Back to school vibes are in full swing. The shops are becoming sparse from herds of parents and carers emptying the uniform and lunch shelves, and children and young people are excited to see friends and use their new bags and pencil cases! I know I was super excited about stationary and learning when I was back in school, but alongside the excitement and happiness, the worry often overpowered that. I was terrified of the walk to and from school, people picking on me and the pressure to fit in and meet the standards of education my teachers expected. Since I’ve been there and experienced a very bad time in school, I wanted to write this post to help young people going back to school or education. So here are some of the worries and tips that myself and students have compiled.
Worries and top tips from myself and students
Since, my experience was so severe with bullying in school, I wanted to create a post to express worries about going back to school, and then offer some tips and advice for those worries. So, I spoke to a few students and asked their worries and advice. Here is what I found.
My 9 year old niece expressed that she was worried about people being mean to her, and that the work will be too hard. Take it from a girl in year 5. She has a history of being picked on and is very fragile from previous life experiences. Being a child in care, someone who has had adverse experiences, mild speech disorder and is identified as SEN, she has been a target for being picked on by others. She is a unique girl who sees the world a little differently, but sometimes others pick up on that and turn them into negatives. Because of this, she feels nervous around people and anxious to start new school years and be part of friendship groups. She also struggles with learning and so she’s aware that as she grows up, the work will get harder for her.
Her top tips are:
- Do your best (Despite work being harder as you move up in years, trying your best IS good enough. Don’t let anyone push you so far that you doubt yourself enough to self sabotage. We all learn differently and excel at different things. It’s ok to not be the best at everything. You are enough, exactly as you are!)
- Don’t mess about or be naughty in class (I love this simple time from a nine year old. As if it’s this simple to get others to be good! But it’s true. If you want to have a good experience of school, behave. Don’t be naughty, rude or a bully. Basically, I think in short, don’t be a dick!)
- Keep focus (Her last tip, and a good one at that! School is hard, work is getting tougher, but keeping focus is important. Concentrate, put in the work and focus on what you want out of education. It is important to you and it’s what you make it. Focus on the books you like, the lessons you enjoy and good people. Make a focus bubble around the things that feed your soul)
My 12 year old niece expressed that she was worried about going into year 8 because of boys teasing her and calling her rude nicknames, being bullied, knowing her brother will be picked on by the people who don’t like her and seeing her old best friends with each other, leaving her out (as always). She said she will have to simply sit there knowing that she has to deal with this all over again..
Since moving to secondary/ High school, she has found many challenges and it has changed her and her character. She is a highly intelligent girl with many talents and abilities and yet the bullying from students and pressures from teachers have ground her down and turned her into an angry version of herself who is now rebelling and suffering the consequences. All of this because the teachers are taking more notice of her reaction to the bullies, than the bullies themselves! And yes, she is snappy at the teachers and quick to be rude, however all of this would have been avoided if she’d been taken seriously and tended to in the first place. Hence why I always say that intervention is key!
So, I asked her what her tips would be for anyone worrying about going back to school. She gave me one powerful tip in response. One that after all of her experiences I didn’t expect…
- Walk in proud (Whilst this may be rather vague, she believes in standing tall and appearing strong. Holding yourself up and holding your own. It’s a difficult one to do, but it’s powerful! Coming from such a young person with difficult experiences of pressure to achieve and comply to what her peers are doing, wearing, acting etc. is a huge thing. She wants to show that she is strong and that she is good enough she is. So yes. A motivational affirmation.. Walk in proud!)
Her 11 year old brother who is about to start secondary/ high school this September, going into year 7 and has also expressed his worries. He explained that he shares the same concern as his sister; that he will be picked on by the people who have attacked is sister, merely because they are related.
This above concern is just saddening. Bullied by association. For simply existing and having a relation to someone. Both siblings expressed this worry and also shared anger in this. They both want to protect one another but will use anger against those who pick on them, which is such a vicious cycle.
