I got a call from a parent who was unhappy about something I said in class. Sometimes kids will take your words out of context or twist them up to make you look like a creep or a monster. This parent thought I had told her son that he should commit suicide because nobody would ever love his ugly face. Which is NOT at all what I said. In fact I told J. that he was bright and sensitive and a good listener who sometimes didn’t hear things the way they were really meant, and that, besides, there is a lid for every pot and that eventually some day he would find the right person. J’s mom insisted that the whole class heard me say it and that she has seen a video recording taken by another student, but I explained that I might have muttered a sarcastic joke, but that nobody listening could think I was sincere: “I make fun of everybody,” I said, “Including myself. I’ve told myself to kill myself many times, but I knew I was kidding so of course I didn’t do it!…Most days I just muddle through…” I guess I was crying a bit, and she hung up on me.
Well, we all–and I mean educators everywhere–felt bad about the bullying incident at our school. A poor defenseless boy–who apparently wanted to be a cheerleader and whose favorite movie was The Wizard of Oz–killed himself and investigators believe that he was a target of hatred by jocks and other popular kids. I had this boy in my class and I always supported him whenever he would say something gay. Like I remember very well one time were having a discussion about the story of Adam and Eve–I don’t remember why we were talking about it, but the story comes up a lot in poetry and literature and I asked the question directly to this boy–we’ll call him Pat–if he thought Adam and Eve could be Adam and Steve. Well, he got very shy and wouldn’t answer so I started to clap and chant: Pat! Pat! Pat! until the entire class took it up–and he just ran out of the room. I gave him a detention for leaving class without a pass and now I’m wondering if I did the right thing. Instead of an automatic detention I should have sent the other gay boy–we’ll call him Gabriel–to go console him. Anyway, I should have seen the red flags–the fact that he had a zero percent in my class or that Romeo and Juliet made him cry–I now know that he must have been crying because he knew that he could never fall hopelessly, tragically in love with a woman. I plan to call the parents tonight and offer to speak at the funeral. I want to apologize to the world for everything we did, as a world, to make Pat’s life bad.