02 July 2009

On Bullying

In the staff room, I've gained a reputation for being a bully.

Not to say I've been taking teachers out back to steal their milk money. My sense of humor, when added to a frequent use of the word "ijime" (bullying) in my banter with Saito-sensei, has earned me the title. It doesn't help that I've teased some of the more vocal teachers on this score, especially my vice-principal. He's a wonderful man who nevertheless responds to any comment I make in two ways: either I'm sucking up to/flattering someone, or I'm bullying him. Sometimes, I get accused of both; I suppose I'm just efficient.

Two conversations today highlighted this pattern with my vice-principal.

[Set-up: walking back from an observed class]

Vice-principal: *to Board of Education Supervisor* Leslie bullies me all the time!
BOE Supervisor: Really? Leslie, is that true?
Me: *super politely* I don't think that to be the case at all.
Vice-principal: Of course, that's just what a bully WOULD say!
Everyone: *laughs, somewhat at my expense*

[Set-up: I was invited to a dinner hosted by my BOE earlier this week but said I couldn't go, not because I have anything specific to do but because the timing is bad.]

Vice-principal: Leslie, I just got a call from [BOE supervisor 2]. He wants to see if it's at all possible for you to go to that dinner on the 17th.
Me: Sure, it's fine.
Vice-principal: Really? OK, I'll call him back and let him know. *calls* Hello, [Supervisor]-sensei? Yeah, I bullied Leslie into going.
[a few minutes later]
Vice-principal: *hangs up* When I told him I bullied Leslie into it, he told me to not be mean to her or I might make her cry. Ha! And she's the one that bullies me all the time! But he didn't believe me! He said, "I can see [different female staff member] bullying you, but not Leslie!"
Teacher 1: It's true, she doesn't seem the bullying type.
Teacher 2: Doesn't that just make her bullying all the scarier?
Teachers, general: Hahaha, it's so true...

A different teacher of mine, Arai-sensei, never accuses me of bullying straight out; instead, he says, "Leslie's Japanese used to be so nice and polite! NOW listen to her. *resigned sigh*"

All of these instances are, as with my "bullying," a joke, but it has become a seemingly knee-jerk reaction from the staff. As with any stereotype, I can't help but want to say to them that it isn't my full character; that I have other aspects to me, things I can't adequately express in Japanese; but in the end, I comfort myself with the fact that the staff on the whole feel comfortable with interacting with me in such a casual manner. After all, isn't it more important to focus on what one has than what one lacks?

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