My morning bus is full of school children. This used to annoy me no end, and still does on particular days, mainly when I’m grumpy, but in the main they’re not a bad bunch…they thank the driver and they don’t cause hassle. We all went through that stage in life so I try and leave them be!
What I have found interesting is seeing how much they change over the months, it’s more apparent when they have the summer hols of course. The lads who were short and shy in June can be close to 6 ft and getting a bit more confidence in the September.
There’s been on particular girl who’s caught my eye. Mainly because she’s on her own, but mainly because she stands out as an easy target. Not for me, but for those mean spirited kids who feel the need to pick on anyone who’s a bit different.
I’d say she’s about 12. She’s a bit plumper than the other girls, but she’s not exactly huge either. She seems a bit shy, she’s always on her own, and, well, the main thing I spotted was that she had a head band on with her name emblazoned across it. I was bullied from about age 7 to 16 (with the exception of a blissful year between ages 11 and 12), and I know that kids will pick the smallest thing possible if they decide they don’t like you…..and I know that headband would be wonderful ammunition. Earlier this week she was on the bus with her grandma (I think it was her grandma anyway!), which when surrounded by your peers is one of the most uncool things that can be done!
Looking at this kid got me thinking about my own experiences in school and the various people that picked on me, the reasons behind it, and the way it affected me. I didn’t come from the best background and although I had loving parents, my mother was an alcoholic, and still is to this day. As much as she loved my sisters and I, there wasn’t always the best care given to us. I was the luckiest of the three of us, being the youngest I had my sisters to look out for me which I realise was a huge thing. Looking back at pictures of me up to the age of about 8, I wasn’t the best dressed kid (but then again these were the 80’s…who was well dressed?!), but I don’t think I was the worst one in the school. We lived in an ok area…although our house was full of crap and wasn’t the best kept house in the world. It may have been a combination of these things that caused the other kids in school to start saying I ‘had the lurgy’ and running away from me whenever possible, but I’ll probably never know the full reason. I remember laughing it off at the time, and continued to do so for the remainder of my time at that school, but it did hurt. I was only young, and being the brunt of a lot of peoples jokes isn’t the nicest thing in the world. I had mates at the school, some better than others. I distinctly remember 2 girls called Gemma who lived near my nan & granddad. I used to play with them a bit out of school when I was at my nans, but they were horrible to me in school. I got into a fight with one of them at school, although I can’t remember what about. I think I may have just had enough of her being horrible to me so I lashed out.
When I was 8, my stepmum became part of my life and my appearance changed somewhat. Let’s just say she always made sure I had new clothes and was presentable. Sometimes overly so but that’s for later on!
I left my first primary school at 10 as we moved away to Rochdale. I don’t remember being nervous about moving schools, I think my dad & stepmum were more nervous than I was. I rocked up to the new school and came home that night having made some lovely friends. As it was the last year of my primary education, I only spent a year at this school before moving to secondary school. I remember this year with very fond memories. I don’t remember being picked on, I laughed a lot, I made some lovely friends and I liked my teacher a lot. It was all good from what I recall….apart from having a very nasty accident with a glue gun, but that’s another story!
Most of the kids in my class in that last primary school were going to Whitworth High, and because of where we lived, there was a chance I wouldn’t be able to go to that school. So I remember being very pleased when I was told I’d got in. It meant that I’d know some people in my year, which when making the transition to big school is a huge thing!
