Things I Learned At School

When I was a child I was bullied.

Brace yourselves. I am about to do that irritating thing where I tell you a story from my life that you probably aren’t interested in, and then apply it on a wide scale, even though it’s kind of like comparing apples with orange monsters that want to maul your face off.

apples-and-oranges

The bullying started with a few kids, and it spread. There was a song the whole class would sing when the teacher wasn’t in the room. It wasn’t a particularly offensive song, just a childish one. And it wasn’t the words that hurt so much as the laughter and the crushing weight of numbers. With the wider class, the song was as bad as it got, but the original bullies didn’t back off that whole year.

I’m not writing this to blame them. They were kids. I don’t know what was going on with them. I was also a kid. Initially I tried fighting back (with words). It was unsuccessful, or seemed so, but perhaps a blow or two landed and perhaps they don’t have fond memories of me either. I don’t know. But I do hope they are doing well with their lives, and if they remember it at all, I hope they learned something positive.

They’re just apples. Apples aren’t monsters that try to maul your face off. This isn’t about them.

This is about the day I tried to get help.

It took me all year to work up the guts to say something. I was afraid of being labelled a dobber, but I was more afraid that nothing would happen. That I would be told that the bullies weren’t doing anything wrong. That I deserved it.

So I waited until the end of the last day of school for that year, figuring it was the safest time. I dawdled while the other kids left. Then I went up to the teacher.

(She was one of the better teachers. She was friendly and fun and she taught well. She was a favourite of a lot of kids. I liked her.)

I learned a lot of things at school. I learned times-tables, spelling, and how to write a sentence.

And I learned that I was on my own.

theres-nothing-i-can-do

Nobody would help me. I learned that the bullies weren’t doing anything wrong. I learned that I had deserved it.

I had seven years of schooling left, and I never spoke up about being bullied again.

(Silence killed the dinosaurs.)

But I did speak up for other people.

Like I said, I learned a lot of things at school. I learned about hypotenuses, writing essays and the Cold War. I learned that it is a powerful thing to tell someone that they are on their own. And, by extension, I learned it was an even more powerful thing to tell someone that they are not alone.

As a child, you think growing up fixes everything. I thought that when I grew up and left school and left home and left my hometown, I would be free.

But then I did all that, and I found that the world is still a frightening place full of monsters that shouldn’t be compared to apples. And the orange monsters in the adult-world have the power to cause destruction on a large scale.

monsters

Trump’s expressed opinions of minority groups are concerning. His promised and actual legislation against some of these groups is alarming. But it is the manner he does it—through dehumanisation, blatant lies and the deconstruction of science and truth—that is truly terrifying. Not just for America, but for every democratic country.

It is easy to feel helpless.

tweet

But there’s always something. And it is heartening to see so many people finding it.

cartoons

Perhaps, as I had left it to the last day of the year, the teacher did not have any authority to enforce consequences for the bullies. Even if she did, perhaps it would not have stopped them.

But there is always something. There always is. And I know there was then, because if I could rewrite that scene I know exactly how it would go.

better

Because it was wrong. I didn’t deserve it. And I shouldn’t have had to be alone.

*********************************

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16 thoughts on “Things I Learned At School

  1. I identify way too much with this post. Had much the same problem… though I didn’t warrant the creation of a song. I just earned random punches in the hallway and general hate and isolation from everyone for years.

    I experienced the same as you did from teachers and authority figures, though… ranging from doing nothing, to some actually observing when others were bullying me and just allowing it to happen right in front of them!

    I learned much as you, just to be silent and endure… then one day we moved and I changed schools and everything was MUCH better.

    I do think back, though… and while it’s easy to say “don’t blame the kids because they don’t know better” and I don’t hold grudges… I also live as an adult in an adult world where my peers (not necessarily people I used to know but people my age) are behaving as adults much the same as I remember these kids behaving! So… maybe kids do know what they are doing… they are practicing to be adult assholes.

    I also am faced sometimes with weird irony… in that… yes, it’s easier to spot the Trump and supporter who are in your face about it… but there are people who oppose Trump who just want to abuse different people in different ways… so we get the whole “choose the lesser evil” thing and are told we can’t let Cthulhu win, so let the Devil run wild instead because he’s not as bad…

    But I always ask… why can’t we choose good instead of the lesser evil?

    The problem… our society really doesn’t reward good. Sure, good is held up as a good thing and people talk about it… but people who actually do good are often overlooked and trampled over by the less bad who are “saving” us from the worst.

    I do not like Trump… but I had someone unfriend me because I didn’t hate Trump enough! Think about that for a second. I only had a reasonable rational dislike for the man… I didn’t irrationally hate him to the point of dedicating all my waking hours to foil his nefarious evilness! That’s the reality we live in… where evil is met with evil, fight fire with fire! Except… nobody fights actual fire with fire… that’s stupid… you just burn everything that way!

