8 years ago when I was in the 6th grade I had a humanities teacher named Mr. Krause. For our summer reading assignment before middle school started, we had to read The Misfits about a group of middle school students who are picked on and want to do something about it. The kids were picked on and bullied for various things, including being gay, but they had a teacher who supported them and they had each other.
Unknowingly, this book would come to define my 6th grade year. The summer before entering the hallowed halls of Mott Hall II in New York City, I spent the summer at sleep away camp. It was there that I first came out as gay. I was 10 years old and knew nothing of how kids could be so hurtful.
Upon coming to middle school, I began to be bullied. I was teased by my classmates, called hurtful names, and left out of many activities. I barely had any friends, except a few kids, who like me were also teased. We ate in the gym because none of the kids would let us in the lunch tables. We also acted in the school play, and I did the talent show. I did it because I wanted to, and even though everyone laughed at me, I didn’t care and I did it anyway. But the bullying got worse, and even the friends I had weren’t making the difference. While serving as the secretary of the student government, a position I won by antagonizing the voters, I put up a sign asking people to form a club about how much they hate the school. I failed two subjects and was in danger of being held back in school.
My mother was worried about my emotional health, and she didn’t know what to do with me. Eventually, we both decided that I could not stay at that school anymore. Even though it pained me to leave behind the few friends I did have, I knew that it was the best for me. I ended up transferring to a Jewish day school the next year, and was able to function quite well there.
Mr. Krause was an amazing teacher though. He really cared about his students and tried to impart on them how much respect was apart of being a good student. When I left he expressed to my mother that he was distraught and wished he could have done more to help me. Those words I will never forget.
This week is the 10th anniversary of No Name Calling Week, inspired by The Misfits. It’s directed to teachers and students in elementary and middle schools across the country. My story proves that this event and sentiment can help teachers change lives at any age. We must support our educators in their journeys to make schools a safer and better place for all students. It is only in this way that they can continue to shape and change lives.
Emet Tauber is a former GLSEN student ambassador and sophomore at Arcadia University. He serves on GLSEN's National Advisory Council where he helps with programming for Transgender Student Rights. He aspires to get his masters in public policy and work in politics and advocacy as a career.