I can’t really remember when the ‘lesbian’ rumour started. Well, I remember the exact incident that caused it to start, but I don’t remember whether it was in the first or second year. I’d been sat in English with my friend Hayley waiting for the teacher to arrive, and she had sheer and shiny tights on. She was very impressed with these tights and was telling me about them, she said they were dead soft too, so I reached down and touched her on the calf. A few days later someone made a comment about me and Hayley being lesbians….and it spiralled from there. I’d love to know who started it initially, as it was obviously someone in that class, but the main perpetrator of it was a girl called Louise Bradley. I remember her vividly and I still feel a surge of anger when I think about her. People used to shout ‘LESBO’ at me in the playground, snigger behind their hands, and at the bus stop I could never stand with the rest of the people waiting because they just used to hound me and generally make my life hell. I wasn’t the only one in this either, poor Hayley got it too. I can’t remember exactly how long it went on for before I told my parents. But in the end I did, and they visited the school to see Mr Kite (who was lovely about the whole thing). I’m fairly sure Hayley’s parents came in too. Louise was spoken to and it eventually subsided, although she made sure to make me know she wasn’t happy about it and got her minions to give occasional veiled threats.
I left that school not long after this incident because we moved again, and it’s a shame to say that I have very few good memories of that school because of the bullying. It did make me realise that telling someone about it was ok and would solve the problem. There were times during that time when I was genuinely scared to go to school because of the taunting and threats from Louise and her pals. It never got physical but the name calling was enough to scare me witless. I’d be interested to know what other peoples memories of that rumour were, as it was probably a very minor thing in the whole grand scheme of things to everyone else, but to me (and I’m sure Hayley) it was huge.
The final school I went to wasn’t too bad, I think I was picked on there because I was the new girl, I was a bit geeky and wasn’t the most confident. The teasing at Brooksbank though was nothing compared to Whitworth, and I pretty much took it in my stride. The girls used to tease me because I was still in woolly tights when all the other girls had proper 40 denier tights. My stepmum wouldn’t buy me these though so I took matters into my own hands and used to change into them at my mates house on the way to school. I wasn’t the coolest kid and didn’t have the latest labels which never went unnoticed but it didn’t bother me too much. I was slightly hardened to it at this point!
The big turning point for me was when I was 16 and came when I moved into 6th form and did drama. In my drama class were 2 of the most popular lads in my year, along with another who although was a mate, was very talented dramatically. In our first class we had to do an improvisation and I was terrified to have to do this improvisation in front of these people who were SO much cooler than me! But I did it, and afterwards I had a bit of an epiphany…These kids were no better than me, we were all in the same class, we were equals. Sod this whole making me feel small malarkey, I was just as good as these guys! And that was it from then on, My confidence soared, and I learnt to stand up for myself, although I didn’t need to, because most of the horrible kids from the previous years hadn’t gone onto 6th form. But just the knowledge that I was prepared to was enough for me.
I look at this young girl on the bus, and I hope to the stars that she has this realisation sooner than I did. I’d love to say to her “Whatever’s going on now, don’t sweat it, life gets SO much better!”
But, having said that, I’m glad I had the experiences I did. They shaped me as a person and made me realise the important things in life. Facebook allowed me a lovely little insight into the present day lives of some of those people who weren’t the nicest to me at school (including the 2 Gemmas) and I took great delight in accepting their requests, reading about what they were up to now, feeling slightly smug in some cases that they hadn’t amounted to much, and then deleting them from my page.
Facebook has also meant I’m now back in contact with Hayley as we lost touc when I moved. She’s now blissfully happy with a wonderful husband and 3 beautiful girls. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside to know that we both turned out ok.
It breaks my heart when I hear about kids who’ve taken their own lives because of issues at school. It’s easy for me to look back and realise that it wasn’t the end of the world, but when you’re in the thick of it, it can become all consuming. I was luckily enough to get the courage to tell someone and for things to be sorted out, but this doesn’t always happen. I’d love for bullying to be a thing of the past, but I’m not sure it ever will be. Kids are kids, and they can be vicious, even if they don’t realise they’re being so hurtful to someone else. The best thing we can do as adults and parents is teach kids the importance of feelings and realising when something they say or do can be hurtful. But that’s not a black and white area in itself, something Alice finds funny, Sarah may find hurtful.
Unfortunately there’s no simple solution to this problem, but the more schools can bring the taboo of bullying to the fore, the better for us all in the longer term.
Apologies for rambling on for some time, I got a bit carried away!