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The Lunchroom

I sit here in the lunchroom,
And chomp my ham and cheese.
I smell the scent of mushroom.
The gang begins to tease.

“Your spring rolls have sprung.
Your bean curd’s a turd.
Your dumplings are dung.
And you’re such a nerd.”

Her name is Ming Ma Wong.
She’s eating egg drop soup.
Her eyes look sadly woe begone.
Her shoulders start to droop.

I catch a waft of Parmesan.
The gang has smelled it too.
They soon devise a master plan.
While watching Tony chew.

“Cannelloni, minestrone,
Fettuccine and linguine,
Pannetonne. Tell me Tony,
Do you think you’re Mussolini?

Tony looks so devastated.
Garlic fills the room.
That smell cannot be understated.
Taunting will resume.

“Paté de foie and basilic,
Les Crèpes and croque monsieur …
You call this food? It makes me sick.”
Martin exclaims, << Mon Dieu! >>

There soon arrives an odor,
A smell I can’t define.
No matter what the flavor,
The gang will realign.

The new boy’s called Masaki.
He loves to eat his Nori,
His Sushi and Shiitaki,
And Tofu Yakitori.

The gang surrounds Masaki.
I watch as they regroup.
“Teriyaki, Sukiyaki.
What the heck is Miso Soup?”

The foods all smell so good to me.
The gang is so unkind.
I really have to disagree.
I’m of another mind.

So …

Tomorrow I will ask my mom,
To hold the ham and cheese.
I’d prefer …

Sauerkraut, Moussaka,
Baklava, Tofu,
Strudel and Frittata,
Couscous and pistou …

I won’t be in a hurry.
I’ll look them in the eye,
While savoring my curry.
They will not make me cry,

If that gang should come along,
I’m ready. I’ll be braced.
They will not faze me with their song.
I’ll ask them, “Want a taste?”

by Andrea Wilson

Topics For Discussion:

  • This poem is about inter-racial bullying. Why is being different perceived as a bad thing? What is prejudice?
  • Verbal harassment can hurt every bit as much as a punch or a kick. What can be done about it? What attitude does the narrator propose to take if harassed? What is likely to happen if a bully doesn’t get the reaction he is seeking?
  • What qualities does the narrator display?

Classroom Activities:

  • Make a drawing to illustrate an incident of inter-racial bullying, either personal or global.
  • Taking a stand when you witness an injustice takes courage. Write a brief account of an incident you witnessed which you found to be unfair or unkind. What could you or did you do to intervene? When would it be ill-advised to intervene? If you can’t remember an event, feel free to invent a story.
  • Imagine a world in which everyone is the same. Write a brief description. Would you like to live in that world?

My Walk to School

Fist punch.
Foot crunch.
Hand hit.
Mouth spit.
Eye swells.
Can’t see.
Please,
Please,
Let me be.

Rips my homework.
Steals my money.
Grabs my lunch.
Thinks it’s funny.

I won’t tell, I swear I won’t.
Please don’t do that. I said “Don’t!”

Sticks and stones may break my bones …
Sissy
Prissy
Four-eyes
Geek
Fatso
Schizo
Nerdy
Freak
… but names can really hurt.

Through the doors.
Up the stairs.
Face is bloody.
No one cares.

In the washroom.
Clean up the mess.
I’ll be safe
Until … recess.

by Andrea Wilson

Topics for discussion:

  • Is the bully in the poem a boy or a girl? Which type of bullying do boys engage in more frequently? And girls?
  • Everyone is familiar with the chant “Sticks and stones”. Do you agree that names can never hurt? What damage can name-calling do?
  • Bullies take advantage of an imbalance of power between themselves and the victim. Discuss why a bully hits someone and what effect it has on him/her.

Classroom Activities:

  • Brainstorm situations where an imbalance of power can lead to abuse. Put on skits to demonstrate those situations.
    Try using onomatopoeia to describe a scenario involving physical bullying.
  • Pretend you come upon the child in the washroom at the end of the poem. What advice and/or assistance could you offer?
  • Draw an abstract picture which depicts fear.

Telling

Monday his homework was torn into shreds.
Tuesday it took him an hour to come home.
And he said:
I found another route.

Wednesday his jacket was ripped and maimed.
Thursday he needed a very big snack.
And he claimed:
I lost my lunch money.

Friday he limped and had blood on his knee.
Saturday he wouldn’t answer the phone.
He told me:
I want to be alone.

Sunday he’s lying awake in his bed.
Monday’s tomorrow. I won’t go, he says,
Full of dread:
I won’t go back to school.

