An Open Letter to Peter Tait

TW: Bullying

My apologies, but your scheduled programming is about to be interrupted, by a curly haired purple-tinted frothing ball of rage. Because this morning I read this quote on the subject of bullying.

“Sometimes, children who see themselves as ‘victims’ – a term I use warily – often need to help themselves to learn not to be weak or pliable in social situations as their behaviour, their attitude and their demeanour does nothing to help themselves.’

Peter Tait, headteacher of Sherborne Preparatory School

Is that the posh old man speak for grow some balls?

Dear Mr Tait

You’ll be pleased to know that I am currently learning to be less weak and pliable in social situations. With the help of a professional. And workbooks. And roleplays, endless roleplays. At the age of twenty three

How was I supposed to learn that at fourteen? I had no confidence or concept of how to get any. Instead, I had friends who used those ‘girl + boy are x%  in love’ games to decide how much they hated me that day. Who had a point score depending on how many crisps they could land in my hot dinner. Who started this harassment in the first place, because I asked them to stop picking on my other friend. In my experience, speaking up brought nothing but trouble.

I could have spoken up for myself, I could have told them they were petty minded arses that needed to GTFO of my life. God knows I was capable of shouting at that age. Hell, I could have told my mum and let her go steaming down to the school. But I was fourteen and lonely in the midst of an unacknowledged sexuality crisis and petrified no-one would believe me- these people were my friends. There are some days when I still don’t quite believe it myself; everyone around me remembers school so differently.

So you see, for some it’s not quite as simple as opening your mouth and delivering a stinging speech a la end of cheesy teen movie. It’s stripping away the layers of self-doubt , disgust, fear ,sadness, maybethey’reright and youareworthless you’ve been buried in for weeks ,months, even years to find that rusty voicebox, exercising it until it won’t crack and fade away halfway through a sentence. On top of exams and family drama. Yeah.  No wonder it’s taken me the best part of a decade .

Want people to stick up for themselves? Plan some better lessons than “if you’re bullied tell a teacher.” Teach children that they are worthy of love and All The Good Things, that they have a Voice, they are allowed to use it, and their needs and feeling are important, even if they aren’t that kid with the shiny hair, expensive mobile phone and “normal” hobbies?

And while we’re at it, why not put the blame where it really belongs? Where are the How Not To Be An Asshole Lessons? That teach respect, tolerance and the difference between a funny joke and an insult, a harmless practical joke and a malicious prank?

I understand that bullying is a difficult thing to tackle,  staff aren’t omnipotent gods and sometimes there are people who just don’t get the message.  I understand that schools alone can’t eradicate it.

But it sure as hell isn’t my fault

Yours Sincerely

A  former bullied Teen.

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