Year 10 student, Gabby, is a model student but since being given the title of Head Girl, she has experienced bullying from her former group of friends (a group of girls). In the second episode of ‘Educating Essex’, Gabby approaches the teaching staff after being sent texts from a mobile number she doesn’t recognise. The texts say Gabby is being watched, that the sender knows what she looks like she is asleep and that the anonymous writer knows which school Gabby goes to. Obviously, this is a major cause for concern for Gabby, her parents and the staff at Passmores. Eventually, the perpetrators are caught and disciplined but the episode made me think about when I was at school.
Although bullying is a problem as old as education itself, I realise that know – with the advent of social networks and smart phones / mobile phones – there are so many ways in which kids can be bullied now.
When I was at school, there was name calling and some people suffered physical violence. For me, it was the threat factor that made me afraid. Certain members of my class would criticise me, call me names and, on one occasion, cut my arm after hitting me repeatedly with a metal window blind. If I hadn’t put my hand up to stop it hitting my head, it would have been my head that was cut open.
I knew that the boys who bullied me disliked me because I wanted to do well. Like Gabby, I was a goody two-shoes who cared far more about my parents and the teachers than I ever did my peers. Therefore, when going to parties, I didn’t drink because my parents had asked me to not to. Because of this, I suffered a terms-worth of bullying.
Things escalated, though, when the boys who were bullying me began to physically abuse a teacher during lessons. From stories I’d heard in other classes, a lot of them were enjoying illegal drugs on weekends and the thought of their erratic behaviour getting even less predictable scared me. On a couple of occasions, I was followed part of the way home. My parents had been to the school countless times about this behaviour but it was only after I was physically harmed (with the blind) that the school really took it seriously.
Other problems I experienced at school were with my “friends”. I have heard tales like this one so many times and it appears to be what Gabby was suffering on the TV show. Girls are fickle and bitchy. One day, they are your best friend and the next they are ignoring you, making catty comments and spreading rumours behind your back.
One pair of girls sent a Valentine’s card on my behalf – without my permission or my knowledge – to a boy in our year at school. The backlash was excruciating.
However, like Gabby, I refused to let the jealousy of others get in the way of my academic success. If anything, the bullies made me more determined to succeed. I was involved with choir, I attended voluntary lessons where possible to ensure I had all of the necessary knowledge, I never missed a deadline and my best friend and I were involved in so many activities and received so many commendations in lower school that the school had to introduce an extra award. I know I probably didn’t do myself any favours by being such a geek but I know I made my parents proud and that I was well thought of by the teachers.
Gabby continued to succeed and try hard at school, knowing that there is more to life than being popular at school. I felt very sorry for her as I realised that, when I was at school, home was a safe haven for me – with the technology available now, even home is not safe.
Bullying doesn’t just happen at school. Sadly it can continue in the workplace and in relationships. If you, or someone you know, is being bullied please speak up. There are many people and organisations who can help. Don’t suffer in silence.