Every year at Mother's Day, I think of my mother, an Auschwitz survivor who had a very hard life. Robbed of her teen-age years, her parents and family killed, she fought against a bad marriage and the problems all immigrants face. She never gave up, and no matter what obstacles she faced, she survived. Barely five feet tall, always sickly from her Holocaust suffering, she was the strongest person I ever met. Hardened by life, sometimes she seemed hard to me, almost cold, but I now understand that she had to be that way to survive. Without her strength, I would not be here today. Happy Mother's Day, Mom, and all moms. You should be celebrated every day of our lives.
An article by George Mason University Economics Professor Walter Williams started me thinking about classroom discipline. This well known black journalist begins by stating that "Nationally, black junior high and high school students are suspended at a rate more than three times as often as their white peers, twice as often as their Latino peers, and more than ten times as often as their Asian Peers." He doesn't mention the source, but let's assume this is a fact, how do we explain this? He then refers to Former Department of Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, who said, the "huge disparity is not caused by differences in children; it's caused by differences in training, professional development, and discipline policies. It is adult behavior that needs to change." As a teacher, I was ready to defend our professionals who work so hard to avoid suspending any students. I hated those rare times in my career when that became the last resort solution to a serious discipline problem. I was waiting for the blame to be laid on teachers and schools. But wait, Williams has unwittingly played an April Fool's joke on me.
Instead of blaming the teachers for low expectations, and over-punishing black students, he claims the Obama administration's disciplinary policies were based on the Duncan view, and that "Driven by Obama administration pressures, school districts revised their discipline procedures by cutting the number of black student suspensions", and thereby, according to Williams, creating a classroom environment where "Good students are now suffering because of the abuse and issues plaguing these classrooms". He takes it further claiming black students suffer most because we "allow miscreants and thugs to sabotage the education process." His final point is telling, if it is a fact: "Finally, how does the Obama restorative justice policy differ from a Ku Klux Klan policy that would seek to sabotage black education by making it impossible for schools to rid themselves of students who make education impossible for everyone else?" In other words, by not 'throwing the bums out', no matter what group they represent, we are allowing the few to destroy the education for the many.
I never liked suspension because I felt it deprived a child of their education, but expanding this idea to all discipline, he has a point. The very people who would benefit most from 'good schools' are harming their own children by not demanding structured discipline and quality education. As far as suspension, the subject of this article, the jury hasn't made up its mind yet. Please use the contact form to share your thoughts.
When I see a child being abused, I still feel the pain I felt as a child. Don't you? I think of what I can do to help. As a teacher, I tried to stop the bullies, but it was very difficult. They don't frighten easily. They don't give in to reason, even when you try to show them that hurting other children endangers themselves and their families. The bully's parents are often unaware, or don't care that their child is menacing others. "Boys will be boys", or "It's just girl stuff". Schools are frustrated they can't stop bullying that takes place outside of school grounds. So what are the solutions? How do we stop this self-destructive behavior? Think of bullies as vampires. When are they most likely to strike? Vampires strike when a victim is alone and most vulnerable. No child should ever feel they are alone. That should be our first goal as Bully Stoppers: never let a child feel alone. At least we can save one...
A man asked another why he was picking up dying star fish and throwing them into the ocean.
The second man said he wanted to save their lives.
The first laughed and replied, "There are hundreds here. You can't save them all."
The second replied, "At least I saved one."
Every day WE have a chance to save one...
As a teacher for more than thirty years, I learned something every day from working with the great kids in Central Islip, Long Island, New York. But there was one thing I learned from my childhood that I think was one of the most important things I taught my fifth and sixth grade students. In my case, I learned it while watching Perry Mason television shows. For those of you who don't know about the famous lawyer played so well by Raymond Burr, I can tell you more than any other person I knew, he influenced my life. You see, as a fifth grader, watching Perry solve courtroom mysteries, I was hooked on the law and wanted to become a famous lawyer like him. That goal changed my life, and each year, I tried to help my students set goals for the year, five years and ten so they could have a target that would help them avoid the pitfalls that are everywhere in childhood.
