“It is in the whole process of meeting and solving problems that life has meaning. Problems are the cutting edge that distinguishes between success and failure. Problems call forth our courage and our wisdom; indeed, they create our courage and our wisdom. It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and spiritually. It is through the pain of confronting and resolving problems that we learn.” --M. Scott Peck
Confronting & Resolving: One Approach to Bullying
by Sabrina Robineau
Junior High is an exciting, yet nerve-wracking time in an adolescent’s life. It’s a whole different world that comes with new opportunities and challenges. However, nothing could have prepared me for the challenge that I was about to face on my first day of Junior High….
First of all, I have to note that I was very fortunate in elementary school. I had many friends and everyone knew who I was. Every time I had surgery, I would receive get-well cards from all the classes. School was my safe place; I was sheltered from the stares and teasing. It was my escape from the discrimination I faced in the outside world.
When I was 12 years old, it came time to enter a new school. I was more excited than nervous because I now had independence. Junior High felt so 'grown up.’ I also still felt safe because some of my friends from elementary school would be there. On the first day, we were assigned to our homeroom. I excitedly looked at my schedule and explored the hallways until I found the classroom. I’ll never forget how it felt when I first walked in. It suddenly became very quiet as all the students stopped talking and turned to look at me. I figured “oh they’re just looking because I’m the last one to walk in.” As I sat at a desk, I noticed that they weren't just looking -- they were actually staring at me. Some students were whispering to each other and snickering. I thought to myself “what is going on here? This has never happened in school before!” – what was once a safe place for me, would soon become a place that I hated.
Not only was I stared at in class, but in the hallways as well. I remember that gnawing feeling I had in my stomach as I passed by the lockers. Students would be whispering, pointing and staring. I tried to ignore it and focus on the friends from my old elementary school. I figured the stares would eventually go away. Unfortunately, it continued on for weeks. Finally, I decided “enough is enough!” I couldn't take it anymore. I wanted to feel comfortable at school again. Therefore, I set up a meeting with the guidance counselor. I told her that how desperately I wanted everyone to know that I’m still the same as everyone else, even though I look different. Unsure of what to do, we went to see the principal. She suggested that I go in front of every class and talk about Pfeiffer Syndrome and answer any questions they might have. Some people might ask “Wow, weren't you shy to do that?” – Surprisingly, I wasn't nervous at all. I was so determined to speak up and show everyone the real me. I wanted them to see that there was nothing to be afraid of.
The following day, the principal and I addressed our first class. It was intimidating to face the students, but I kept my head up high and proudly talked about my syndrome and what I’d been through. To my surprise, I got a very pleasant reaction from the students! They were interested in what I had to say and they asked many questions such as, “Does Pfeiffer Syndrome affect your intelligence?” (It does not.) I received the same positive reaction from all the classes. I began to realize that the students were not staring just to be mean … they were only curious. They were faced with the unfamiliar and they didn’t know how to react. They did not have the knowledge to understand why I looked different.
When I went back to school the next day, my world was completely changed. Instead of getting stares and whispers; I got big smiles and waves, “Hi Sabrina!” – There was no more hesitation or wondering “Why does she look like that?” I made new friends and school became my safe place again.
What would have happened if I never had the courage to speak up? Nothing. Nothing would have changed. I would have continued to be stared at. I would have spent my 2 years at Junior High being miserable. I am so thankful that I had the support of the principal who encouraged me to face the students. Once I educated them about Pfeiffer Syndrome, it was no longer unfamiliar to them. I told the students to never judge a book by its cover because it’s what on the inside that counts!