Be the Difference - Growing Comfortable with the Face of Fear @paulrwood

Over at, Paul R Wood (@paulrwood) shares his personal story how he didn't fit in school. His plea is on behalf of children who are cast for roles they don't enjoy or want to play:
We say it is OK for our students to fail but what about the one’s that are fine with academics but feel they are already failing life? Are we looking out for them? Be the difference. Please be the difference that you are capable of being. 
I could have used a teacher that picked up on what was going on. I am thankful I never made the decision to follow through with what I had concocted in my head during my senior year. Otherwise, there are so many of you wonderful people I would have never known. 
Be the difference this year.
It's a story that he uses to support the premise of a video, The One Thing All Men Know.
Since most men grow up in toxic environments where they are encouraged to repress their emotions, express power through dominance and prove their masculinity, it's no wonder that these pressures result in serious consequences for them.
Paul, you're not alone. When I moved from Panama (the country, not Florida) to Texas in sixth grade, I left a private Catholic school that valued me, classmates I'd know from the time I was in kindergarten, girls that I was beginning to build relationships with to come to America....

Sorry, Neil Diamond's Coming to America song is one of my favorites.

I stepped into a toxic environment created by two boys twice as tall as I, focused on porn and bullying anyone smaller than they. Ah, if I only could tell my 10 year old self what I know now, they would have been in big trouble!

As an American born abroad, son of a Houstonian (Texas native-born in Houston, Texas) and a Panamanian mother, I enjoyed the benefit of two cultures, neither of which prepared me for life in San Antonio at the Holy Spirit Catholic School. Simply put, as a maid once said of her new home in the Canal Zone, "No me hallo." Or, in English, "I don't find myself here." How profound an expression to hear at 7 years of age, and how helpful later.

Culture shock. I didn't realize I suffered it until college, but by then, I'd adapted and survived being picked on in middle school. None of the ways I interacted with others seemed to work. Although I'd been athletic in school and honor roll, I found myself settling into a role I wasn't comfortable with--bullied and picked-on, somehow, unable to fight back. Powerlessness has its own despair, a fact I bemoaned one day when I left my desk during class and beat the restroom stall door, "Why me?"

Why not me? Although I found a way ahead, it was at a price. Instead of happy and outgoing, able to build relationships, I became withdrawn and shy. Thank goodness electronic bulletin boards services (BBSs) came about since that gave me--I've been plugged in since I was 13 years old--a way to interact socially with others, to connect in ways denied to me by years of learning to be alone in a lunchroom, apart from the herd. I confess TwitterMeetUps leave me cold and craving "loner time."

Though I am grateful for the experiences that made me, I breathe a sigh of relief when I see my own children interact with others, unafraid in a crowd to connect and build relationships, to define who they are according to their wishes and dreams and creativity. I've often noticed that I am comfortable apart from the pack, a part of me desiring to connect with the easy familiarity that others so seem to enjoy. Even when it appears to be happening, a part of me whispers, "Is this real? Is the connection, real?"

The voice of the outsider, the person alienated gives me insight. While a part of me will never fit in, I am grateful, oh so grateful, to see what others do not. Yet, still, I wonder. If a seer could have her sight back, would she give up her Sight?
(sorry, that's a fantasy fiction question interjecting itself)

How can one be the difference, Paul? If I had to ask, it would have been for a teacher to have stepped in and stopped the bullying. I can't believe they were oblivious. I wish a parent had said, "It's OK to punch them out. I'll stand with you in the principal's office and advocate on your behalf." Instead, I was too ashamed to speak out or do anything. It was my own fault. But the experience has enabled me to be more aware of what's happening, to make sure I stood with my daughter, then my son when bullies came calling. They successfully defended themselves, and we faced the consequences together.

In senior English, we talk about meta-fiction. Fiction about fiction. Meta-learning...learning and talking about learning. We need to talk more about our experiences, write about them, share them, dig deeper for that which shames us, learn to be unafraid of our fear, willing to trot it out until it's become a familiar face whose wrinkles we learn to love...and laugh at or with as circumstances permit.

As for my bullies, I forgave them. And, looking back, it made all the difference.


blind seer.

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Busy Bee Andrea said…
So very well put. I think that we need to not only look at students but our fellow teachers too. Thank you so much for sharing your story!
Anonymous said…
Thank you for sharing your story. It makes me want to be every child's champion even more.

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