Wanting to be Perry Mason gave me clear goals and a purpose to my life that helped me avoid some of the problems many of my friends had. To become a lawyer, I had to work very hard, get good grades and most important, stay out of trouble. I wonder how many kids today would be helped if Perry Mason was still winning every case? Who are the positive role models our kids have today? All Super heroes and wizards, rock stars and athletes, but almost every adult is flawed, some so badly that kids believe every lawyer is a liar, every cop is a crook, and every teacher is...I don't want to think about it. But seriously, are there any positive role models for kids today? Look at our politicians and you have the sad answer. I am firmly convinced that when kids have goals and a purpose early in life they have a better chance to avoid drugs and criminal behavior, as well as gangs and bullying. I think every parent and teacher should try to help their child set goals. Hey, I still do it on every birthday. Do I always reach my goals? Of course not, but in setting goals, just trying to reach them, you better yourself. I didn't become Perry Mason, but the lessons I learned in wanting to become a lawyer made me want to work hard and achieve as a teacher, and now an author. So help your child set goals and give them a target to guide their success.
One final note. Not every child needs to aim to become a lawyer, doctor, President, but having a specific goal, based on their interests, is something every child will benefit from. That early love of law has come full circle for me in my new series, Tales of Monstrovia, where a very unusual lawyer is my homage to Perry Mason. Does Jasper Doofinch, aka Doofinch the Defender, win every case? You'll have to read my award-winning book to find out. Remember, you could have a lawyer in the family too.
Please read the free sample of my new 'insane' book and then vote at https://goo.gl/ZwP5of to help me get it published and get a free copy when it is.
Thank you for your help.
They love the dark and isolated places from which they can ambush their innocent victims. Cruel and consumed by evil drives they hunger to unleash their violence on the weak, the isolated, never caring about the damage they cause and the terror they spread. They lust for blood and destroy countless lives as they devote their existence to hurting others.
No, I’m not talking about vampires, but bullies. Bullies are the vampires of our society and schools, causing scars that never go away. I know because I was a bullied child. So I dedicate this tale of bullies and vampires to the brave victims, their families and friends, who, like Esme and her friends, find ways to fight against these venomous Crypt Creeps. Always remember, you are not alone.
Thank you again to my sons, Josh, Keith and David, who have been amazingly helpful at editing and helping me prepare this book. Thanks to my former students who still inspire me to create wacky lessons for them, and to my great Children’s Authors Team, (CAT), that helps me ‘sharpen’ my work. And finally, but not ‘leastly’, to my wife, Linda, my little vampire fighter.
To all of you, I hope you enjoy this battle between the forces of evil and good.
Esme pulled away from her mother’s kiss. It felt icy-cold on her cheek. She felt as if she had just touched dead fish. Her eyes landed on her mother’s normally lustrous hazel eyes and saw they had turned black and hollow. She had seen eyes like these before…in her mirror only a few weeks ago. When she had almost become one of them.
“Esme? Why are you looking at me like that?” her mother asked in an emotionless voice.
“I’ll be back in a little while. I’m going over to a friend,” Esme replied, her mother’s rancid breath making her squirm.
“Must you go? I’m a bit hungry. I was thinking of having a little bite.” Her mother’s tongue ran over her teeth.
That’s what I’m afraid of, Esme thought, backing away even further from lips that now appeared to be throbbing on either side of her mother’s mouth. “Don’t you have a date tonight,” she asked, wondering how many of her mother’s dates after the divorce had been with living men. What a strange thought? Esme shivered.
“I want you to meet my new boyfriend. He’s a famous doctor.”
At the word, ‘doctor’, Esme froze. Could it be? Nah! And yet, Mom has that strange haunted look. She gazed at her mother’s face, twisted into a sinister white mask. A half smile looked thin and forced.
It can’t be! He wouldn’t dare! That creep! Not my mother! And yet it would explain a lot of what Esme had seen happening to her Mom these last few weeks. It would explain the vacant eyes that strayed into the darkness of night, the dented cheeks and rigid, skeletal, jaw bones. And oh yes, the long lashing tongue. Is she going out with a doctor or a lizard, Esme wondered, and laughed at how silly she was being. A lizard? But a lizard would be better than the vampire or his creepy friend.
“Esmeralda,” she heard the familiar, hypnotic, voice of the doctor echoing in her brain, but it turned out to be her mother, eyes nailed onto Esme’s throbbing throat. “Come closer, dear, sweet, pleasingly plump, Esmeralda,” her mother coaxed.
