An Ounce of Prevention This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

May 24, 2012
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When most people hear the word, "bully," a cliched image of a lunch-money-stealing gorilla comes to mind. Rarely does one imagine a five-foot-three academic.

I was recently a director at the 2012 Northport Arts Coalition One-Act-Play Festival, which focused its student portion on "Combatting Bullying." When asked about the inspiration for his play, 'QB Sneak,' middle-school playwright Jonathan D. replied, "My school. Teachers are bullies just as much as kids are."

English has always been my favorite class. But in eighth grade, I despised it. My teacher, Mr. H, was the kind of teacher who befriends the "popular" kids, references Family Guy throughout class, and claims that grammar is a waste of time. "We will not be learning English this year--instead, you will get a liberal arts education," he announced.

I sweetly explained that I enjoyed reciting Shakespeare and reading Harper Lee, and "will we at least interpret symbolism?" He laughed in my face.

Mr. H's first test was brutally diagnostic. I was the only person in the grade to receive a perfect score on it, and he let everyone know. I'll never forget the way he said it, too. The disdain in his voice spoke louder than his bitter words. He had wanted all of us to fail, I later realized. Teachers aren't supposed to hope for failure, and then ostracize the students who excel. When Mr. H explained anything, he would add "but I'm sure Caitlin already knows that, so I'll have to give her an alternate assignment."

I felt like a outcast, just because I found something I loved, and my teacher preyed on me because of it. Whether it was smacking my desk with a plastic baseball bat or throwing a book at my head, Mr. H continually ruined my schooldays. Sometimes I would wake up in the morning and play sick because I didn't want to deal with him. My mother knew something was wrong, because I had always loved school, and I still do.

The greatest blow came later. Mr. H imposed a competitive grading system for a project regarding the Holocaust. "An Ounce of Prevention," he ironically called it, would be about how the Holocaust could have been prevented. Throughout the month, he managed to turn the entire class against my group, creating a cutthroat environment, and took pleasure in announcing our "losing" grade.

When my mother called Central Office, the English Chairwoman replied, "Oh, Mr. H. We've had some problems with him in the past, but there's nothing I can do. He's tenured."

It still sickens me that Mr. H remains unscathed. Tenure isn't a license for teachers to mistreat students, and schools should anonymously survey students about their teachers, so the school districts can learn about what goes on within the classroom on an everyday basis. We, the students, need to have the opportunity to prevent bullying, because "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," according to Benjamin Franklin.

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