As a teacher, have you ever witnessed a student get bullied in the middle of your class?
Yes, and it proved to be a pivotal moment of my career.
Near Christmas, 1988, my students were discussing their wish lists just before the bell rang.
One obese boy whom we will call "Jimmy" was asked in the course of their chatting what he wanted.
"A bra," was the interjection from one of the most popular athletes at the table.
My world stopped.
Spontaneously, I heard myself address the sportsman in evenly measured words, "You know, twenty years ago, I was in your grade standing five feet eight, and weighing two hundred thirty-five pounds. Some of the beautiful people who were popular and athletic got their kicks by making cruel jokes at my expense. One never completely gets past the hurt resulting from such mistreatment. You and the rest of the cool kids will probably continue to snicker about students who do not enjoy your exalted status, but I will never allow your brand of humor to pass in my class."
I continued teaching at the same school for twenty-eight years following that incident, and no colleague's reputation for civility and respect for every young adult eclipsed mine.
Generations of students, including "Jimmy's" daughter, as well as two daughters of the offending athlete knew that Mr. Gregg would not abide bullying in his class.