“I’ve got to go,” Esme said, shuffling away from the table.
Her mother was blocking the door.
Esme again shivered at the incredible iciness of her mother’s touch, the sallow tone of her complexion, the dullness of her eyes. She stared at her mother’s thin figure, even thinner than it had always been. Esme knew her worst fears, crazy fears, might not be so crazy.
“He’s a wonderful man, an amazing doctor,” her mother said, her eyes still fixed on Esme’s neck as if it was a chocolate covered cherry.
Esme felt another even worse spidery chill as her mother painted a description too close to her memory of the insane so-called ‘doctor’ who had almost turned her school into his very own vampire feeding ground. “Mom, does this doctor have thin white hair surrounding his mostly bald head,” she asked, afraid to hear the answer.
“Yes. He is so cute! He has the wispiest little hairs on his adorable, bald head. I could just hug him to death.”
Or vice versa, Esme thought, still praying she was wrong. “Does he have a roly-poly belly and a funny accent…like in the Dracula movies?”
“Why yes. He’s so funny when he says, “I vant to drink your blood.” It’s a little joke between us.” Her mother tried to smile, but couldn’t even fake it. “He looks like a beardless Santa Claus. Truly adorable. Chubby…like you, dear Esmeralda.”
Esme felt panic building insider her, but there was still hope. “Is his name Dr. Ghoulish?” She held her breath. There had to be a million doctors out there with wispy white hair and European accents. I can hope, can’t I, she thought, clutching at straws, praying it wasn’t the creep she had met in the crypt.
Her mother shook her head. “No, dear, not Ghoulish. No. That’s not at all right.”
Thank goodness! Esme breathed a sigh of relief. Her worst fear had been erased. It wasn’t him. It wasn’t the ruthless king of the vampires, the maniacal blood-sucker who had pretended to be a diet doctor to hide his evil scheme to turn the students in her school into anorexic mush, too-weak-to-fight against him. So many were fooled into becoming his always ready source of fresh, young, blood. They had sacrificed their souls to be thin and popular, she thought, still not believing how far she had gone to be just like them. Those days are over…or are they? Can I ever be sure?
Her mother said softly, “No, dear, Esmeralda, not Ghoulish. You pronounce it like ‘gosh’. Like gosh, he’s wonderful!”
“Gosh?” The chill Esme felt racing up her back was like the touch of Dr. Ghoulash’s six inch long fingernails. Ghoulash rhymes with gosh!
”Oh gosh no,” Esme groaned. “Not again! The Crypt Creeps are back!”
“Dr. Ghoulash? Mom, please say it isn’t so?” Esme’s hand was gripping the top of the kitchen chair tightly, wishing it was the mad doctor’s stubby neck. “Are you sure it was Ghoulash…like rhymes with ‘gosh’?” Esme asked, her mind refusing to believe this could be happening again.
“Yes, dear, his name is Dr. Ghoulash. He is the most marvelous man, a true genius. His diet will make even you lose weight. Look! It’s working wonders for me.” Mrs. Jones twirled around, as if modeling a fancy dress, but her movements were clumsy. She seemed barely able to complete the pirouette without teetering. When she faced Esme again, her eyes were black pits. “You should start seeing him, Esme. You’ve been putting on all that ugly fat again.”
“I’ve lost a lot of weight, Ma,” Esme said, backing steadily toward the door.
“Oh, but my doctor has a miracle cure,” Esme’s mother said.
“I’ll be right back,” Esme said, her eyes watching for any sudden move as she inched her fingers to the door knob. “I’ve an idea, Ma. Why don’t you stay home tonight? Watch a good movie? Nosh on some chocolate bars? Mmm! You love chocolate.”
“Not any more, Esme, my plump little morsel. I have other cravings now.” Esme’s mother stared at her daughter’s neck and inched forward.
Esme had seen that look on Alexa, Pam and Latisha, the three sinister girls who had made her life miserable with their bullying. “Mom? Mom? MOM! Snap out of it!”
“Esme?” It was as if her mother was seeing her daughter for the first time that evening. “What happened? Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Mom, are you alright? Are you back?” Esme looked deep into the bony face. She saw what was left of her mother, her once lustrous red hair, now black and stringy. Her once full lips, now thin, upper lips pulsing rapidly. “Mom, you need help.”
