Was bullied, Became a Bully, Against Bullying...

Hello, my name is Jason.  I grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  During this time, approximately 25 years ago, there were more children living in my neighborhood.  We had lots of children at our bus stops at the corner about 2 blocks from my house. At the bus stop, I was made fun of for how I walked, how I ran, or how I looked.  I don't think any of those things were particularly strange, but kids will try to find anything to make someone feel awkward.  What started as verbal taunts sometimes turned to fights.  I was never the type to fight back.  I was too afraid, so I took a few beatings in my time, but never understood why this was all happening to me.  

I passed through middle school mostly unnoticed, but in high school, I had a lot of pent up anger, and so I believe I took it out by bullying one particular student.  it never got physical, but my verbal abuse, and cornering him was something that I would do often.  It didn't even make me feel good, I just did it because I followed others.  Maybe I was trying to find my place, and this my immature way of finding it.

As I grew up and became more mature, I thought about how I treated that student in high school.  When I looked back, I completely regretted it, and it was always in the back of my mind.  I told myself that if I ever saw or had contact with him again, I wanted to personally apologize for my actions.  

Just recently, he contacted ME through facebook.  I immediately wrote him (as he no longer lives close to the area), and apologized for my actions so long ago in high school.  I felt like a weight was taken off my back.  He was completely accepting of my apology, and said that he didn't remember me bullying him as much as some others.  Maybe I built up what I did in my head, and made it worse, I don't know, but I know I was mean to him, and I felt like we had a connection then. 

I am an elementary teacher now, and have been for about ten years.  I feel it is part of my duty to reach out and teach our kids about bullying as a problem.  I have tried to be a mentor to kids who need it, have been in a peace group in my school that teaches kids social skills and peace building skills, and am trying to bring PeaceJam organization and curriculum to my school. 

I'm not perfect.  Like all people, I've done things that I regret in life, but I also want to take those regrets, and turn them into teachable moments, as I believe all things happen for a reason.  I don't think we can stop bullying completely, but we CAN spread the word about how to better understand people.  I think when we understand people better we are less prone to judgement.  This could be the path to a better way.   

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