Tag Archives: Middle school

Mrs. Harris

Dear Mrs. Harris,


You might not remember me, it was a long time ago that you were my physical education teacher.  A very long time ago.  You pushed me to get those ten sit-ups done, you cajoled me to doing those push-ups, and you rebuked me for failing to even attempt the pull-ups.  You understood when I changed in the bathroom stalls, as opposed to changing in the locker room.  You listened when I cried about being fat and useless.  And you had sympathy for when I fell and sprained my ankle in the wrestling room.  You encouraged me when we played kickball, and showed me the best way to dodge at dodgeball.


I hated your guts.


I know, that’s not fair. It wasn’t really you so much as it was the subject that you taught.  had you been any other teacher I probably would have sung your praises for how well you managed the fragile egos of the charges given to you in those oh-so turbulent times of middle school. But you taught Physical education.  The most loathed class of any fat kid.  Kickball was a nightmare, always last for the team. Dodgeball was painful, almost literally, I never played baseball and touch football almost always ended badly.  But the more horrifying thing in the world, the terrible, awful, torturous event was the Physical Fitness Test.


Now, I don’t really remember if that was the actual name of it.  It was one of those things that I think started with President Kennedy and then continued on through the years.  Every year, every student, had to pass a physical fitness test.  This included everything. Height, Weight, BMI, Jumping jacks, sit ups, push ups, the sit forward and reeeeach for that ruler, pull ups, and the dreaded Mile.


Oh, the Mile.  On a dust and dirt covered track around the football field, one lap around was one quarter of a mile. Four laps.  You had to get 4 laps done, and the set time was 15 minutes.  The Mile. That dreaded torture device.  Pullups were easy, I couldn’t do them, I touched the bar and that was it.  I could get out 10 situps if I tried, and 10 pushups too.  I could never reach very far down the ruler, but nobody expected me to.  But the Mile.  The one thing that would get gym teachers from every corner of the school to converge on one spot in order to yell.  You encouragement sounded like jeering, your shouts to keep going brought only feelings of hate.


I hated the Mile and I hated you.


It wasn’t your fault. you were doing what you had to do. It was part of the national curriculum and that I understand now. But oh, how I hated you.


But, what brings this up now? all these years of repressed anger and hatred towards the dreaded Mile?  The one thing that I was never able to beat. Fifteen minutes.  I think the closest I ever got was seventeen minutes.  After which, I collapsed on the grass of the football field and promptly attempted to stop living.  Or at least breathing.  So what brings these memories up? what causes them to come to the forefront today?


Well, mrs. Harris are you listening because this is important, I walked a mile today.  I actually walked closer to 1.5 miles, but all the same, I walked a mile today.  And I did it in under fifteen minutes.


Did you hear that?  Fourteen minutes and forty-seven seconds!  Me!  Me who couldn’t even think about doing a Mile on that flat dusty track in under 17 minutes. Me who was so out of shape that the thought of more jumping jacks made me want to vomit.  I actually managed to do a 15 minute mile.  Without dying! Without needing an inhaler or a respirator or to have my heart restarted!


So, Mrs Harris, from so long in the past to this point in my life right now, I want to say thank you.  Thank you for your understanding. Thank you for your kindness, and your encouragement.  It might have taken me almost twenty years, but I have finally made it past that point!


You can mark me off your clipboard now!  I am on my way to physically fit!


I’m probably not going to make any friends with this post.  you’ve been warned, there are some rather strong opinions to follow.  If you feel in any way that you might possibly be offended, stop reading.  Now.


The interwebs are on fire. the tubes burning up in the middle of the night. There was a kid, he got bullied, and he fought back. The kid is a hero! the kid is amazing! More kids should do this! Wait, he got suspended?  HORROR! OUTRAGE! He was only defending himself!  How can you suspend a kid for that?


ok. there’s a few topics here for discussion.  One, could be the overall topic of Bullying which to be honest, I don’t have enough epaper for at this moment.   Two, could be this particular situation, which seems to be getting far too much attention.  Three, a combination of the two.  Sounds good.  Let’s go with that.