“Esme? Yes, please help me?”
Esme reached for her mother’s hand, but stopped when her mother added with a cruel sneer, “I am so hungry…and you are so juicy.”
Esme wanted to dash out the door. She wanted to run away from this creature that resembled her mother, but was on the edge of becoming something else. Esme knew what it was. She had almost become such a creature herself when she had fallen under the control of the fiendish Dr. Ghoulash. “Mom, concentrate! You can fight it!”
Her mother’s hand reached out and tightened on Esme’s wrist.
“Mom, let go! You’re hurting me!”
Her mother’s eyes cleared again. “Esme, I need help. Help me? I don’t know how long I can hold out. It comes and goes.” Her eyes gazed pitifully into Esme’s face. “Esme, you won’t tell? Promise me, you won’t tell anyone? They’ll put me away…I’ll be lost forever.”
The fear in her mother’s voice bit into Esme’s heart. She thought she saw a flicker of her mother in the pleading eyes. “No, mother, I won’t tell.” Esme knew she was lying, but who could she tell that would be able to help them before it was too late? If it wasn’t too late already?
Her mother sagged into a kitchen chair. “I feel so tired, Esme…tired and thirsty…always very thirsty.”
“Stay here, Ma. I’ll be back soon.”
“I need my Dr. Ghoulash,” her mother said. “He can help. He always helps.”
“Just stay here,” Esme repeated, and eyes watching for any sign her mother might spring into an attack, she inched toward the door. “Please, stay right here? Promise me?”
“You’ll find him for me,” her mother asked.
“I’ll find help.” Esme closed the door carefully. She was afraid if she slammed it the noise would alarm her mother and she would not let her leave. She locked it with her key, praying her mother wouldn’t be able to get out. She had thought of staying to be sure her mother didn’t leave, but knew if the ‘vampire’ fever was raging, there would be no way to stop her. A thirteen year old girl’s strength is no match for the strength of whatever her mother would become once her soul, was lost. Esme relived in recurring nightmares the horrible acts she had almost committed with her surprising strength as she had almost become a…crypt creep!
”No I mustn’t think of that! Not ever!” Esme ran through the streets, fighting the urge to cry. She knew once she got to her best friend, Viola’s house, she would break her promise to her mother. She would be willing to break every rule she had always believed in to free her mother from the vampire’s evil control. She swore she would use any trick or weapon she could find to fight and defeat the evil blood-sucker, and free her mother from his powerful clutches.
“How could I have been so wrong about anyone,” she asked, remembering how she had first thought Dr. Ghoulash, (rhymes with ‘gosh’), was so wonderful, a genius who had actually discovered a way to make a fat, seventh grade, girl, lose weight, almost instantly. “Of course, I’d jump at a chance like that,” she mused, shuddering at how she weighed nearly two hundred pounds before blackmailing her bullies into letting her join the Midnight Diet Club.
Esme was almost down to one hundred fifty pounds now, but it was so much harder without the Doctor’s sinister diet. “I was almost beautiful.”
“You were almost a vampire,” her conscience reminded her.
Esme sighed. The all too real image of three, tall, slender girls, Alexa, Latisha and Pam, the bullies that had tormented her mercilessly, flashed across her brain. “I was one of ‘them’.”
To be thin again? It was still tempting. It was so tempting she had to fight it all the time. Even weeks later, Esme found it was difficult to fight the desire to have a perfect body, to be accepted, popular, no matter the risk…no matter the awful price.
As confident as she was becoming, with the help of Viola, Esme still envied the three girls, who had been her heartless enemies. Alexa, the leader, with her model’s body, and snotty look-down-at-your-nose, cruelty. How that girl had tormented her, teased her, hounded her, pushed her around. She, more than any other, had driven Esme to desperate actions.
And what Alexa didn’t do her brutal side-kick, Latisha, would complete with cruel joy. Latisha, black and sinewy, was like a panther. She was a knife with a brutal and violent nature that would make a wild tiger proud. She was the trio’s enforcer, always eager to enjoy the pain of others. I hated her, Esme thought, always fearful Latisha might show up again.