Day after day, many things were amiss.
He needs to tell me or I cannot help.
I ask this:
Please, can I help you, son?

by Andrea Wilson

Topics For Discussion:

  • Often bullying incidents are surrounded by a shroud of secrecy. Why is this?
  • The parent in the poem has recognized signs that his/her child is being bullied. What other clues might indicate this?
  • The parent wants to help. Should the child confide in his parents?
  • Sometimes another person who is aware of the situation needs to tell an adult, but children learn from a young age that being a “tattle-tale” is being a traitor.
  • What is the difference between tattling and telling? When is it the right thing to do? (Tattling gets the person in trouble. Telling gets the person out of trouble)

Classroom activities:

  • Divide the blackboard into two columns. Brainstorm two corresponding lists: What the parent could do to help the child. What would make the situation worse?
  • Imagine a short scenario which ends with someone telling an adult about what has transpired. The class takes a vote on whether this is tattling or telling. This can be done verbally or on paper.

My Mom and Me

It used to be I’d hop out of bed,
So eager to start my day.
But times have changed. I ask my mom,
“Can I stay home from school today?”

I find a lot of grounds,
To justify my stance.
I plead, I beg, I frown,
I do a little dance.

“My ears, they ache. My tummy’s sore.”
I blow my nose and cough some more.
“What are these spots upon my chest?”
I wheeze. I sneeze. I do my best.

My Mom sits down beside my bed.
“You are not sick.” I turn bright red.
I know she hates it when I lie.
She’d understand if she knew why.

So should I tell her of my woes?
And will it change things if she knows?
I fear she’ll only make things worse.
If I don’t tell her, I think I’ll burst.

And so I tell her of the clique.
The girls who say that I’m a “geek”.
I tell of giggles,
The whispers,
The rumors.
I talk of their spite,
They cruel sense of humor.

And …

It feels so good to vent.
Although it’s so private.
I talk and talk.
My Mom’s very quiet.

She says to me gently,
“I’m terribly sorry.”
We hug and we cry.
We go over my story.

Together we look at the things we can do.
I’m no longer alone; we have a plan too.
I think I can face being teased and harassed.
With Mom on my side, my power is vast

by Andrea Wilson

Topics for Discussion:

  • The narrator doesn’t want to go to school because she will encounter the clique. What other effects could the experience of being bullied have on a person?
  • Why is it so important to tell a trusted adult about being bullied?
  • What is social or relational bullying? How does a clique ostracize a child?
  • What are some helpful thing adults can do. How can they “make things worse”?

Classroom Activities:

  • In small groups, come up with a “plan” to help the narrator.
  • Turn the poem into a song.
  • Continue the poem by repeating “It used to be …” and “But times have changed …” as they are used in the first stanza. This time use them to demonstrate what she has learned.
    • For example:
      It used to be I’d shake with fear,
      Whenever they’d come my way.
      But times have changed; when they come near,
      I simply walk away.

My Gang

Join my gang and you will see,
We’ll have such fun, I guarantee.
See that nerd, the one who’s shy?
I bet that we can make him cry.

He deserves it.
I don’t care.
The kid’s a jerk.
He’s not all there.

Over there is Marylou.
I tell you what we’re gonna do.
Start a rumor, let it spread.
I bet her face will turn beet red.

She’s upset?
That’s just too bad.
The girl’s a wimp,
So don’t get sad.

And now let’s have some fun with Kit.
I’ll whisper “Kit”, then laugh at it.
She, who thinks she’s one of us,
She’ll look all hurt and make a fuss.

My, oh my!
The girl is nuts.
She peed her pants
And puked her guts!

Me, mean?

I am stronger than the rest.
Smarter, braver. I’m the best.
I don’t owe them. They owe me.
They had it coming, don’t you see?

Join my gang,
And you will be,
Protected, safe.
‘Cause you’re with me.

by Andrea Wilson

Topics for discussion:

  • The bully is exerting pressure to have the reader join his/her clique. What advantages are there in joining a clique?
  • Disadvantages? Would you join? What would happen if you decline?
  • It is often hard to resist peer pressure. How do you judge when to “go along” with the gang and when not to?
  • How do bullies feel about themselves? What arguments does the bully in the poem use to justify his behavior?

Classroom Activities:

  • Read the poem like a chant, adding a background drumbeat.
  • Pretend you are the bully’s psychologist and that you have discovered what circumstances contributed to making the bully behave so unkindly. Write down your “professional” opinion. How can you help him/her?
  • In small groups, practice answering the bully. Come to a consensus on the best response.

