Bullying is an important issue to discuss as it’s happening to kids in schools and even to adults. The effects of bullying can have long-lasting impacts on someone’s life. To address the topic of bullying, Brycial spoke with College Talks & More hosts Hanna and Cari about his personal experiences with bullying and how it still affects him today.
Brycial Williams is attending Northcentral University for his Doctorate in Early Childhood Education and is currently a finalist for Teacher of the Year in Arkansas. Teaching is his passion. Brycial is teaching first grade at Wynne Primary School. His success, both educationally and professionally, is commendable. It wasn’t always easy for Brycial, because he faced bullying in his younger years. He shares with us the bullying he personally experienced as a child, and also the bullying he sees as a teacher occurring among his students. This is not an easy topic to discuss, but one that we need to.
At what age did bullying first start for you?
I was age 13 when the bullying really started to pick up.
How were you bullied?
I am a very articulate person, so I was bullied because of the way my voice sounds. I was called “Gabe”. I was also a chunky kid, so I was bullied because of my weight.
Did the bullying ever turned physical?
It almost did. When I was a freshman in high school, a group of boys tried to double team me. It didn’t end up happening. It was the only time I was really, really, really scared.
I’m really glad to hear it didn’t turn physical. How did the bullying make you feel?
It made me feel less of a person. I felt like I did not have a place in the world or the community. It made me want to take my own life. That’s how low I felt. And I felt like that I wasn’t worth anything, and that I didn’t deserve to have an opportunity to live within the community or in the world because of the bullying.
It’s so tragic. And so very unnecessary. Do you see bullying due to someone’s race?
Yes, my friend and I were in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and some people made us feel like we weren’t welcome there because of our skin color. Even though the city was open to everyone, people’s actions made us feel like we weren’t wanted there. It was years and years ago.
That’s really horrible. You would think that with everything going on in the world, people wouldn’t see people for color anymore. We’re all humans. Were there any mental and physical effects from the bullying that happened to you?
I really just started telling this story about a couple of years ago. I kept it to myself for years, and it was really breaking me down mentally. A lot of people didn’t know what I was going through, because I would always try to smile and be happy. I’ve always been known as the person who helps others. People looked at me as the life of the part. But deep down inside, I was breaking down mentally. I probably should have went to some counseling at a younger age, but I did not. I’m a religious person, and I know that God has really helped me get over what I experienced. And even though it’s hard, you have to forgive the person who hurt you. If you don’t forgive them, it will break you down. I just had to get to that point where I could let it go and just forgive, knowing that God would take care of the rest. I was at my lowest point, because mentally, it was tearing me apart.
With all that was happening to you, did you ever tell anyone, like a teacher or a parent, and did that person try to help you?
I was too scared to tell anyone, because of the threats I was being given. They would say, “If you tell anyone, we are going to do this to you.” And I was so scared that I would break down and cry when no one could see me. I only started telling people a few years ago. I just started telling my family, and I gave a testimony to a group of young people. It happened so long ago, and it took me years to have to courage to start telling my story.
It must’ve been really hard for you to hold on to this all these years. And I know you mentioned that religion helped you overcome the bullying, but was there anything else? Have you went to counseling, or did you just overcome it on your own?
I did not go to counseling. I will say this, I’ve always surrounded myself with positive people. Having those people around me lifted me up and made me realize that I have a place in this community. They did not know what I was going through, but their encouragement, spending time with them, is what helped me overcome what I was experiencing. So yes, that’s what I would tell people, “Surround yourself with positive people, because it can be a blessing.”
Are you still bullied today?
No, I’m not. Sometimes, if I’m in a crowd or around certain people, I might have a flashback to when I was bullied.
Does your childhood bullying still affect you today?
When I was nominated for Teacher of the Year, my first thought was that I wasn’t worth it, and I wasn’t going to win it. I start thinking about what those boys said to me, that I wasn’t worth anything as a person. That I was just a bad boy. It does still affect me today from time to time, and I have to reassure myself that I am somebody who was created with a purpose. That I can do all things through Christ. And that has kind of helped me, but that self-doubt does still come back at times.
