Most people would probably agree that the struggle during your school years to fit in and make friends is a tough one. The beginning of secondary school (11+) was a more positive time for me.
For the previous 6 years at primary school, I’d ended up in a small group of ‘friends’ whose dynamic consisted of one attention seeking bully, Charlotte, and us three outcasts, who were desperate to not be left out. For my part, not only did I not want to be left out, I needed to be liked and I couldn’t bear to be alone.
So most days would consist of whatever Charlotte desired. Break and lunch times were a constant source of dread to find out who was going to be mocked today, who was going to be ignored, who would be alone. Obviously we did what she said, which would involve turning on our friends. Them today, me tomorrow. We just did it. Anything involving choosing teams was the stuff of horror. Obviously we all chose Charlotte first, and then picked whoever Charlotte told us to. We had to let her win games. Her power over us, her determination to be better than us and keep us down was so strong. She would mock me if I received any praise from a teacher. I was called a teacher’s pet, and it was often used as a reason to isolate me from the group. The level of pain caused by being better than her academically was so hard to tolerate, I deliberately wrote wrong answers in my maths exam at the end of primary school and got a grade lower than I rightly should have done. The shame and sadness this brings as an adult is immense.
I didn’t find out until later that my mother asked the headteacher of the secondary school to keep us separate. This was probably the best thing that happened to me in my school life. Although I had deliberately achieved poorly in that maths exam, I took entrance tests for the secondary school and ended up in the top set. She was a couple of groups down, and as powerful as she had been, the most she ever achieved in secondary school was to persuade a handful of her classmates that I was a ‘boff’ (boffin) and ‘stuck up’ and a person to be hated. After a few weeks of name calling, we were largely separated into ability groups, and she was no longer a big fish in a small pond. The second and third years of secondary school (aged 12-13) were the best for me. I met my best friend, did well academically, and things finally started to fall into place.