scoring points and everyone was doing well! He never tried to outdo anyone.
When I gave him a classic board game for Christmas, and I asked if he already had it, he replied, “yes, but that’s okay! It’ll be great to have extra pieces!”
That’s just his nature. All these stories happened before he turned 12, by the way. Jenny reminds me of him.Alexis
Alexis brought up a debate of the ages – are people kind or mean because of their given nature or because of the way they were nurtured. This takes us back to the idea of whether or not bullies that are bullied at home as well as school are worse than bullies that are only bullied at home. If they are bullied at home they have a double dose of bullying. They have the same genetic makeup as their family, but they are also nurtured to be bullies.
Teachers and others in leadership at any age have the awesome responsibility and privilege to care and make sacrifices and suggestions that will change the direction of a young person’s life.
Now It’s Your Turn
Do you have a story about someone who has made a difference in your life or in the lives of others you know? Even children who are not bullied can go father with encouragement than with criticism.
Upcoming Short Stories
- December Story Chat: “Out of Character” A behind the scenes look at Christmas at the mall by Cathy Cade
- January Story Chat: Anne Goodwin brings us a short story TBA next month.
Do you have a short story you’d like to submit for possible publication?