As an educator, let’s talk about the bullying you see in your classroom and at school today. Students who experienced bullying are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, lower academic achievements and dropping out of school. Did you know that one out of five students report being bullied? What types of bullying do you see within your classroom?
I have been teaching for eleven years, and the bullying I see is mostly with the girls. Society and our world has brainwashed our girls to think they have to look a certain way, dress a certain way, and act a certain way. It’s sad, and it’s even trickled down into our younger grades. What I see with the girls, is that they form cliques. I’m constantly talking to the girls in my classroom about how they are treating someone else. They don’t allow other girls into their clique, because of what they see on TV: their hair isn’t long enough, they don’t talk a certain way, their clothes aren’t a certain style. So they bring what they see on TV into the classroom, and if a girl doesn’t have long hair, or they aren’t small enough, she can’t hang with them. It’s mostly the girls, that I see, who are doing the bullying.
Bullying isn’t just someone calling another student names. It is reported that 13% of all people that are bullied are made fun of, called names, or insulted, 13% were subject to rumors, 5% were pushed, shoved, tripped, or even spit on, 5% were excluded from activities on purpose, which you probably see on the playground during recess. Do you see bullying outside of your classroom and in others?
Yes, I have several relatives who are students in the upper grades, and one cousin is chunky. He is a handsome boy, but heavy, and he is being bullied. Immediately, my mind went back to when I was being bullied. So I’ve been mentoring him over the years. I’ve seen bullying in my community and at community events where there is a mixture of ages. I think it’s important to talk about the importance of treating everyone the same, and how we are all supposed to be good citizens.
As a teacher, how do you handle a bullying situation?
I’ve come to realize that the kids doing the bullying are actually going through some hurtful things themselves. And that is why I had to forgive the young men who bullied me. As I got older, I had a conversation with them, and I realized they had been going through some really tragic things themselves. And so to take the hurt off themselves, they wanted to make someone else hurt and suffer, like they were suffering. So teachers need to carefully approach the situation and talk with the student doing the bullying. We need to find out what is going on with the child doing the bullying, and from there you can work your way to talking about the importance of not bullying. In our school, we have a program called Choose Love where we work on taking deep breaths. It provides us with ways to help the child being bullied, but also helping the child who is doing the bullying. We have to understand both sides of the story before we can fix the problem.
Is bullying different between boys and girls?
With girls it’s more about appearances, the bullying is very visual, and it’s based on what is being portrayed in society. With the boys, it’s more about being athletic. What’s become a bigger part of bullying with the boys is if you are sexually active. If you are not having sex, then you are not cool. If you don’t have a certain kind of car, then you’re not cool. With the boys, it’s more of being popular in certain areas.
Do you ever see teachers being bullied? And is it possible for a student to bully the teacher?
Yes to both questions. I have seen another teacher, who happened to be a woman, being bullied by a school’s teachers and administration. I’m a young teacher, and she was a young teacher herself. I had many discussions with her, and she felt she was being bullied by the teachers and administration of her school. I personally saw her being bullied by other teachers and the administration. The other teachers were jealous of her because of her creativity, and they verbally attacked her. They were always in her room, and they were always picking on her, because they didn’t like her. She went to the doctor, and the doctor told her she needed to leave her job, because her blood pressure was extremely high, almost at having a stroke level. And what’s sad is that the administration went along with the other teachers. The teachers have cliques too, just like students do. This is the world teachers live in.
I’ve also seen a teacher being bullied by a student. And I felt it was because of what that child was hearing at home, because their parent did not care for the teacher. The child would do things at school to make that teacher miserable, like bump into her and knock things off her desk. The teacher felt like she was being bullied by the student. It’s very sad what teachers have to go through sometimes.
When is a parent notified and when should a parent become concerned about bullying?
