Pure Slush

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Dalmatian Suits

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by Ellen Smithee 


Teachers in the school where I work, decided to be Dalmatians for Halloween. There are about 100 teachers in the building. They came dressed in adult size Dalmatian footed pajamas. White, soft and fuzzy with black spots.

There they were in Dalmatian suits in the front office when I came in. They ignored me. I’m being shunned. Even though I used to be part of that group – they despise me now. I’ve looked up workplace bullying on the internet. I’ve done a lot of reading about it, too.

My favorite representation of bullying is a poster of a group of dogs, all the same reddish color in a pack staring down one lone puppy who is black and white.

Black and white Dalmatian suited teachers, adults, excluding me. Just the opposite of the poster. Other teachers had worn white sweats that day. When they came into the front office, the clique, I mean the pack dotted them with black circular stickers. Obviously, they’d gotten the memo. That’s what we say in my school when several people show up on the same day in the same color. We say, “yeah, I got the memo.” That’s high school. It’s all about popularity. All about being in the clique.

When my daughter was in high school she wasn’t very academically inclined, but she always scored high on all the standardized tests. Teachers would ask me, not always so bluntly, “what’s wrong with your daughter?” because she was a C student. The truth is, there’s nothing wrong with my daughter. She simply has a different set of priorities.

When I worked as a therapist in a hospital with psychiatric patients, the staff used to say, “As soon as we get healthy, we’ll be out of here.”

Even though I’m staff, I think, as soon as I’m ready to graduate, I’ll be out of here, too.

However the question remains, who is Cruella? Cruella DeVille. Remember her from the movie?

If it’s the principal, whose hair is white, she’d need half a black wig, wouldn’t she? Or, if it’s the assistant principal whose hair is black, she’d need half a wig but it would have to be white.

Relational aggression among students in a high school is wrong. It’s hurtful, done by people who are thoughtless, jealous and mean. It might reflect personality disorder – when it’s done by adults. The stats say that 60% of adults who bully are mentally iIl. I think that when it happens among kids, students, adolescents and pre-adolescents it reflects a lack of skills. The skills that are lacking are basic communication skills, and skills in acceptance. But in this work environment, I’m the odd girl out, to borrow a phrase from Rachel Simmons.

I no longer work in that building. I have a bigger office with a window. I painted my own picture of the pack of dogs. It hangs on the wall of my office, the resource room. The caption is, ‘bullying is never acceptable.’ But the pack are Dalmatians and I’m the redhead.


published 23 March 2016