    1. I agree that we should be able to choose good, but you still have to choose from the choices available, and sometimes it IS choosing the lesser of two evils. So if you don’t like that, start on the local level to get good people in office. You can’t just wait around and complain, you have to work for good, and also do good yourself.
      I do think unfriending people over politics is silly. Just use your own life as an example in that case, and get on with it (doing and working for good!)

      1. Part of the problem is how many people want to convince you that there are only two choices or that there should only be two choices… thus there are only ever two choices.

        As for unfriending over politics… it does depend on the situation. I can envision scenarios where people are such polar opposites that they just can’t get along… but otherwise I agree that people need to try harder to meet in the middle. All this extreme stuff to one side or the other is getting us nowhere in a hurry!

      2. I agree totally. The fact is, you always have to compromise to some extent. And you make mistakes, and learn from them. Although education at the moment doesn’t support that, unfortunately, so maybe that’s part of where the “there’s only one right answer” comes from. Life is not a multiple choice question where if you fill in the right box, everything is OK.

    2. First up, I’m sorry you went through that too. It’s awful. I’m glad to hear that it improved when you moved schools.

      What I wrote here wasn’t really supposed to be about the election. That choosing is done. This was supposed to be about the choices that come next. It would be wonderful to vote for and elect good. But I think good is not, and cannot be, a person or a side.

      (I think right now people–and Americans in particular, I mean DANG your two-party system is a mess–are very caught up and distracted by ‘sides’, and Trump is using that to his advantage).

      I think good it is an action. Good can’t be done continuously all the time, and one act does not sustain for long. So the only way to choose good is to do good, over and over.

      It is sad when people with different political preferences can’t be friends.

      1. Yeah… our politics is very much like our sports… everyone is too much into “you’re with us or against us” and it leaves very little room for compromise. It also results in arguments over things that BOTH sides technically agree upon, but don’t want to “lose” by working together.

  2. Wow, this really breaks my heart. As a former teacher, I found it very useful to take students who bullied and those who were bullied aside individually and do some reverse role-playing. The least we can do as adults is to try and alleviate these situations. I’m so sorry for your pain.
    Nowadays, I think it’s more important then ever to stand up to bullies of orange and all persuasions. The idea that it’s my way or the highway is only relatively new in modern American history – I remember when Republicans and Democrats fought for their ideas but ended up compromising. I’d love to return to those days when it’s OK to say if we each give a little bit, something good will come out of it for everybody. Those folks in America who desperately feel the need to do something positive and have an effect here is the Indivisible Guide https://www.indivisibleguide.com which has a lot of good ideas. I have been able to implement some of these from my bed even though my ME/CFS is pretty severe at the moment. for example, I find it appalling that here in America there is no right to healthcare. I don’t understand it and I’ve lived here all my life. I may not be able to do much about it but I can make calls and write letters to local and congressional representatives. Those of us who have been quieter voices and not heard need to find ways to act for the common good so that bullies do not win and that the ultimate goal of helping each other drowns out the hate and negativity, replaced by Lumos.
    OK, getting off my soapbox now ;)

    1. I hope I didn’t make you feel too bad. I didn’t intend to make the talk of bullying too sad.

      As an Australian with healthcare, it seems extremely strange to me that anyone would choose not to have it.

  3. I feel for you. I wish I’d known you then because we could have been friends together. And not alone. Because I’ve been there, too. Sometimes still am. Recent events have only increased my determination to fight, in my small way, mean, demeaning, behavior. I’m with you.

  4. True story: You made me cry with this post. Seriously. This was beautiful. And the transition of the orange? That was bloody brilliant! You are my creative goddess. For real, this was insane good.
    Also, I laughed so hard when I read this: “I am about to do that irritating thing where I tell you a story from my life that you probably aren’t interested in, and then apply it on a wide scale, even though it’s kind of like comparing apples with orange monsters that want to maul your face off…,” because that perfectly describes my blog and my approach to it. Me, me, me. And then you come and do something gorgeous. LOL. I love you so much!

      1. Nah. Good cry. The “dealing with my feelings and seeing my growth/progress” cry, which is always good. And it’s ridiculous to think that you need a self-esteem boost, when I’m over here like, “I WANT TO BE LUCY! HOW IS SHE SO AWESOME AT CREATING THINGS!?!” But we all have doubts, I guess. But I adore you!!!

      2. It’s strange to me that I would seem competent and accomplished from the outside. (I am super not inside). But, as you say, perhaps we all have a bit of that. Maybe no one (or hardly anyone) feels competent and accomplished on the inside.

      3. I think that’s one of the lessons I’ve really learned as I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression and self-esteem/confidence issues: nobody is alone. So many people experience this.

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