I Know Who I Am

Today they called me stupid
They said I had no brain.
They sneered at me.
They jeered at me.
And stared with such disdain.But…

I lie in bed tonight.
As happy as a clam.
Because you see,
Or do you see?
I know just who I am.

Tonight I am a dragon-slayer,
The greatest anywhere.
I hunt the beast.
I find the beast,
Asleep within its lair.

I charge it on my stallion.
I stab it with my dagger.
It turns on me.
It leaps at me,
And then it starts to stagger.

I seize it by the tail.
And whirl it round and round.
It roars out load,
It shrieks out load,
It crashes to the ground.

Today they grabbed my lunch.
They tore at my nice new shirt.
They laughed at me.
They spat at me.
And made me eat some dirt.

But …

Tonight I am a hockey star.
Whom no one can defeat
I stop the puck
I hit the puck
The crowd is on its feet.

The goalie tries to block it.
His efforts are in vain.
I score a goal,
The winning goal.
I’m Number One again!

Today they wanted money,
Or swore they’d hurt my brother.
I gave them it.
Yes, all of it.
And still they hurt my brother.

But …

Tonight I am a mountain climber,
Just starting my ascent.
I’m climbing high,
So very high.
I swear I won’t relent.

I’ve almost reached the summit.
And triumph tastes so sweet.
I gage the cliff,
I scale the cliff.
The world is at my feet.

Tomorrow is another day.
I’ll have to face their schemes,
Their pranks, their tricks,
Their slaps and kicks

For now …

I have my dreams.

by Andrea Wilson

Topics for Discussion:

  • What coping mechanism does the narrator use? How does it help? Does it solve the situation?
  • We all do unkind things from time to time, but we are not all bullies. What distinguishes a bullying incident from an isolated act of unkindness? (1- There is intent to do harm. 2- The act is repeated or threatened to be repeated. 3- An imbalance of power exists between the instigator and the victim.) Do the events in this poem qualify as bullying?
  • Why do you think the child’s fantasies cast him as brave, popular and powerful?

Classroom Activities:

  • When speaking in front of a crowd it is often recommended that one imagine the audience is sitting in their underwear. The strategy is that this will help you perceive the audience as less intimidating and give you courage. Collaborate in making a list of things students do to make themselves feel better in a difficult situation. Can some of these techniques be applied to bullying situations?
  • Coping mechanisms can help a situation but sometimes more action is required. As a group, elaborate a plan of action to deal with the bullies in this poem.
  • What could be done to make the victim feel more empowered? Illustrate this in a picture with captions.

Fabulous Patricia

My friend Patricia’s a fabulous girl.
Her hair is gold with a bit of a curl.
She smiles like an angel and sings like a bird.
The likes of Patricia have never been heard.

She has such a talent for singing a song.
Her voice is so clear, and so sweet, and so strong.
There isn’t a doubt; she is terribly gifted.
When listening to her I feel so uplifted.

That’s why it’s so sad,
The things that they say.
Those kids on the playground,
I heard them today.

Because they are jealous of what they have heard,
They tease her,
They taunt her,
They call her a nerd.

Patricia’s gold curls have started to wilt
Her lyrical voice is losing its lilt.
That radiant smile is gone from her face.
Of the old Patricia, there isn’t a trace.

It’s a terrible loss and it must not be.
Someone must fix this,
I guess it is me.

The next time those kids,
Are being unkind
I’ll say to them “Stop!”
And perhaps they may find …

The fact that she’s pretty,
The fact she can sing,
Is not for one moment.
A terrible thing.

I can speak French.
He can run laps.
You can score goals.
And maybe, perhaps …

I’ll be your fan.
You can be mine.
So, sing on, Patricia,
And let yourself shine.

by Andrea Wilson

Discussion Topics:

  • What is jealousy and is it healthy?
  • How would you define self-esteem? What effects can bullying have on a victim’s self-esteem?
  • How can onlookers positively and negatively affect a bullying incident? What is a social conscience?
  • Describe what is meant by loyalty. What is the value of a good friend?
    When and how should you intervene in a bullying incident?

Classroom Activities:

  • Try to recall an occasion when you felt jealous. Write a short account of how you felt and what you may have done or thought of doing.
  • List ten qualities which a good friend displays. How might you go about applying these qualities in a relationship?Pick names out of a hat and tell that person one thing they do well or that you like about them.
  • In small groups, put on a play about a clique ganging up on someone. Pretend that a few onlookers decided to intervene. What do they do and say?