by Gaz Coward
After the catalyst comes my high school days....
| If you were to go and discuss your school days with your parents, no doubt they would turn round to you and say that those days are meant to be the best days of your life!
It's the same as going on the internet, if you type in the question "Are your school days supposed to be the best part of your life?" you can be sure that no matter what website you come across, you'll find that anyone over the age of twenty one will not only give you a one word answer but they'll give you a thirty word essay. They'll include things like, back in the day the girls would wear an even layer of makeup, your skirt or pants were perfect, you could even tell your friends which lad or girl you fancied and that person would never find out because your friends were friends! If you compare all of the above with the way schools are today, you'll find that things are completely different, such as.... The girls don't just put an even layer of makeup on their faces instead they put three layers, the male students hate the fact they have to wear pants so they'll make up an excuse as to why they should get away with forgetting to come to school dressed in the right clothes. A girls skirt can't be just above the knees, which are classed as a medium but instead they have to be extremely short and show off enough skin as possible. Finally if you fancy someone everyone knows about it before you open your mouth! How's that for an incredible change? For some teenagers high school is still the best days of their lives but, for me that isn't so. The reason for this is because I was bullied all the way through high school. I know what you're thinking, why didn't I confess to being bullied before my dad died? Well because before my dad died it was just verbal bullying but when he died it became something much worse.
When my dad was alive it was his wish that I attended the same high school as he did. The reason I say his wish is because my mums school was situated forty miles away in a town she used to live in as a teenager and my family loved our current living situation so they came to the arrangement that I would attend St. Aidans High school, with a travelling distance of only eight miles. I managed to attend the school for just under one year and I seriously didn't enjoy my time there so, my parents reasoned with me and we agreed I would enrol in another school. Warbreck High which soon changed its name to Beacon Hill in Blackpool, well on the outskirts. This is where my troubles began.
You see there are two types of schools, schools situated in rural areas such as St. Aidans that aren't so rough and schools such as Warbreck/Beacon Hill which are very rough because they are situated in a town or city. You're all probably wondering where the saying "Go on mate, rack 'em up!" comes in, well that saying started in year eleven. I know I've skipped four years of high school but like I said the only things I had to put up with was mainly verbal bullying and the saying is, "sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt you."
I used to constantly say that line before I went to school. While I was attending school and finally when school had finished for the day but when the verbal bullying became something much worse I honestly didn't know what I should do next. Anyway, as I said earlier the bullying started just after my dad died. The reason being when someone in your family dies his/her next of kin normally inherit some sort of pension/trust fund. My mum inherited my dads pension fund and well in fact she inherited four of them. On inheriting the money my father had put away for his family, my mum spoke with a financial adviser and managed to pay off most of our property bills, along with having some money left over to buy a brand new car and it's the car that fuelled the bullying and pushed it into the extreme. I remember the first day my mum picked me up at the school gates in her brand new car and the first time someone made the nasty comment "I guess your dad dying was a good thing, huh?" this comment really upset me because I just thought to myself how could someone say something so hurtful with a huge grin on their face and no guilt? It wasn't until the next day that this comment would give the bullying a little more fuel. I was sitting in English and our assignment for the lesson was to pick a book from the library and read one chapter then write about what we'd just read in as much detail as possible. So like I said, I'm sitting in the library reading a book about the UK's most notorious criminals when all of a sudden I'm hit in the back of the head with a pencil compass, you know what I mean the thing with a sharp end that sticks into your paper and a pencil tightly screwed in and pushed down so you can draw a circle, exactly. They hurt! The compass didn't just hit me and drop to the floor I had to literally pull it out of my head then put pressure on the wound to stop it bleeding. I got up from my seat and I started making my way to the door, but just as I'm about to leave my English teacher Mrs Lund stops me. "Where are you going?" she said.
"I'm going to sort my head out downstairs with the nurse, where do you think?" I replied and her solution was that I went back to my seat and put up with whatever anyone said or did until the end of the class then go and see the nurse at break. Me being me I decided to do exactly what she said but I also tried to tell her what had just happened and guess what.... She didn't even wanna hear it. She said, if I had the guts to storm out of the classroom without telling her first then she was ignorant enough not to listen. So I'm sitting back down and one of my mates, Barrie Stokes comes over and sits down next to me. He tells me that Mrs Lund is a waste of time because he's been having the same kind of trouble as me for the past four years. I felt a little guilty because I don't know how anyone could ever put up with bullying and harassment for so long without getting any help, What's the motto.... "Don't stay silent, tell someone, tell anyone, bullying isn't acceptable!" How can we live up to that motto when the teachers don't want to listen or take any notice for that matter?
