Anti-Bullying Week

Let’s all create change with a conversation for Anti-Bullying week!

Did you know 1 in 2 people experience bullying in their lifetime?

Fay, our Senior Administrator at Futures for Children, shared her story with us.

“I realised fairly early that kids can be really mean. It seems that what starts out as a ‘joke’ ends up really hurting someone’s feelings.

I felt the brunt of this when I was around 9 when we moved house to a new area and I moved schools. I went into the second year at junior school, which would now be Year 5. I was new and must have spoken with a different accent to my new classmates as they called me “Posh”, or “Posh-nosh” as it became. I don’t remember if this lasted into Year 6, I don’t recall having any issues then, but certainly for a time, despite being a pretty resilient kid, it was my ‘name’. And I still remember.

In Year 6, I had a great group of classmates and my best friend at the time, Jo, is still one of my friends now. We went to different secondary schools and lost touch for a time, but through Social Media we ‘reconnected’ and meet up from time to time.

Secondary school kids can be even meaner. By this time, I’d had a growth spurt and having always been a skinny kid, I became a tall, skinny kid, with spots and a brace on my teeth (and a bad perm, to add to the equation!). I became “Mummy Long Legs” or “Chipsticks” or “Lanky”. At least those were some of the names they called me to my face. I was outspoken, put my hand up in class to answer questions, challenged the teachers and earned the name “Boff” or “Boffin”. Such was the name-calling, but this was coupled with the ultimate insult: ‘blowing off the fleas’. These people were meant to be my friends (they were when it suited them) but ‘blowing off the fleas’ was an insult that actually upset me the most and consisted of literally blowing an imaginary insect from their desk once they had moved theirs an inch away from mine so that the imaginary fleas that I had contaminated the desks with would be vanquished.

Taking the 13+ test meant moving schools again, but this time I took my ‘friends’ with me. I made new friends too and am still in touch with some of them.

I continued to be an active participant in class, which still did me no favours, despite it being a grammar school. But I maintained a different attitude to many of my classmates; at around 14 I was more interested in boy-bands and videoing interviews from morning TV, recording from the radio and wallpapering my bedroom with posters, while they were out in town, chasing after boys and trying to get into pubs underage. They mercilessly took the ‘mickey’ out of me, of my school uniform, because it wasn’t from Next. Covertly too, sniggering behind their hands to each other and – surprisingly childishly for those who were attempting to indulge in underage drinking! – they took to ‘blowing off the fleas’ again.

This became a daily occurrence because in their eyes I was different, I was a “square” but I stuck to my guns. I guess I must have been a diligent student as my Mum would have to insist on me staying home when I was ill, even when I wanted to soldier on and drag myself into school, so when I started to say I didn’t want to go in, she knew something was wrong. She told me they were just jealous, but back then I didn’t understand why they would be.

My Mum had a meeting with my Head of Year. I don’t remember if I was in the meeting too, but she must have put her point across as later that week, during a Science class, they each in turn came to me and apologised for what they had said and done. And it stopped, for the most part. I guess it became what you would call friendly banter now and I gave as good as I got.

It still affected me for many years after that, though. I spent a long time being self-conscious about myself, paranoid about what people thought of me, of how I looked. I spent far too long being over-sensitive about people’s opinions of me and that continued for far too long, long into my adult years, even. I’m glad to say that you do reach a point when you feel comfortable to just be you. When those around you appreciate you, that’s what matters, not the people whose mean opinions serve only to hurt someone’s feelings.

That’s the sad part of it all, though; bullies don’t stop to think about the hurt they are causing someone. They want to make other people laugh at someone else’s expense. Maybe they are jealous of the person they are poking fun at and belittling. Certainly, if they understood the hurt it caused, they would not want to be on the receiving end.

One of the girls who bullied me in my last school got in touch with me through a mutual friend with whom she worked; she reflected, as an adult, ‘how awful’ they had been to me and sent an apology. However late in the day that was, it was appreciated!”

It’s important to remember not to suffer in silence.

Even if you don’t feel like you can report it, speak to someone because you don’t have to go through it alone.

Helplines

Shout – Text Shout to 85258

Free UK 24/7 text service for anyone who is in crisis.

Bully Busters – 0800 169 6928

Bullybusters.org.uk

Kidscape – Parent Helpline 020 7823 5430 (Monday – Tuesday 10-5 pm)

Childline – 0800 1111

Got what it takes to foster?

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