Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Two Gerbils & A Binload of Goths

Here I am in my office looking out over a beautifully sunny garden. I have to say that Bournemouth is exactly the right place to be in such good weather. Redhill Common has, for the time being, ceased to be a quagmire and walking the dogs over the past few days has been a firm-footed pleasure.

DH arrived home from Switzerland last Friday and was immediately set upon by Josh who press-ganged him into rushing into Winton to purchase not just one but two baby gerbils. They are now safely installed in a spacious sawdust filled des res in his bedroom. Josh insists upon calling the sweet babies Gizmo and Roadrunner but the babies and I have a pact and the names I call them are much more suited to two little girls - Valerie and Ethel. At the time of writing, I have no evidence to suggest that they're not both girls and whilst I do love all my animals, I am fervently hoping that they are. Two gerbils will do very nicely, for now, thank you! They are dear little things and really enjoy being held and stroked. Josh has committed to taking care of them - much in the same way that he promised to take care of the rabbit who lives in our shed. I'm hoping that this time he means what he says!

We had a quietish family weekend and DH let me have a couple of much needed lie-ins and we had a curry from our favourite take-away in Wallisdown on Saturday night. I couldn't let all this generosity go unmarked and spent a goodly part of Sunday ironing.

Yesterday started off as a normal hum-drum Monday. Josh was happy enough to go to school in the morning, I spent the day doing some admin and a little guilt-free tweeting and DH cleaned the patio with a high-pressure thingy. When I collected Josh from school, I discovered that all was not as it should be.

I don't know whether my son is a bully-magnet but he does seem to attract more than his fair share of quite bad trouble at school. He was SO thrilled to be attending a specialist Arts & Media College which has fantastic facilities for a kid with a leaning towards all things artistic but I've watched him become more and more disillusioned since he started there last September.

He was beaten up badly in January which resulted in a boy being suspended for two days and yesterday he was rather roughly placed in a large rubbish bin by two "Goths". He'd committed the heinous crime of saying to one of them that he liked the leather coat he was wearing. A bad error of judgment ... I hate to think what would have happened if Josh would have said he didn't like the coat. He was told by the two charming youths to co-operate in being placed in the large bin or they would throw him into it head first. He co-operated. Fortunately a prefect saw what had happened, helped Josh out of the bin and as punishment a member of staff gave the two Goths a buckshee day off school today.

I am finding it more and more frustrating to discover that the bullies - at school and throughout life - are winning. The school's hands are tied regarding punishment and these kids are pandered to at the expense of the education of children who really do wish to work hard and get on. Instead of an education system that helps kids to aspire to achieve, the "looked after" kids and those who misbehave ensure that the only common denominator being adhered to is the very lowest one.

Bad kids need to be punished. Giving them a day or two off school whenever they misbehave is not seen as a punishment by them - and I suspect it isn't seen as a punishment by their parents either. They need to feel just a tiny bit frightened and no-one within the school system seems to be able to frighten them. I would quite happily volunteer to be the "Frightening Tzar" but I suspect that this would go against some civil liberties charter somewhere, so could we not embarrass them instead? Rather than saying to them "You've done something wrong, have two days off" couldn't there be a system whereby if they bully another child they're made to wear a fluorescent pink hi-vis vest for a week with the words "I AM A BULLY" boldly written thereon? They wouldn't look quite so cool to their friends then, would they?

I tried to see the head teacher this afternoon when I collected Josh as he is understandably somewhat nervous about repercussions when he goes to school tomorrow when the bullies will have returned from their day's punishment at home. There wasn't a member of staff available to see me. However, I am to expect "a 'phone call". I wonder if and when it will arrive and how far I'll get with my pink-jacketed embarrassment programme suggestion? I don't feel too confident that I'll get very far at all.

So once again I'm in the middle of another week struggling to understand a faddish upside-down education system in a world that's seems to me to have gone entirely mad.

I wonder what the remainder of the week has in store for us?


