I’ve written a before about how I was bullied throughout secondary school. I suffered relentlessly at the hands of both boys and girls and even now I find myself thinking back to that time, wondering if I could have done anything differently, wondering what made me the victim that I was back then and scouring every memory for clues so that I can make the best future for LP – my mini-me.
I would hate for LP to go through anything like what I went through as a child. I would hate for her to feel lonely, to have her chair pulled out from under her or to have her backpack emptied as she walked down a school corridor.
The thought of LP being followed home from school – three miles where she has to just keep walking, or the thought of her being hit with a metal file in woodwork makes me shake with anger. Anger at the things I went through and knowing in every ounce of my being that I just would not let that happen to her.
But, it happened to me. So much happened to me. As much as I like to think times have changed I know they haven’t. Children may be more tolerant to ginger hair nowadays but children still bully, children still find a victim and there are still children being picked on both in and out of school, online and off.
To get some sense of closure and to learn from my past I contacted the ringleader of the children that bullied me at school. He was in my year and he made my time at the school pretty unbearable and encouraged others to do the same. I asked him why he had bullied me at school and his response really surprised me.
He didn’t say all the things I thought he would say – because I was ginger, because I was ugly, had a big forehead, had glasses, braces and came from a less affluent background that the other kids at school. He didn’t say it was because I had no real friends at school or because I was more academic than most of our classmates.
He said it was because he was bored.
Five years of torment that impacted every aspect of my character. Five years of having no real friends, spending lunch breaks hiding in the toilets and focusing on doing my GCSEs and getting on with my life. The whole of my secondary school years ruined, for what?
One child’s boredom.
But, he apologised. He said he was ashamed for what he had done back then and he hadn’t thought how it would effect me. It was a game to him and his friends and I was purely a pawn in that game.
He also said what didn’t help was that I did as everyone told me to do – I went and told the teacher when I was getting bullied. I told them when I was attacked in wood tech, I told them when a gang of kids spat on me whilst I was on the bus home from school and I told them when I had bottles of water poured over my head before PE.
I did what you’re meant to do and the teachers did nothing – and, by my bully’s own admission, the bullying continued – and even got worse because of it.
So it makes me think that LP, Little Man and any other child really has no hope when it comes to bullying. If it’s going to happen then it’s going to happen regardless of whether you have ginger hair or blonde, are rich or poor, skinny or fat, tall or short – if a child wants to pick on you they will and probably because of nothing more than their own boredom.
I’m glad I messaged my bully and I am glad he replied. I now know, over 16 years on, that there was nothing I could have done. I am sure if I had never told a teacher I was being picked on the bullying would have continued anyway – the children involved would have still been bored and I would have instead just suffered in silence.
I know, as strange as it sounds, that my bullying wasn’t personal. It wasn’t because of all those things I thought about myself when I was an insecure teenager – it was purely because a group of children were bored at school and I was their entertainment.
And that makes me feel better about myself – although sixteen years too late.
And I think we can learn a lot from this. Bullying is a fact of life – it shouldn’t be, but it is. And regardless of who the child is, their background, ethnicity or what they look like they could be subjected to bullying at some point in their lives. It’s how they deal with this and how we as parents and the teachers deal with this that matters.
My childhood bully basically said to me that if I’d just hit him back in the first place it wouldn’t have carried on but that is not something I’ll be teaching my children or condoning. Violence is never the answer and two wrongs really don’t make a right. If I had hit him back then I would have been just as bad as him.
Instead I’m going to be teaching LP and Little Man to be nice people. To make friends, to include everyone as much as possible, to always be aware of others and to be the best person they can be. I’ll teach them to stand up for others, to be the voice that a victim often doesn’t have and I will hope that if LP and Little Man ever find themselves on the receiving end of bullying that someone else will in turn stand up for them.
Many schools are now putting Anti-Bullying Ambassadors in place but really, every child should be against bullying and should do their bit to stop it happening. My worry with Ambassadors in schools is that children who aren’t Ambassadors may just turn a blind eye, thinking it’s not their job or concern to take a stand against bullying. But, it’s down to everyone to stop bullying happening.
If telling teachers doesn’t help then maybe, just maybe, other children can help? By being brave enough to tell another child that what they are doing is wrong. And if every child can stand up for another one, be someone’s friend when they don’t have one and just look out for others than maybe more children would go through school happier, learning what they need to learn and enjoying themselves in the process.
Everyone deserves to have school days worth remembering – for all the right reasons.