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Bullying Starts Early
My first encounter with bullying happened when I was six years old. It was the beginning of first grade, and I, along with all the kids my age were so excited to no longer be the absolute bottom of the food chain. As first graders, we now had the kindergartners below us. Our new role meant that we had to do more than just play on the playground during recess. We had kindergartners to impress!
During one of the recesses during those first few weeks, I was sitting on the grass by the playground with my friends, enjoying one of the last sunny days the fall. We didn’t have much to do, so when my friend Anna suggested that we go chase the kindergartners on the playground, Sarah and I agreed. As we walked around the playground, looking for some lonely kindergartener to chase, Anna pointed out two little girls sitting on the swings. As we walked towards them, I realized they were Maya and Lizzie, two girls who lived on my street, who I played with after school many days.
“No, let’s choose someone else,” I said to Anna, “Those girls are my friends.”
Anna looked at me like I was crazy, “But they are still kindergartners, so why can’t we chase them?”
I stared at her for a minute before answering, “I don’t think I want to do this any more.” The more I looked around at the five year olds scattered across the playground, I realized that I knew many of them, and really didn’t want to hurt or scare any of them.
“Come on,” I tried to convince my friends, “Let’s go do something else.”
“Why?” asked Sarah, “They’re just kindergartners.”
“Because,” I paused for a moment, trying to find the words, “Remember how last year, we all hated recess because the first graders would always chase us, and wouldn’t let us play on the playground? That was just a few months ago. Now, we are the first graders. Why should we do the same thing?”
The other two girls looked at me before nodding.
“Okay,” said Anna, “I guess we can do something else today.”
For the rest of that day, we played on the playground, but in the weeks that followed, I came out to the playground many days to find my friends chasing the kindergartners off the play set. To me, at age six, these people were my friends, and I did not want to hurt them. I did not understand why Anna and Sarah did what they did, but starting that day, I usually played with Maya and Lizzie instead.
It was not until I was older that I realized that the chasing of the younger kids, while it did not physically hurt them, was still a form of bullying. The system we were in led us to be that way without even realizing what we were doing.