Bullying.  Yes. It’s a problem.  guess what.  It always has been. What’s the big difference now?  As with many things in our society, information.  Kids have cellphones now. Cellphones that can take pictures. and video.  they can document their cruelty for everybody to see.  As opposed to only talking about it in the gym locker room.  They can show the world how cool they are, instead of having to relive the memories with their buddies over the weekends, taking secret shots from their dad’s liquor cabinet and sitting on the trampoline.


There’s no difference between the bullying happening now and the bullying that happened when I was growing up.  I was that kids age once. I was fat. I was the new kid in school. I was Jewish. No, there was never any physical bullying done to me. I was never kicked, or punched, smacked around.  Was I backed into corners? Yes.  Was I pointed at, talked about, made fun of, harassed? Yes.  Did this happen from 3rd grade all the way up to high school? yes.


Kids are, apparently, a lot more physical in their bullying these days.  But it doesn’t change the fact that verbal abuse by your peers is still bullying.  And it still hurts. And it still leaves scars.  Both physical and mental.


Having to change in the bathroom after Phys Ed because your body was fat and everybody would point it out to you, that’s damaging.  Your breasts developing before others because you were larger? And having people notice? that’s hurtful.  I wore my first pair of jeans in the 9th grade.  Why? Because nobody made jeans to fit fat kids like me.  I went through the whole of middle school the dumpy fat kid in sweats.  And if you think i didn’t hear the whispers, the jokes, the laughter and I didn’t see the fingers pointing, you’re wrong.


I saw them.  I felt them.  Every single last one of them.  You didn’t have to actually punch me in the stomach, your words were enough to do damage.


so yes, before you go and get all hyper-actively self defensive, yes,there was bullying when we were kids.  Yes, teasing can be bullying.  No, there’s no easy way to deal with it.


I could have turned around and been nasty back. I could have said things about you, but that wasn’t worth my time.  My self-esteem was so low by that point that just getting through the school day without crying was an accomplishment.    Life was miserable. Everything was hateful. I hated everybody and everything.  Mostly myself.


But then, the confidence started to grow.  I got involved in things outside of school. Outside of the group of people that were so petty they couldn’t see their noses from their faces.  4-H saved my life.


I’ll say that again.


4-H saved my life.  Responsibility as a camp counselor, instilling values of kindness, acceptance, and responsibility into other kids? Rewarding.  One week every summer where I was away from everything at camp and had people that cared about me.  Looked out for me.  And weren’t cruel.  It’s astounding what that program did for me.


4-H was the perfect answer to my lack of confidence, a fantastic supplement to a great friend,who had been with me the entire way through.  But that’s a whole other story.  For another day.  I’ll just put this here now. 4-H and Shaun saved my life. Multiple times.



Now, that we have that statement done.  yes, there was bullying when we were kids. Yes, it was mean, spiteful, hateful, and horrible.  But no, not as many people were aware of it.  We didn’t all have video cameras in our pockets.  Or over protective parents and teachers.  For the most part, you had to fend for yourself.  Survive or don’t.  Welcome to the Island.


There’s a memory I have from High school, I think I was a senior or junior and this little freshman decided that the fat girl was going to be the perfect target.  He started with words, and then moved onto some light physical contact, throwing little punches in my direction and asking, goading, me about what i was going to do about it.


I turned to the little brat and told him in point blank terms that I was a straight A student, a senior, and that every teacher in the school at least knew my name and I’d never been in trouble before.  He was a freshman, had no backing, and was messing with somebody who did. To put it frankly, “Who are they going to believe more, me or you?”


Brat backed off.  Never had another problem.  High school was when most of the bullying stopped.  We had all grown up and most of us had gotten over it.  Most of us.  There were still times when it happened, but they were few, far between, and swiftly handled.


Now, I’m certain that I have hit your limit of caring at this point.  So, I will post a bit later about my opinions on the boy who is at the center of all this.


I will sum this up though.  Bullying happens.  It has always happened and it will continue to happen. Your child is not a special snowflake.  They’re a child that has to make it through this hell like everybody else had to.  trial by fire.  Middle School is living hell.  And anybody who says differently is an idiot.  You either get out of it stronger, or you don’t.


But you make it out and then life is on the other side.  And life is good. To steal and or borrow from another campaign out there.


It gets better.