Part 3 in my impromptu series on bullying – I figured I’d go right ahead and describe how I was bullied in Year 5, probably the first time I was bullied. Not the last, but maybe the worst, I can’t quite decide.
Don’t worry, it was only mild cruelty – this isn’t one of those posts you need to gather tissues for your tears over.
I think it first happened in Portugal, because I was never unhappy before that, not really. I had great friends and was allowed to be smart and enjoyed myself all the time.
Then, when I was 7, I moved to Portugal. I was 3/4 of the way through Year 2 in Australia. I turned 8 on my second week of school in Portugal, where I had been put in Year 4, because I was smart, and because English was my mothertongue.
The rest of my class was made up of older children. They were Portuguese kids from families wealthy enough to send them to the international school to learn English. There were 3 other non-Portuguese people in my year – a Spanish girl, a Dutch boy and a Finnish-American girl.
The Dutch boy and American girl became my best friends. I was happy enough once I had friends, and the girl, Mickey, lived across the road from me once I moved house, so I was thrilled. I vaguely remember an awful group project, and of course some teasing from the other kids, but that was all, I was in general very happy.
Then, in Year 5, my best friend Mickey had left to go back to America. I was in the same class with all the same people, but this time I had no friends, because Reuben, the Dutch boy, was no longer my friend. I don’t know exactly why, but I think it was because that would have meant he hung out with one girl only, not two, and the stupid 11 year old kids liked to say that meant he ‘loooooved’ me. Like I said, I don’t know exactly, but he was just no longer my friend. I still emailed Mickey, but I was new to the internet so we sent about 1 mail every 2 months.
Not everyone was mean to me, at first, but I had no friends, and that’s hard when you’re 9. I read a lot, because I always had, and in general just managed to do my work and and try to ignore the others. The bullying developed a little later.
It wasn’t much – just people refusing to work with me. Or sit next to me. And for no reason. I think the worst part was that my parents both worked in the school as teachers, and my classmates knew that, they knew that our music teacher was also my father.
One day, he asked us to sit on the floor during class. So we did. Only, no one sat next to me. I had made sure I was on the side of the group anyway to make it less obvious, but they still left a good metre’s gap or more from me, and Dad noticed it, and just told them to move up, there was plenty of room there. He hadn’t realised, you see. Those nearest me moved a little closer but kept their distance. He told them again to move closer and so they did, reluctantly. Soon, though, he stopped paying attention and so they immediately moved away from me again. He noticed and made them move back. They did so but again moved away when he looked away. No one would sit near me.
That was what was so awful to me – that they would do that to me in front of my own father.
It takes a while just to write everything out and explain it, doesn’t it?
The other kids all spoke Portuguese and I didn’t, so they would have conversations I couldn’t hope to understand, even when I was sitting with them trying to be included. They wouldn’t work with me, and I remember that this was when I first started to be violent towards my peers, because someone was arguing with me across the table, and I was holding my pencil, and I was getting more and more frustrated, and then suddenly I found that I’d stabbed the back of their hand with my pencil.
I got in trouble, of course, but that didn’t stop me from doing it again, to someone else.
I have a lot of vague memories, like when a group of us were meant to be passing a tennis ball in PE, but no one would throw it to me. I think tears started dripping from my eyes, but then I just refused to do anything for the rest of class.
My mother was the librarian, so that was where I went after school. It was only a short walk from my classroom, but sometimes I’d be crying as I picked up my bag, and would have to walk slowly so that I could regain my composure before I saw my mother. I never really told my parents what was happening and I still don’t quite know why – I guess I thought it was my fault and didn’t want to admit to that weakness.
Mum found out, though, when a really nice girl from my brother’s class, Year 6, saw me crying. I think the first time I just assured her nothing was wrong, but when she saw me crying again, Maria (that was her name) didn’t bother to talk to me – she just went and told my mother. In the end I was glad she’d done that.
Once I sobbed my story out to my parents, they were of course outraged, and soon I was moved from 5S to the other Year 5 class, 5T, the idea being that I’d never shared a class with these people, they had no reason to dislike me, etc, etc.
Now, we only spent another 6 months or less at this school before I moved back to Australia, so maybe it would have gotten better if I’d stayed longer. But my new teacher wasn’t at all understanding of my problems, and was overly strict towards me. He meant well, I think, but he didn’t seem to get it. I didn’t really make friends, not good friends, but I found a girl to hang around with at breaktime, called Joanna, and though I knew they probably didn’t want me there, I hung out with her and her friends, because they were too polite to tell me to go away. I didn’t feel like part of the group, but I accepted it. I think.
I was still unhappy – one of the times I stabbed someone with a pencil occurred after I’d switched classes. I only slightly knew my classmates, which didn’t help. I was good at school and not at sport, and I liked to show what I knew. I talked, a lot, and sometimes too quickly for the Portuguese-speakers to fully understand.
I remember putting a thick book on the shelf nearest my seat so I could surreptitiously pick it and up read it during class, because I could easily finish my work with time to spare, and found my teacher boring and repetitive, and it wasn’t as though I could talk to my friends.
I wasn’t miserable anymore, but I almost never chose to play with my peers if I had the option of computers or books instead – it was Portugal that I first started playing online games as more than just a casual pastime, to the extent that I got in trouble for doing it so much. I played Neopets and Runescape, both virtual worlds, because it didn’t matter if I had no friends in those, I was still an epic cook and look I made pizza and hey look my Neopet is level 20, beat that. Sad, I know, but it somehow made me happier. Of course, I still read an astonishing amount. I love reading so much because as everyone knows, it gives you an escape.
I kept playing Neopets and Runescape after I left Portugal, because by then I’d become as addicted to them as any other mindless 11 year old on the internet. I was a total nerd, in that respect – I spent all my time playing online games or reading. And, god forbid, I did my homework and participated in class.
Oh, did I mention the reason why people shunned me at school?
They had none.
They offered things like ‘She’s disgusting.’
Why, you may ask? This is what they had to say in reply.
‘She blows her nose with tissues every day!’ (I had a cold, so sorry. And you know, crying doesn’t help.)
‘She breathed on the window and then drew on the fogged-up part.’ (You mean, a perfectly normal thing for a kid to do?)
As far as I can tell, the real reasons were that a) They didn’t like me because I wasn’t Portuguese, b) I was too young, and they found me immature, but didn’t stop to think that it might be because I was that year or more younger than them, and c) They were jealous because I did do better than them in almost every subject, and I probably was a bit of a teacher’s pet, simply because I was polite but willing to contribute to discussions and teachers liked me for that.)
OK. I could add more detail, more memories, but there’s no point. There’s my story of how I was bullied in Year 5. As I said, it’s not awful, but it still should never have happened. A 9 year old shouldn’t have been ostracized from the class because she spoke English and liked reading.
I’m sure that experience has affected me in later life, but I don’t quite know how, maybe I’ll muse on that later. Anyway, I just wanted to explain how even the most mild of bullying, like this, has hurtful effects on us. And now I’ve put down this part of my story, not the entirety of my experience of bullying, but the earliest part of it. It feels kinda good, for some reason.
I haven’t been a victim of major bullying but I do have some tiny experience of the unpleasantness of human beings. That means I can know it’s wrong, but I’m not hampered by anxiety or depression, like some of the worse victims of human cruelty. I want to use that power to help stop bullying. I’m foolish, I’m just a stupid 15 year old, but I know there’s enough of us out there to do something that will make a lasting change.