Let’s Get Real, Issue 2

A Reflection on Elementary School

“Did you also get bullied in elementary school,” asked one of my students. I quickly clutched my chartreuse pencil and froze for ten seconds. My pulse quickened while memories of getting bullied in fourth grade flooded my brain. At that moment, I couldn’t bring myself to empathize with him, so I told him that I wasn’t bullied. How can you talk about your experience with someone, if you haven’t processed it yourself? 

Over the summer, I became an intern at the Vietnamese Association of Illinois. With other high school students from the Chicago area, we led a youth camp over Zoom. During those six weeks of camp, I was a fitness and art instructor. Before starting my internship, I had no previous experience with teaching nor working with kids. I was afraid that I wasn’t going to explain the art activities well or end up losing the attention of my students. Most importantly, I was afraid that I wasn’t going to be able to form a connection because I was older. 

However, my fear of not being able to form a connection with my students disappeared. During our snack breaks, my students would talk about struggling in school, being bullied, and staying home alone. Hearing their stories made me realize how much I had in common with them. There was one particular experience that spoke to me, as I had experienced a similar situation. 

Jason Romero, a rising sixth-grader, shared that he was often teased by his peers because he struggled academically. He often missed recess and assemblies to receive extra help. He was labeled as “troubled” by his peers. After enduring the verbal and physical assault he experienced, he started doubting his capability to do well in school, Jason started to refuse attending school and stopped completing his homework. It wasn’t until the end of the school year that he told his parents about the bullying. 

After hearing his story, I was reminded of the bullying that I experienced in fourth-grade. I was often told by some of my peers that I was “slow.” Every Thursday and Friday, I didn’t attend morning assemblies because my teacher would give me extra help on assignments. Once recess approached, I was teased for missing the assemblies. There were multiple times that I was pushed, shoved, and tripped. I even started bullying others because it helped boost my self-esteem. Just like Jason, I started doubting my capability to learn and strive. Attending school became burdensome by the day. 

When I started believing that I wasn’t enough or capable of doing something, my mind and body started believing it as well. My mother found out about the bullying after I came home with two scratches on my arm. It took multiple counselor visits and support from my teachers and family to recognize that I was capable not only of succeeding academically but in everything that I put my mind to. 

After reflecting on my elementary school experience with bullying, I was curious to find out if present high schoolers experienced a similar situation like mine. According to the National Bullying Prevention Center, bullying is more common in high school than in elementary school. One out of five high schoolers reports being bullied. As a result of the bullying, these highschoolers demonstrated low academic achievement (struggled with school, received low test scores and grades), and perceived themselves in a negative way. 

Furthermore, early childhood bullying can affect a student’s self-esteem as a middle or high schooler. These statistics didn’t surprise me but demonstrated that no matter your age, bullying can affect your ability to believe in yourself. Victims of bullying, just like myself, can feel worthless, and not enough which can affect our self-esteem in the long run. Despite being bullied in elementary school, the memories of being bullied on the playground and classroom still manifest to this day. My memories manifest when I doubt my capability to complete an assignment or application. Bad memories are hard to erase, and I’m still healing as a senior in high school. 

If you’ve ever been bullied, you are probably still recovering from the emotional scarring that was left behind. I encourage you to ask for help if you’re finding it difficult to heal from your bullying experience. Surround yourself with people who are always willing to uplift you. Keep in mind that you are capable of succeeding, more than good enough, and worthy. Don’t blame yourself for the bullying or the negativity that you received in the past! You’ve got this, and you’re not alone!