The bullying in Mrs Lund's English class went on for about three - four weeks with the teacher taking absolutely no notice of what was taking place, it didn't just stop there. It started escalating and going on in other classrooms. Luckily, some of the other teachers weren't as ignorant and they took responsibility for their classes by telling the bullying students to leave the classroom and not return. Let's head back to Mrs Lund's class for a little while longer. The bullying from the pupils continues, but then it started coming from the teacher as well ! Let me explain.... Nearing the end of the school year, I think there was three - four months left of term, we were given an assignment of writing a one thousand word story about a young boy that felt so strongly about something that he wanted to succeed in doing it, my choice for this story was about a young boy (me) who was being bullied at school and just wanted to succeed in making people stop bullying him every minute/second of the school day. The essay itself took me two weeks to complete and hand in for marking; I thought I'd done a very good job of it, until Mrs Lund stopped me one day at the end of class because she wanted to talk about my story. I thought she wanted to talk about how real it was and what was really going on in my life but instead she wanted to return the paper over to me for a re-write because the descriptions within were way too realistic and disturbing that she couldn't give me a pass unless I toned it down or better yet, wrote about something more rewarding. I decided to take the paper from her and go home to re-write but not without asking what would happen if I didn't complete the assignment? She said, "You will fail this class" and in the UK if you fail English then there isn't a lot of employers that will hire you because English counts as half of your final grade right up there with maths and science.
I spent days and days thinking about what to do about my handed back essay. I didn't know what else I could possibly write about all I knew is that I had tried my hardest for the first time ever, to do a good piece of writing in a class that I totally hated. Okay now I just want to point out and make it as clear as possible that I DO NOT condone cheating, but I have to admit cheating is what came to mind mainly because I only had a week to write a new term paper, because by this time I had now rewritten the paper over four times and every time, it had been handed back to me either ripped up or with a big red pen line through it. When I say I thought about cheating, I don't mean copying someone else's paper, I mean getting someone else to write the paper for me. Only I couldn't get someone in my class to do it because the teacher would recognise the hand writing within minutes of handing it in so I did the only thing possible.... I went round to an old friend who used to work at the local video store and I asked if he would be interested in writing an essay for me for fifty pounds cash. I won't name the person but I will tell you that this lad was known for A* essays when he was in collage and hopefully he could get me an A* by writing my paper. To my surprise he accepted my fifty pounds and began work on the paper. It took about two days to complete but when he handed it back to me and I paid him I offered him a little more cash in exchange for the rest of the year in term papers, he accepted with a smile on his face, knowing it was easy money for hardly any work. The next day, I went into school and waited for my English class to role around which on that day was my last class of the day. Once in class, I sat at the back of the room waiting for the teacher to question me on my essay and when she did let's just say my heart began racing. Yes, I knew she wouldn't recognise the hand writing, but then again the hand writing was very scruffy and maybe that would make her think as if I'd rushed it to get it in faster. She took the paper from me and gave it a quick glance before turning her back on me, walking over to her desk and putting it down, she continued class without any mention of my paper, well without any mention until class had ended. I spent the whole class sweating, just think that if she found out the truth behind my paper I would be kicked out of school. I prayed she didn't figure me out.
When class finally ended, students started leaving the room, I started doing the same but then the teacher stopped me. She had a blank face, in other words the conversation could of gone either way....
o I think it's time you admitted the truth about who actually wrote your essay.
o I know you didn't write this paper Garry.
o Why didn't you write a paper like this in the first place when I first asked?
She went with number three and my heart stopped racing accompanied with my face breaking into a smile, she said "This is the best essay I've read from this class" I didn't know how to answer because I hadn't read what my friend had written so I didn't know anything about the paper so, I just hoped she didn't ask me about any segments within. My teacher didn't let me leave straight away but instead she grabbed the dreaded red pen and sat down at her desk. She began scrolling through it as if memorizing every word, every so often she smiled and looked up at me. I thought "Oh god she's gonna figure me out" Once complete she marked it, she scribbled a large red A+ in the middle of the paper and handed it back to me.... "If you continue to write like that for the rest of this year, you'll be off to collage with your head held high, great work!" I didn't question what she said but just nodded and asked if I could leave? She nodded and I went on my way.
I felt a whole lot more relaxed, cheating at that moment in time felt as though anything was possible, should I do it again? So I've explained to you and told you all about how I cheated on a huge assignment for my English class, I guess it's now safe to admit that even though I DO NOT condone cheating, that it did continue for a few more months before the guy writing my papers decided it was time that I started doing my own work now that my grades had finally guaranteed me a pass course work wise. But, there is one other thing that did not come to an end and that's the bullying. I don't remember the exact date but, on one particular day I was in my maths lesson being taught by one of my all time favourite teachers, Mr Smallwood, he was my favourite teacher because he actually made his lessons fun. He let us have the radio on while we did our written work but also when trying to teach something, he would have a laugh with his class and joke about his teaching methods.