Esme suspected the blood-lust held Latisha in its tight grip more than the others. She had seen it in Latisha’s wild eyes. The picture of those savage eyes appeared in her nightmares frequently, flashbacks to that horrifying time in the crypt. She knew Latisha would not have hesitated in tearing her to pieces if Alexa, or Dr. Ghoulash, gave the order.
Alexa and Latisha had been solid, impenetrable, walls of hate, which is why Esme had focused on the third member of the sinister sisterhood, Pam. Smaller, less slender, weasel-like Pam, was the newest member of the ‘club’. She was ‘the weak link’. She was also the only one of the three who had remained in school after the confrontation in the cemetery. Alexa and Latisha vanished after that showdown, their homes put up for sale. Nobody knew where they were. Esme was just relieved they were gone and the bullying was over at last.
“To think I wanted to be one of those creeps.” Esme sighed, dismayed at how her envy of the ‘three ghouls’, as Vi called them, had blinded her to their true nature. “How close I came.”
The worst part? Esme knew if she didn’t have Vi, to help her fight the ever-present gnawing temptation, she might still someday be turned…but turned into what?
Esme remembered Alan warning, “They’re all vampires.”
ARE THEY VAMPIRES? WHAT IS THE INSANE PLOT DR. GHOULASH HAS HATCHED TO ENSLAVE CHILDREN WHO ONLY WANT TO BE POPULAR? WHAT IS THE SECRET O F IGNOR AMOS, HIS BODYGUARD?
Please vote for ESME VS THE CRYPT CREEPS and I will gladly share the whole crazy story with you.
1- You are not alone. There is always someone who can help you: Parents, friends, siblings, teachers, other adults
2. You are not the blame for being bullied. The bully is.
3. You are not inferior, just different, but we all are. The same would be boring.
4. You are valuable. We all are. Believe in yourself.
5. You will overcome this. Your bully may not.
6. You are loved. The bully most likely is not.
7. You have a purpose and goals. Bullies never have goals. They are too busy hurting others.
8. You will succeed in life. Will the bully?
9. Many of the greatest people have been bullied.
10. God loves you.
Want to add yours?
Hannah saw rows and rows of wooden tables, each with four girls seated on high stools. They were folding clothing and placing the folded clothes on wheeled carts behind them.
“As you see, the girls are sorting through the clothing and separating items according to their class: male, female, boy, girl, baby and so on.” Franz smiled. “It is not difficult work and the rewards are many. I’m sure Rivka has told you.”
Hannah smiled. “Will I get to choose a dress today?”
Franz laughed. “Of course. I will soon tell you how you can earn even more.”
Hannah felt relieved. “May I start now,” she asked.
“Not quite yet,” the supervisor said. “We still have a few things to discuss.”
The way he said that made Hannah nervous again.
He signaled her to follow. She followed him to a hallway lit by three overhead bulbs.
He suddenly pulled her by the elbow into a dark stairwell.
She had heard rumors of what Germans do to young girls.
“Don’t be afraid,” he hissed. “I am not interested in you like that. I won’t hurt you…but others will…if you don’t do exactly as I say.”
“I will,” she blurted, feeling his fingers digging into her flesh.
He released his grip. “I want you to understand. I will do what I can to help you and your family…if you do as I tell you.”
“My family?” Hannah asked.
Franz frowned. “Of course your family! As long as you are a good and loyal worker, your family is protected. Didn’t Rivka explain this to you?”
“No sir,” Hannah mumbled.
“It’s very simple. We need you girls to do this work for us. As long as you do your job without question, your family will be allowed to remain. I have much influence.”
Hannah didn’t understand. How could working in a dress factory be so important that it could help her family remain safe in their home?
“You must never question any order you receive. If someone tells you to do something you do not understand, you come to me…but only me. If I say you must do it, then you must do it without question. Is that understood? Is that understood?”
Hannah did not understand, but she sensed this was not a good time to show her curious nature.
“Good! I assure you that you will not be mistreated as long as you do as I order. No one else will have control over you. Only me. But you must be careful.”
“I will,” Hannah muttered.
“Good,” Franz nodded. Suddenly he leaned toward her.
Hannah could feel the heat of his breath on her neck. She remembered the warnings of her mother about being alone with strange men and she felt her body tense.
“There is one more thing,” Franz said. “And this is strictly between us….”
Hannah tried to back away, but was blocked by the stairwell wall.
