I didn’t realise I was being bullied at the time.

The following is a short section from my husbands, and my autobiography. It is the worst outcome of bullying, although at the time, I don’t think anyone understood that it was bullying.

I can’t find anyone else from school who remembers Robert. Sadly, I’m not in contact with many people from my primary school days and the friends who I am in touch with were either older or younger than me, so not in the same year group.

I know I didn’t dream Robert. I can, to this day picture him quite clearly.

This is National Bullying Month, so I thought it apt to share it.

 ‘Robert was a loner. Even today I can still picture him with blonde hair, cut in short back and sides. Like me, he was an only child of older parents.

I didn’t know him. None of us did, he didn’t play with us or mix with us unless he had to. He was thought of as a swot by the rest of us. I don’t remember making fun of him, but I may have done. I don’t remember being purposefully cruel to him, but I may have been. If I did then it would have been without any malice.

His passion was the stars, and his idol, Patrick Moore, the TV astronomer. All Robert was interested in was the planets and stars. Even though the Russians had won the space race, with Yuri Gagarin being the first man to orbit the Earth, it seemed to pass some of us by. I don’t even remember watching it on TV, though I think we must have done. For Robert, however, this must have been one of the most exciting of times, yet he didn’t appear to have anyone to share his passion with.

One day Robert didn’t come to school. We were told in assembly that he had died. My parents told me the real version; he had hung himself with his dressing gown cord on the back of his bedroom door.

As an adult it is more than a tragedy that a child should have felt so lost and out of place that he ended his life at the age of 9. How does a child of that age even contemplate suicide? How must his parents have coped?

As children we didn’t understand the impact of his loneliness and how cruel some of us may have been. Roberts’ actions have always stayed with me, and despite not knowing him, I’ve never forgotten him.’ Extract from “Mixed Feelings”, Lis McDermott.

School Days

Personally, I don’t remember being bullied at school. I was made fun of a few times, but that was normal child-like, name-calling.  I wore glasses, so got called ‘four-eyes’ and similar names, but that didn’t bother me, and certainly I didn’t take it seriously.

I am extremely grateful to have not been on the receiving end of bullying that turns into physical threats, or mental intimidation, which sadly, many children do suffer. 

I wasn’t part of the ‘in-crowd’ at secondary school, but I wasn’t unpopular either.  I seemed to swim around in that pond of quiet, un-assuming kids, who didn’t stand out; the middling children who weren’t particularly high or low achievers. The ones who muddled along in the middle. This also seemed to be true within in the hierarchy of pupil relationships too.

Robert came to my mind again this week, as an Instagram poetry group I belong to and  who share writing prompts each day, set one for Astronaut.

This was my response.

Bullying in the work place

The headteacher at my first teaching post was in fact a bully, although at the time, I didn’t realise it.

Eight of the staff that began the school year of 1974 with me were also starting their teaching career. That meant that the ‘boss’ had eight probationary teachers to deal with, in a multi-racial secondary school in a suburb of Birmingham.

On the day of our assessment, when the Schools Inspector (before OFSTED existed), came to watch us teach, two other teachers were off sick.  As often happened in those days, that meant the classes were doubled up.

Subsequently, I had two classes of year 3, (now year 9) pupils, to deliver a music lesson to.  I had very few resources at the best of times, and I couldn’t ever make much noise in my classroom, as due to the age of the building, all of the classrooms were situated around a central hall. This meant, any noise emanating from my room, interfered with the teaching of the others rooms.

Having few resources, lessons were rarely able to be instrument based, and therefore were mostly singing, or listening to recorded music. Neither of which for the pupils, were particularly illuminating or educational in terms of music education!

Basically, I was set up for failure.  I have to say, the two classes didn’t behave that badly when the inspector arrived, but I was unable to deliver the lesson I had planned out.

At my lunchtime I was called into the Head’s office, where he told me I was going to fail my probationary year.

I spent the afternoon delivering lessons where the classes had to copy what I wrote on the blackboard, whilst trying to hide the tears running down my face. All I had ever wanted to do was teach, and it looked as though I was going to fail at the first hurdle.

At the end of school, the person who was our support teacher, had eight, extremely upset young teachers descend on his room. We had all been told we were going to fail.  None of us did!

Imagine the satisfaction I would have gained, had I been able to go and Inspect my ex-boss when later in my career,  I was an OFSTED Inspector!

Bullying doesn’t stop at school. Research has found that nearly 72% of bullying is carried out by a manager, and nearly 29 % of people have been bullied at work.

Be aware of how you treat others. Also, notice how others are being treated by those around them and if appropriate, step in to support them.

“If you turn and face the other way when someone is being bullied, you might as well be the bully too.” Unknown.