I believe the parents should be notified immediately. And I believe the parents should be concerned as soon as they are notified. You don’t want the situation to turn worse. You don’t want the child to end up like me, trying to take my own life. What if I had been successful? My mother would have lost a child, and she wouldn’t have known what had really been going on. She would have been asking, “What caused him to do this?” You see what I’m saying? So I feel like from day one, that parent should know, and the parents should be concerned from day one. They need to start immediately to take care of the situation before it gets worse, because it can. It can easily shift in the child’s mind. And even at the age I teach, the young child will start crying, they don’t want to come to school. Their grades start dropping. They will do anything or say anything, just so they could stay at home, because they are scared.
Are parents receptive or defensive if it’s their child who is doing the bullying?
Some parents get defensive, because they do not believe their child is capable of being a bully. I had one instance, where I was trying to handle a situation, where the young girl didn’t understand that what she was doing was actually bullying. The child was unaware that what she was saying to someone else was called bullying. Parents are the same way. If their child doesn’t understand bullying, then the parents don’t either. Since the parents are unaware of what bullying is, they believe their child isn’t a bully, and they get defensive. It’s a lack of understanding, and a lot of parents are in denial when I come to them and tell them their child is being a bully at school.
What advice do you have for parents who want to open the line of communication when it comes to bullying?
Just have an open mindset and try to understand. Like I said, put yourself in the other child’s shoes and try to see how that child feels. Because it can turn into something drastic if not handled correctly. We don’t want that. It’s okay to talk about it. Don’t be afraid to talk about it, because it’s real, it’s happening. It’s out there. If we have an open mind, a growth mindset, to be willing to talk about it and express it, I think we can get a better grasp on it and to handle it better for our kids, because it starts with us. It starts with the younger kids, because if you don’t fix the problem at the lower grades, it will continue, and it’s going to be harder to fix it at the upper levels. So don’t be afraid to talk about it. It’s real, it’s out there. And we have to be honest with ourselves and our kids. We need to talk about it, because kids are being bullied. That percentage is there. The research is there, and it could be your child that takes their life. It could be your child who wants to shoot the school up. That’s what’s going on. And if we don’t open that line of communication, and talk about it, and support our kids, then we’re going to continue to have issues with our children.
And parents need to be reminded that children are watching them. There are parental bullies out there that bully their kids and also bully other people. So your children are watching you. And what you’re doing is what you’re teaching them. Sometimes you might want to look at yourself just to see if you are showing them the right way.
I’ve taught pre-K in the past, and you can learn a lot about their parents just by watching the children. The children imitate what they see at home. When I did my observations of the children and took notes, I could see what kind of parents they had or what their parents were exposing them to. The children act out everything they learn and see at home.
Brycial, how do you fee about being nominated and a finalist for Arkansas Teacher of the Year?
I was excited and nervous at the same time. My phone kept going off, and they said, “Look at your email, look at your email.” So I looked at my email, and I saw that I was one of the finalists. I mean, it was just a dream come true. I was like, “Oh wow, me, congratulations.” And to be recognized by the Governor and the Secretary of Education at the Governor’s mansion, it was a true honor.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us about your life or about being bullied?
Being nominated for teacher of the year really opened my eyes. I’m a minority. I am the only black, male teacher at Wynne Elementary. I’m saying this because young, black boys need a positive, male role model. Most behavioral issues are happening with our young, black males. I’m just keeping it real. I felt like I gave them a sense of hope when they look at me: Mr. Williams is a black, male teacher. He’s fulfilling his dreams. He was nominated for a finalist. I was the only black at that. I feel like it gives them a sense of hope. My word is “Hope”. Whatever your dreams are, even if you are being bullied, there is still hope. That’s the way you have to look at it, and we have to hold onto hope. Hope and faith is going to keep us going and help us, because it’s not easy. As a young, black man looking at my school and community, they need hope. And I feel that I can be their hope. They can see themselves through me, as a black man who’s been successful. They can do the same thing if they just have hope and believe in themselves. That that’s what I really want for my community.
I just want you to know that you are an inspiration to us all. And thank you for offering all this valuable insight on bullying and how to overcome it. We can all do better as humans. So thank you for sharing this very personal story.