Thursday, May 10, 2012

I Was a Teenage Bully

I recently read in an article where a person apologized for "hijinks and pranks"  that may have gone too far. The high school "hijinks and pranks" this person were talking involved pinning a student to the ground with the help of friends and cutting this person's hair. After reading the article, I was furious. This wasn't a silly prank on a friend, this was bullying. This was assault. I was itching to write a post about what a terrible human being this person is and how everyone should shout this person down. Then my shame came back to me.

I was a teenage bully.

When I was a freshman in high school, I picked on a kid pretty hard. Why? I'm not entirely sure. As I look back, it was probably because I couldn't stand up to my bully, so I decided it was easier to just pick on someone else. I had told a teacher I was being tormented by another student and I was told to stick up for myself. That is how things were handled at the all boys Catholic school I attended. That's how it's supposed to be, or at least, that is what the 14 year old Nick thought.

I wasn't a bully very long though. My bully ended up leaving school at the end of the year and the student I bullied left as well. I went about the rest of my high school career without much of a blip on the radar.

I'm embarrassed about this small time in m life. I have only told a few people about it and it recently came up in my #NerdyCast with Lyn Hilt. It's a part of my life I want to forget, but really embrace. It's a part of me that will never go away and will never be trivialized. I did it and I will never be able to take it back. I can at least own up to it and try to speak out for those who can't speak for themselves.

The thing that angers me the most about the article is the suggestion that the act of holding a kid down and cutting his hair is thought of as a prank. It is not a prank. It was an act of bullying. We all have done things we are ashamed of as kids growing up. It's part of growing up. The real act of a man is admitting the mistake, showing remorse and being a better person. I don't see that in the apology I read. Suggesting that act is horseplay sends the wrong message to everyone that it's ok to pick on kids if it's in jest. It's not.

As a high school teacher, I'm continuously haunted by my actions. Whenever I see anything remotely like what I did for that short time Freshmen year, it brings back painful memories. I use those memories to be a better person and help those become better people. I wish the person in this article did the same thing.


  1. I agree - all kids make mistakes. That is, indeed, part of what the experience is all about. Adults make mistakes, too.

    The fact that you use this experience to inform your current behavior, to help as you interact with students, and to guide you in helping other students with bullying issues, makes all the difference.

    Admitting a mistake and moving forward in a positive direction - that's what makes grown ups.

    Love the post.

  2. Thanks for sharing this Nick and good for you. I always have to shake my head at the rich and the celebrities who say that they have lived their life with no regrets. In my view, a caring, sharing, and kind person could never say this.

    I think we have to look back and realize that our lives are filled with things that we could have done differently. I think it is a characteristic of great persons when they have a world view wide enough to realize that they are capable of more. Our mistakes and the learnings they give us, make us who we are, but they should also provide guidance on how to make our world, and as teachers, our students world better.

    Congratulations on your regretful actions, for they have made you a better person and teacher.

    Eric (@yourkidsteacher)

  3. I myself was a bully way back in my teenage years; I tend to tease someone to the extent that she was teary. Every time it crosses my mind, I just smile and wonder what might have happened if her parents called a personal injury attorney and imprisoned me due to emotional injury (that thought makes me laugh) but now I know it’s not good to bully someone and won’t ever do that again.


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