He didn’t share any tips but below I will offer some of my own, based on my own experience and how I feel things can help.
My experiences & advice
My experience of school has been..tough. In primary school I was picked on for being short, geeky and for liking rock music. I was so stressed from being picked on that I developed a stress disorder called Trichotillomania, where I ripped my own hair out in chucks. It became so bad that my hair started falling out on it’s own. In turn, I got bullied for having bald patches on my head. It was an endless cycle. I started blanking out and reacting to these people with anger, to which I was told off. The usual isn’t it? We get punished for our reactions but they never listen to the reason why we reacted.
So after dealing with losses and grief, I then went into secondary/high school. That’s where things got horrific for me. Despite loving education and the idea of school, it was far from lovely. The adoration soon faded from my heart and mind, when I was targeted by bullies. I was followed to and from school, had things thrown at me and was verbally and physically attacked. I was injured from the attacks. My mind was fragile and the cracks started showing and growing.
Years of bullying led to the decline in my grades, health (both mental and physical) and hope. My best friend passed away and I was backed so far into the corner (both metaphorically and physically) that I broke completely. My doctor immediately told my mum to remove me from school, despite it being the most important year, with my GCSE’s coming up. So at the beginning of Year 11, I left school to be home schooled.
I experienced mild issues with people during my time at college after this but nothing compared to the bullying I experienced in school. So now I want to give back to young people and help them out, to have the best experience of school. So below are some tips I have gathered:
– Have a safe place to be in school and out of school – This may seem bizarre, but sometimes you cannot avoid bullies around school playgrounds/ yards, so if you feel safer to do so, find a place where you can rest and feel comfortable during breaks.And that goes for out of school too. Finding a place of comfort is important to your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. In school you could possibly speak to a teacher and find somewhere you feel safe, like the music block, art block, somewhere quiet, school hall. And outside of school you may be happy at home, or even at a local library, a friends home or family members. Having somewhere to rest, rejuvenate and feel at ease is so important.
– If something or someone is bothering you, keep telling teachers – Tell them how it’s making you feel and how it is impacting you. Honesty is the best way forward. If they do not help, keep telling them the problem. If they continue not to do anything, you may do what you need within reason to help yourself with the issue. If you get told off, you can explain how many times you told the teacher without them doing anything.
– Tell your parents/ carers, friends or a trusted person about issues you are having – We all need someone to back us up sometimes. We can’t always see the situation from a wider perspective, so having someone to help restructure issues can be helpful.
– Try not to fuel the fire in people who pick on you – Easier said than done, but believe me, reacting to bullying gives them fuel to continue. For your own sake, it’s best to walk away from those people or ignore them. On saying that though, my next tip is also very important!
– Stand up for yourself – Although my last tip was to ignore those picking on you, there comes a time where you have to show up for yourself. Stand strong and despite wanting to explode, think before you react. Only react when necessary and do what you must to defend. yourself in danger, but try to confide in teachers or others to help yourself. Try not to sink down to their level but also do not leave yourself to burn out from being in the firing line. You deserve to stand tall and be safe.
There are many things that could help different people during school but the tips above are just a handful I thought would be helpful to share. I am not a professionally trained individual when it comes to giving advice but this is from my own experience in school and the few students I have spoken to.
One thing I must stress is that if you are being bullied or hurt in any way, tell the teachers. If they refuse to listen, take you seriously or take action, ensure your parents/ carers know and speak with the school. If all else fails, Ditch The Label are a mental health and bullying youth charity and have endless posts and clinically trained mentors who can support you or someone. you know who is in need of help.
If you are a teacher reading this or you know a teacher, here is a hugely helpful resource from ditch the label ‘Anti-bullying activities for teachers’.
Bullying and wellbeing issues can’t be prevented and helped unless we take action. Communicate, be honest and we can find ways to tackle these struggles, together. Good luck going back to school/ college/ university. You totally got this.
Thanks so much for reading.