  1. How stupid to give bullies a day off. Although your hi-vis vest would be good, it won't happen - it might psychologically scar the little darlings for life - I think they should not be allowed to use the school yard or playground (whatever they call it nowadays) at breaks or lunchtime but instead should stay in a classroom.

    That won't happen either because no member of staff would want to supervise them.

    I wonder what would happen if parents started to call the police and want bullies charged with assault when bullying gets physical? The psychological bullying can be as bad or even worse though.

    I really think schools should take a very tough line on bullying instead of the namby pamby way they deal with it now. Maybe you could threaten the school with publicity if they don't do more to protect your son without making a target out of him.

    There are no easy answers, unfortunately.

  2. 'Us' and 'Them' . Again. We, the minority, will always be bullied by the inadequate. It is hard. Have faith in your child and your ability to support and develop his self belief. Be strong, honest and constant. 'Our' children will have better lives than 'theirs'. It is inevitable. We can only control our own handle on the situation , expectation of others is too frustrating. Bullied daughter became dignified Head Girl.

  3. Actually I think the idea of embarrassing miscreants, which has long roots in history (village stocks etc)is a very good one.

    Making bullies apologise to the whole school for their behaviour would be a good idea and they could be given the alternative of wearing a pink vest with "I did something stupid" on it if they preferred, or "I let myself down" or something like that, which places the crime in the past rather than in their present, in the hopes that they will abandon the bad behaviour.

    That vest might be good for other 'crimes' too and save having to have different ones for different misbehaviours - smoking, swearing, whatever.

  4. How the heck do you stay calm about this. I can only imagine how I would want to react to the injustice of this. It would be a way forward to make them wear hi vis with logos on it but then they probably would see it as a trophy. Where is the justice how does good over ride bad????

    Blooming heck, thankfully your son has a loving home to return to each day and of course the increasing animal population.

  5. I don't why humans feel the need to bully others.
    I was bullied mercilessly until I grew taller and fitter than my bullies.
    I like you idea of the pink vest treatment. It probably would provoke claims of human rights breach but someone needs to take a stand.

  6. I'm really touched at receiving such a supportive response from everyone. Thank you!
    The local paper have said they will run a feature on bullying and apparently their Education Correspondent will be in touch with me.
    I'll let everyone know if this occurs and how it goes.
    Many thanks to everyone, again! xx

  7. Lots of things to say although previous comments have said most of it already.

    Firstly, some children ARE magnets for bullies and usually because they stand out in one way or another (e.g. intellect, sensitivity, quietness, loners, size, shape). This is almost unavoidable. Secondly, there is a need for your son to find out how to cope with it. There are bullies in adult life too (not necessarily physical) and he must develop strategies to overcome them. Thirdly, violent beatings are a matter for the police. Assault is a criminal offense. Of course this cannot be used for being given a kick once in a while but if the situation is serious (being put in a dustbin is not that serious to be honest), this course must be used. Fourthly, it is probably not the occasional kicking that is worst. A continuous level of minor assault and abuse over many months from a known group can lead to a perpetual level of fear which is mentally damaging. This is, in my view, the biggest potential problem and is very difficult to counter - particularly, because as your son gets older he will become increasingly reluctant to tell you what is wrong.

    Your son is lucky in one respect. My recollection of being bullied (and seeing a lot of it) is that most of the teachers didn't give a damn.

    As for punishments for bullies? Very difficult. Handing them over individually to the young gentlemen who are three years older might have an effect.

  8. There's such a fine line to tread on how to react to the bullying of one's child. I agree with Nick that being placed in a dustbin is not really PHYSICALLY damaging. However, on the previous occasion when he was bullied, Josh WAS physically hurt - and even then, the physical pain was far less in comparison to the mental discomfort and impotence he felt.

    The only real solution for me is to provide a home environment for my son in which he will always feel comfortable and at ease enough to tell me whatever is troubling him. To date, I've achieved this - how well I'll fare during his oncoming years, I simply cannot know.