“Teri With an I”

by Deborah Weber

The rush of bodies pushes me along the hall. I might make it this time, I think. I just need to make it down three flights of stairs to the door. My heart starts beating faster; my arms are heavy from the burden of my books. I’ve made it down two flights of stairs — one more set to go. My salvation is within sight!

Suddenly, she is there. I look over into her face and she smiles. It is as if she can smell my fear and wants me to know that she has me exactly where she wants me. My heart falls deep into my chest. The sounds of the other children in the stairwell become muted as time slowly fades away. I see the first punch coming, but I am frozen. My body tenses for the blow. One, two, three, four times her fist rams into my forearm. We are still moving through the crowd, down the stairs, towards the door. If I can just hold on to my books… in a few more seconds I might be able to squeeze through the door and get away. My arm begins to throb. My eyes begin to water. Why me? What did I ever do to her? There is an opening in the stampede. I pivot and hurdle my body toward the door. Just when I am about to clear the doorway, I feel her hands on my back. I can’t keep my balance and my body crumbles as I stumble across the door jam. My books go sailing and the air in my lungs blasts out as my chest hits the ground. I wait, expecting another blow, but it doesn’t come. I look up and she is gone. I slowly lift myself from the ground and gather my books. There is my bus, straight ahead. I step up into the proverbial yellow limousine from hell and settle into a seat in the front row. Don’t cry, I say to myself, please don’t cry.

It wasn’t until I was older and found myself reflecting on the past that I wondered if more children experienced the same incidents. Recognized speaker and author on parenting, teaching, and conflict resolution Barbara Coloroso refers to a study conducted in 2001 by the Kaiser Foundation:

almost three-quarters of preteens interviewed said bullying is a regular occurrence at school.…86% of children ages 12-15 interviewed said they get teased or bullied at school…making bullying more prevalent than smoking, alcohol, drugs, or sex among the same age group….Young children are confronting bullying more than many of us realize or are willing to admit….According to the National Association of School Psychologists, about one in seven schoolchildren has been either a bully or the target of a bully. (12-13).

Even thought it has almost been three decades since that time in my life, I will always remember her name. Teri Power. “Teri with an i,” as she was fond of referring to herself. I recall her features as vividly as if it was yesterday. I don’t know what I ever did to make her detest me so much. But for some reason she singled me out as her personal punching bag.

Coloroso emphasizes, “Kids who bully have an air of superiority that is often a mask to cover up deep hurt and a feeling of inadequacy” (21). I never said anything to anyone. Not my parents or my teachers. A few of my close friends were aware of what was going on and tried to help but they didn’t want to become the new interest for “Teri with an i.” Coloroso suggests, “Bullying can have long-term physical and psychological consequences. When you see warning signs, listen beyond the words, look beyond the actions, and try to put yourself in your child’s shoes” (50).

Gradually we settled into a routine. I would run for the bus; take different routes through the halls, stop at the bathroom, or linger at my locker. But the only thing this seemed to accomplish was that I would miss my bus. “Teri with an i” would eventually find me; if not that day, then another. By the end of the year she had tired of our game of cat and mouse. I never knew if she found another mouse. All I know is, as simply and as unfathomably as it began, it stopped.

I often wonder what type of person “Teri with an i” grew up to be. According to Coloroso, “There are lots of reasons some kids use their abilities and talents to bully other people. No one factor tells the whole story….The one thing we know for sure is that bullies are taught to bully” (18). If this is in fact a learned behavior, then it behooves us as parents, teachers, siblings, mentors, and friends to teach our children that this behavior is unacceptable.

Works Cited

Coloroso, Barbara. The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander: From Preschool to High School-How Parents and Teachers Can Help Break the Cycle of Violence. New York: HarperCollins, 2004.

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