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Can bullying in schools be stopped? Reader, Ann, reveals how her teacher managed it

PUBLISHED: 12:20 12 April 2019 | UPDATED: 12:20 12 April 2019

Can anything be done to stop bullying? PHOTO: Getty images

Can anything be done to stop bullying? PHOTO: Getty images

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Our agony aunt, Sue Bayliss, wrote about bullying in schools recently - it's time it stopped, she said, but how? Then reader, Ann, wrote to her of what her teacher did to stop bullying in his classroom many years ago. Would it work today?

Holistic therapist, Sue Bayliss Picture: Denise BradleyHolistic therapist, Sue Bayliss Picture: Denise Bradley

Hi Sue,

I read with interest your article on bullying.

I was bullied over 50 years ago and I remember all the horrible details as if it was yesterday.

It never leaves you and still hurts thinking about it.

My bullying happened at my primary school in the last year.

My bully was a very pretty blond-haired girl who seemed very sweet to all the teachers and was popular with them, the most unlikely of bullies visually.

On the playground it was a different matter.

She led her gang and gave them orders of importance ie 2nd or 3rd in command to take control if she was away.

Every day you lived in fear of being ‘chucked’.

A group of her gang would approach you on the playground to give you this news.

You then knew all your friends would be banned from talking to you and you would be left for days sitting on your own in the playground, walking to and from school on your own.

My only saving grace was she didn’t live near me.

However, during holidays she did come on to my estate and on one occasion had something planned for me.

At the end of my estate there was a large overgrown field with a dirt track where boys used to ride their bikes.

She and her ‘gang’ walked me to the middle and said I had to wait there and they would be back.

I stayed until I couldn’t see her anymore and then I noticed movement in the long grass all around me.

I ran and so did some others who were older boys that had been hiding on her instructions to get me.

I was sporty and quite a fast runner so I was able to get away.

I was selected to represent the school at netball, but so was my bully and so was her second in command.

She was always selected to be the reserve. This didn’t please her at all, so I was then threatened not to show for practice otherwise I would be beaten up. My bedroom window overlooked the school playing field and I could only watch the practice with the second taking my place. I was dropped as being unreliable.

One day in sewing classes she made me hand over my embroidered pincushion that I had worked on for weeks, only to watch her cut it up.

My mother had looked forward to seeing it. I had to tell her I’d lost it. I didn’t like lying to my mother.

On another occasion in class we were making graphs.

When asked by the teacher if we had got to a certain point I had to put my hand up and say no as Sally (name changed for confidentiality) had forced me to swap work with her and her work was just scribble.

I was called to the front.

The teacher hit me across the arm and pushed me out into the corridor for not paying attention.

I took her punishment and humiliation.

I did all the usual things like pretending to feel bad on a Sunday evening hoping that I would be kept off school.

I must’ve done it too often as I started to make regular trips to the doctor’s with my mother.

I think my mother finally worked out what was wrong.

I cannot remember telling her. She was a war veteran so not much got past her. I know that she had gone to the school to speak to the head teacher.

One day in class our teacher said the lesson was going to be different.

We were all quite excited by this.

He gave a talk about the war. Looking back now I should imagine he had served in it.

He talked about the persecution of the Jews and the sort of things that they had to endure.

He talked about countries and dictators. He was getting us all to join in asking questions of things we may have seen in the news or in the papers. We all enjoyed this lesson and at the end he asked me to stand up.

He then went on to say the same thing on a smaller scale was happening in the classroom and it had to stop today.

With that the other children shouted out the bullies’ names. The teacher didn’t have to dish out any punishment as the children did it for him. They saw good and bad and they wanted good after that very strong lesson.

I had to empty my desk in front of the whole class and move places. I had plenty of offers too of children to sit next to.

They were all happy to shuffle about. I wondered what life was going to be like at playtime. I had plenty of new friends and Sally, the bully, had very few. Her popularity gone overnight.

In fact, my life was how it should’ve been all along. It took just one powerful lesson!!

It was the 11+ year so my absenteeism must’ve played a part.

I went to the local secondary modern and so did Sally. She once tried to start her ‘gang’ in high school and approached me!? I had told a new friend that had come from another school about my experiences with Sally. My new friend could take care of herself and told her to stay clear of me. She never bothered me again.

Hate is a strong word but I still do hate her for how she treated me back then, I didn’t deserve any of it. She did it to others too. I wasn’t the only one.

I know she married a boy from high school but later divorced, I have never seen her since. I once bumped into an old friend who had told me she was now friends with her and she is really quite nice now.

I told my friend I never wanted to see Sally again ever! And she could pass that on. I often wonder if she even thought of herself as a bully once she was grown up.

I gave up work when I had my only daughter at 40. I vowed what happened to me would never happen to her.

When she started school, so did I. I helped out in class. I became a lunchtime supervisor. I was quite good at it, recognising bullies a mile off, how they worked, little gangs, controlling, bossy.

I sorted most of it out, often exposing their antics and tactics to them in front of the others.

The others soon saw them for what they were and made their own minds up,

I was always very careful with my words remembering how tactful my teacher had been with me.

I was always the last supervisor to leave the school as I always wrote reports of my suspicions, I never wanted a child to go through what I did. One day a child said to me that her teacher had told them all if they have a problem to see me lunchtime and not the other supervisors as I always sorted it out and they would get to hear about it.

It was nice to know that my efforts made a difference. Hopefully I stopped some.

I did notice in high school that Sally was in the lowest stream.

As an adult now I look back and wonder why she was like the way she was. She wore lots of nice clothes, she had pretty blonde hair and she looked quite sweet. The thing she didn’t have was a dad at home. Her mother lived on her own. This was quite rare in those days. I

I had a strong mother, a policeman for a dad and I was always wearing different shoes as I used to have to test them for my cousin who was a shoe designer.

Was she just jealous of something? Did she have to cover up her anxieties and inadequacies by trying to be superior?

She was totally rubbish at maths and sewing, so maybe that was it.

Maybe she was a sad little person that needed attention.

Sue, I’d like to know what makes a child a bully? Can you explain it?

I hate bullies! They mess lives up.

Ann

Sue says:

Dear Ann,

Many thanks for your long letter telling your story. I can only give praise to the teacher who taught a lesson that changed everything. I wish more teachers today would follow his example.

We used to believe that bullying comes from low self-esteem. In fact, the key factors for bullies tend to be that they lack empathy and seek power over others. It is their high self-esteem that enables them to believe that they should have their own way and become aggressive if they are thwarted. They want to be the ones who dominate and generally like to form a gang to do their bidding. They may have encountered a value system in a dysfunctional family (and in much of what is featured on TV and in online gaming), believing that the important thing in life is to come out on top. Weakness is despised. These children may have been bullied themselves by siblings or they may copy a parent who often displays anger and wants their own way. Bullying and narcissism go together. In our society narcissism is on the rise. The cultivation of the self rather than community feeds into a bullying mentality.

The greatest antidote to bullying is learning empathy. In Canada, a programme called Roots of Empathy sets out to teach just that by bringing a mother and a baby into schools. The children learn about the baby’s feelings and how the mother responds to them and they discuss their own feelings and needs. In schools where the programme has been taught, bullying has declined and children stand up to bullies with greater confidence. We urgently need a concerted effort in our schools (and workplaces too) to teach empathy and kindness and outlaw all bullying behaviour.

I am glad you were able to do so much good when you worked in schools. Many children will be grateful to you for all you did, including your daughter.

All the best

Sue

www.sulisconsulting.com

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