“If ever you find anything in the clothing…anything at all, you must conceal it from the others. Do you understand? You will hide it until it is safe to bring to me. Do you understand?”
Hannah wanted desperately to get away from the wall that was holding her against him. “Yes. If I find anything, I bring it to you.”
“You must hide it,” he hissed. “That is important. Nobody must see. I will reward you. Each thing you find and bring me, I will let you select an article of clothing for yourself.” He smiled and backed away. “I am very generous.”
“But what will I find,” the girl asked, her voice shaking.
Suddenly he was on top of her again, his eyes glowing in the dim light, his voice raspy. “It does not matter. I told you. No questions. Just whatever you find, bring it to me. As long as you do this, your family is safe.”
He released her from the stairwell. “I will now find you a seat by Rivka. She will help you learn.”
Hannah was so relieved to be out of that dark stairwell that she decided to keep all her remaining questions to herself. In time, I will know everything, she thought as she climbed the stool next to Rivka.
She leaned toward Rivka.
A voice barked. “There is no talking here! Work! That is why you are here!”
“They’re always watching,” Rivka whispered.
A large pile of clothes was dumped on the table. A quick glance revealed it contained a mix of men’s, women’s and children’s clothing. Hannah hesitated.
“It is all clean,” Rivka whispered. “It is all right.”
Hannah sighed. It didn’t seem like much of a job to her, certainly not so important that it required guards and all this secrecy, but she was going to get new dresses…and Herr Franz had said her family would be protected…as long as she did her job.
I mentioned my book, The Midnight Diet Club, because it portrays my belief that bullies are like the vampires in our schools and society today. Like vampires, they strike when they see someone is vulnerable, in other words, alone. And that is where I believe we can attack this problem. It is that constant feeling that as a victim, I am totally alone, that I remember most from my life-changing experience. I have seen dozens and dozens of ‘educational’ programs in schools to help build self-image and teach tolerance, and I believe they have some value, but unless we commit to a program that convinces every victim of bullying that they are never alone, that we are always dedicated and open to listening to them, we will continue to let them feel they must face these ‘vampires’ alone.
In The Midnight Diet Club, Esme is finally able to confront her bullies when she is joined by a group of children gathered by her only two friends. It is an ideal ending. It would be wonderful if every victimized child could gather their own ‘posse’ and confront their nemeses with this kind of peer support. Most victims are unable to do so on their own, but encouraging children to not support bullying is an important goal we should emphasize in schools and in our homes. We can’t force children to become friends with every child in a school, grade, or class, but we can encourage them to stand together when a vampire is about to attack, to eliminate the darkness and isolation, he/she needs for their cowardly work.
Every parent, teacher, clergy person, administrator, needs to create a climate where every child feels that no matter how ‘trivial’ the problem may be viewed by others, they will be taken seriously. It sounds easier than it is. Some will argue this will open a floodgate of kids streaming into ‘my office’ for help with everyday little ‘crises’, but if we specifically invite the bullied child to come to us for help, make him/her aware that we are completely open to listen, and not judge, do everything we can to fight the sensation that they are at fault, worthless, and isolated, I believe we are taking the most important step in helping these children.
Yes, we must work to build self-image and create better laws and punishments for bullying behaviors. But we need a place to start. We can post all the positive image placards we want in a school and home, but if we don’t have one that says, “You are never alone,” and “Come to me if you feel you are being bullied,” our children will continue to feel as if they must face these ‘vampires’ alone. That is the darkness that creates desperation and tragedy. No child, victim or bully, should ever feel they are alone. Together, we can make a difference.
Mark H. Newhouse loved teaching in Central Islip, Long Island, and was Elementary/Secondary Teacher of the Year (New York State Reading Association, 1989), and an adjunct professor at SUNY Old Westbury. His book about bullying, The Midnight Diet Club, won 1st Prize YA in the Florida Writer’s Association Royal Palm Literary Awards, and is also an audiobook (Amazon). The Rockhound Science Mysteries, children catch crazy crooks with fun experiments, won Learning Magazine’s Teacher’s Choice Award. Born in Germany to Holocaust survivors, he offers free anti-bullying games and activities at www.bullystoppersclub.com.
Mark is the award-winning teacher/author who has set his sights on bullying and other school problems. Please join in the quest to end bullying by adding your ideas and comments.