So there I am sitting at the back of the class, Mr Smallwood is teaching as usual, only with his back to us, writing something on the black board. Yes, I know most schools use white boards but Mr Smallwood was one of those teachers who loved his job, hence why he vowed to stick with his trusted old school black board. To be honest with you, the reason he kept the black board was down to a kind of little keep safe he had, let me explain.... Most teachers desks these days consist of paperwork and additional coursework but Mr Smallwood, no matter what lesson he was teaching would always at the start of class reach into the bottom draw of his desk and pull out a little tin, you know what I mean the kind you would probably have these days if you smoked home made roll up cigarettes. Anyway, like I said at the start of each lesson he would pull out this tin and inside wouldn't be cigarettes, but instead be his very own set of coloured chalk for his trusted black board. There was also a reason behind the chalk and tin that he once told us. The way he put it was that the day that his tin decided to break and the day he could no longer carry his chalk in it would be the day he finally handed in his notice and retired from teaching. The class not really understanding why someone would put their career on the line because of some stupid little tin that could break at anytime laughed at Mr Smallwood's story, but then again I thought to myself, why are they laughing? The reason being, my maths class was full of idiots. Yes, some days he had good laughs with the class but others he would get so pissed off with them that he would actually pick up his trusted tin and throw it across the classroom hitting the back wall. Didn't they understand that all the additional fun they had in Mr Smallwood's class could be over sooner than they think if they didn't stop angering him and causing him to throw that tin?
Back to that unfortunate day in Mr Smallwood's maths class. I'm still sitting at the back of the classroom, his back to the class when suddenly a ballpoint pen hits me in the side of the head. Without thinking, I turned to my left and stood up looking down on a lad that I'd run into trouble with in the past. His name was Daniel Brierley, a chubby lad but also very cocky and had many more friends than myself. "What the fuck's your problem?" I said. Daniel stands and confronts me, his head almost touching my nose "Getting ready to knock a prick out, that's what" he replies. Mr Smallwood quickly turned round on hearing all the bad language and shouts to us "OI" he starts approaching the back of the room, getting closer and closer to mine and Daniel's confrontation but before I could reply to Daniel, he gives me a hefty push, I fall backwards over a desk, the class cheering him on as he jumps on me, his fist making contact with my face multiple times. Finally, Mr Smallwood reaches my side, he grabs Daniel off of me and like something out of a terminator movie he throws Daniel a few feet away. Daniel tries to go for him but he keeps his arm pushed firmly out stopping Daniel from coming any closer and that's when a second teacher enters the room and dissolves the situation in defence of myself and Mr Smallwood.
The complication in maths class forced me to sit in the schools main reception office for the rest of the morning classes because the head teacher didn't want anymore trouble. To be honest, he didn't really question me on what went on but then again was that because he didn't want to get involved? Thought I was the main cause behind it? Or even because he just didn't know how to approach the situation? I'll let you make up your own minds on that one because to this day I still don't know the answer. Let's come back to the line used earlier in my story "Go on mate, rack 'em up!" by one of my best friends, Jamie Dawson. I continued sitting in the schools reception until the double doors leading into the corridor flung open and in walked Jamie and Ben. Jamie walked straight over to me, grabbed my bag from the floor and started leaving. "What the hell are you doing?" I replied. "You're coming with us" Ben replied. "I can't I have to stay here until I'm told I can leave" I replied. Jamie was in no way going to let me sit alone and that's when he said it "You're coming down to the drama hall; you're going to play some pool" To be honest I wasn't going to say no because well.... I enjoyed playing pool and maybe it would take my mind off things.
On reaching the drama hall, the pool tables were located right at the back of the room, reserved for the year eleven students, only I got my first challenge and you'll never guess who it was from, yep the one and only idiot that had started the fight with me in maths class, Daniel Brierly, he said he wanted to settle the score with a game of pool. I thought only that kind of stuff was seen in the movies, but I accepted and the game began.
