School Selfies: Teachers, Parents, Students and Bandwagons
I began writing in 2001 when I entered a Montreal Gazette writing contest about one’s Worst Job. I had little inkling then that not only would I soon be walking down memory lane with a cast of bullies I had never forgotten, but also that this first contest would serve as an impetus to write about my experiences as a high school English teacher in Rosemere, Quebec.
A second contest entry for The Montreal Gazette in 2002 was titled My Bully Wept Too. It recounted events that began when I was in grade 2 and excited by a move to a new neighborhood. I lived on St. Urbain Street at the time, which was then a part of a vibrant immigrant Jewish community. Here one could hear more Yiddish than English, and wonderful Sunday mornings were spent with my father visiting the Jewish Public Library across the street from Fletcher's Field. This move was a small, upward step, separated by chasms of culture, language, and values, but I didn't know that at first. Triumphantly, my small family scaled the mountain that divides the city.
The move west was strange for me in many ways and not quite the haven my parents had imagined. In this New World, bullying Grade 3 girls could be merciless. I found myself out of step, dancing on the periphery of a group of mean girls, depending on the whims of their leader. It was a difficult time for me, and traces of scars, while invisible, still remain more than 50 years later.
But 44 years after being a bullying victim, my tormentor saw my contest entry about my worst job and called me to apologize for her actions. I discovered that she had never forgotten me, just as I had never forgotten her.
I believe that my bully made me who I am today. While I was damaged by her threats and aggression, I also believe that she helped to create my sense of fair play, my outrage at injustice and my passions for helping children and advocating for positive change. Those early experiences have also inspired me to work on several picture book manuscripts about bullying and transitions- Bully for You, The Food Bullies and Moving Day for Womb-Mates.
In 2002, I began writing Op-eds for Canadian and American newspapers. My focus then and now is on education including all educational partners. When I retired in 2013 after 39 years in the classroom, I began working on my anthology of essays called School Selfies: Teachers, Parents, Students and Bandwagons. This manuscript offers an honest, brutal view of what occurs in public schools. I have found no other book that deals with the plethora of gritty realities that mine does whether it’s an accusation of sexual assault by a disgruntled student (the trial of my colleague), three reasons that teachers leave the profession, or a description of the typical everyday violence in schools. No other book I found warns of the dangers of accidentally touching a student or the necessity of leaving the door open when alone with a student. I provide shocking notes by parents. I taught Kimveer Gill, the Dawson College (Montreal) school shooter.
School Selfies: Teachers, Parents, Students and Bandwagons addresses issues that demand change. My book is definitely not a Chicken Soup for The Soul kind of book. My book tells it like it is. Really.