When I tell people stories from high school, I think they think I’m full of shite or at the very least an avid storyteller, somebody with a bit of imagination who cannae help but exaggerate. But no word of a lie, the kids and the teachers from my stories existed.
I’ll be honest with you, I hated high school. I wasn’t in a clique or group of any kind, I had my pals and I just kinda kept my head down and got on with it through the madness. I was so quiet at high school but most of that was down to shyness and anxiety, not that anybody gave a shit, kids or teachers alike. People just thought you must’ve been a weirdo if you weren’t causing it 24/7 and I was alright with that.
Fortunately, I never experienced bullying of any kind, I saw people go through hell at school and as an adult I look back wishing I’d done more about it back then because it still doesn’t sit right with me. I’d ‘stick up’ for people every now and then, but you can always do more and hindsight helps you realise that.
If I’m being dramatic, I’d say I 'survived' high school and the possibility of enduring tough times down to two reasons. Firstly, my mum always told me to answer people back and if anyone threatened me her motherly advice was to call them out on it. I trusted my mum with my life (and still do) and believed in her so much but it’s a fucking miracle I never got lamped. Any time anyone said anything to me that was nasty or threatening I retaliated with the verbal diarrhea my mum advised me to use and lone behold nothing ever came to a head. Her logic was that if someone was gona hit me the chances of them telling me a few times before it meant it was highly unlikely, so call their bluff. She was lucky she was right otherwise I’d have been black and blue a good few times.
The second reason I survived was because I got the ‘green machine’ to and from school. This was the rickety old double decker bus that shipped us catholic kids passed the protestant schools at an earlier time slot so we wouldn’t get caught up in ‘religious, territorial teen violence’ or as we knew it - neds from different schemes fighting each other. I have to thank the stupid fucker then, that decided to pap us all on a big fuck off green bus as subtle as the bricks that used to fly through the windaes at us and scheduled our pick up times to be 8.45 and 3.45 just in time for us to be driving by the other schools at their start time of 9 and finish time of 4pm. Fucking genius. Total set up. Put the catholic kids on a green bus you can spot a mile away and then leave them stranded and outnumbered when shit hits the fan. Absolute brain power at it’s best. I didnae half learn to run fast though so, every cloud and that.
But, as much as this bus nearly got me killed off out of school, it probably saved me in school. Due to the reputation this bus had, people just assumed if you got on that bus you were a big raging ned that knew people, that knew people and you weren’t to be messed with. This was so not the case for me but on a couple of occasions when someone attempted to start on me at school I’d hear someone else say “you mad? She gets oan the green bus” and then the wee dick antagoniser would often apologise or shut up and fuck off. I’d never correct their thinking. If they thought I was worth a watching then, for an easy life I was more than cool with that. Inside I was more than likely shitting myself in case I got battered.
When I think about the kids that lived up to the stereotype of the green bus, I think ACEs. Adverse Childhood Experiences. Again, as an adult and becoming better informed, I now know what these kids had to go through both at home and at school. I’m now aware of the individual trauma they were dealing with that led them to behave sometimes violently and recklessly towards themselves and others and I’m not excusing it but I understand it. The training I’ve done in my professional career has taught me how to look out for red flags, how to identify attachment behaviours and how to best support those kids that are hell bent on pushing everybody away from them because ironically they’re desperate for someone to stick around.
I genuinely feel gutted for the lack of education that was around back then in relation to trauma informed behaviours. If parents, teachers and support staff had been better equipped maybe some kids I went to school with wouldn’t have been repeatedly suspended, labelled as trouble makers, isolated and maybe teachers would’ve stuck around if they had the right support to deal with what was going on. Those kids that were broken in school weren’t suddenly fixed when they became adults. They were still broken and still in need of somebody to care about them. A lot of people I went to school with haven’t had the best time in life and when I think back to their experience of school or their behaviour at school as a result of their personal circumstance, it’s no wonder.
ACEs can be a vicious cycle within families for many reasons. I’m thankful now as a nurture certified educator that it continues to be highlighted and championed by the likes of Suzanne Zeedyk, John Carnochan and James Doherty. Honestly if you get a chance to look up, listen to or go see any of these people at a conference PLEASE do. You’ll be walking away with a wealth of understanding and compassion for any kids that come into your life in any capacity after, I promise you that. It only takes one adult to impact the life of a child positively, just one so we should all know how to be prepared in case it’s one of us right? Mon the young team.
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