I didn't get off to such a good start, yes I had won the break by the flip of a coin landing on tails but my actual break wasn't that of a good one. In fact, I didn't even pot any balls which is a must if you plan on getting ahead of the game. It was Daniel's turn and so he started potting his balls. The first one went down, then the second, then a third, then even a forth, he had three balls remaining when he missed that final shot, and me? Well, I still had seven balls on the table. Now I don't know how many of you reading this know of the rule.... If you are seven balled then you have to whip your pants down and flash to the whole room but we played by the rule and there was no way in hell I was going to embarrass myself in such a way. I once again had control of the table and so I started taking my second chance at finally getting some balls down the pockets. Luck was on my side, my first ball went down, then my second, my third almost bounced off the table but luckily just made it into the corner pocket. I potted my forth, I was on a roll and my fifth went in the top right pocket almost followed by my sixth but that was cut short as my head was suddenly struck from behind with a pool cue. I remember the cue hitting me, my head smacking the table and completely blanking out. The next thing I remember was waking up on the floor, Mr Smallwood the same teacher from maths class and the teacher who watched over the pool games, standing over me asking if I was okay along with my friends Jamie and Ben. My head was sore and to be honest I was seeing double of what I should have been seeing. I know that all of what you're reading sounds like something that you'd only see in the movies but I went into writing all this to reveal literally everything in plain black and white of what has happened throughout my life, so there is no way I'm going to hold back on the details and if it sounds too good to be true then my only reply is that you should continue reading, because it didn't stop there. On finally coming around, my vision returning to normal I questioned three things that I could do next. 1) I get up and fight back. 2) I stay on the floor and make up a story that I don't remember who I am "Very dramatic I know" or 3) Get up, grab my bag and leave the school completely, as in storm out of the school gates, down the road and catch a bus home. One problem.... I had no money left from lunch so that would mean waiting somewhere out of school till the end of school bell.
So there I am walking around in Blackpool with no idea what to do. I didn't want to go back to school but I also didn't really want to call my mum because I knew she would come and pick me up and end up taking me back to school but then again would she or would she not understand why I've left school? I decided to give into my inner self and I called my mum, and guess what me ringing her couldn't have come at a better time because one of my friends, a lad called Danny who was a few years older than me had at that same moment popped round to mine to drop something off that I'd left in his car the night before. My mum answered the phone and when she heard my voice, she thought I was going to ask for a favour but instead when I told her the real reason for calling, she became slightly concerned. Danny listened as the conversation unfolded and also became pretty concerned for what he was hearing and so I hung up.
The following events that took place between the hour of 2 - 3pm, I know what happened and how it all unfolded because of later conversations with my mother and friends as they explained the events and how they led up to me being met at the school gates....
As my mum hung up the phone, very concerned for what had happened Danny started questioning what was wrong "Andrea, what's happened with Gaz?" he says. "They've done it again" she replied. "Done what, hit him again?" he asked more furiously. "Yes" my mum replied with a quick grab of the coat and her car keys. My mum jumped in her car and Danny quickly ran back to his own but the one difference with him was that he was at this time on his mobile to some friends, people I didn't know but knew of. Slowly trickling down the road my mum continued driving into Blackpool not only was Danny close behind in his done up bad boy racer car but at every two or three mile mark another car would sneakily join my mum and Danny and start following closing behind and by the time my mum reached the school gates not only did Danny pull into the side of the road but another three cars did the same, each occupying two teenagers per vehicle. My mum got ready to step out of her car but before she could do so Danny walks up to the drivers door window where she winds it down "If you wait here, we'll go and sort Gaz out" Danny said. "If you do that you'll just make it worse" she replied. "Trust me those dickheads won't be breathing after we've had a word" he replied again. My mum at that point agreed to Danny's words and knew that he wasn't happy with what had happened as he walked back to his car, opened the drivers door and slowly reached inside and under the seat where he pulled out a metal bar, away from public eyes he slipped the bar up the sleeve of his jacket for easy access if needed anytime soon.
Equipped with his metal bar not only for his own protection but for the protection of myself, he started walking back towards my mums car and at that same moment I came down the road and saw my mum and Danny conversing. At first, I was very curious as to what my mum had to say to me but then again I didn't really get a chance to ask because Danny was the first one to approach me, "Right, I want to know exactly where the hell these lads are and which way they walk home" he told me. To start with I hesitated because the furious tone in his voice made me realise straight away how much of a friend he was and that he wanted to rip the bullies heads off, "They're.... They're.... They go home via the back gate, not the front" I replied. Danny turned and looked back at his mates cars, nodded and signalled them over. In a flash all cars were empty, I was surrounded by a well prepared group of friends who were ready to do anything in the way of protecting me, I wonder what was going through they're heads.... Was it rage? Death wishes? Frustration? Upset?
I remember, as I lead Danny and the rest of the group through the school grounds the headmaster stepped out of a side door, stepping in front of us, his arms stretched, cutting off our path. "Where are you going?" He asked. "Oh, err.... We just got a call from my mum, she's picking us up from the back gate" I replied. Nodding with an unconvinced kind of look he moved slowly to one side, allowing us to pass as we continued on our way. By this point I could feel my head pounding, my heart racing, sweat starting to drip down my face, not only was it very hot but I was very scared as to what was going to happen. I finally lead Danny and his friends to the group of lads that were bullying me. Heading out of the back gate of the school and onto a local estate we walked through the small winding roads until reaching a main road. I remember us walking down a slight hill and under a dark bridge. It was one of these bridges that were overly used in the film "A Clockwork Orange", you know the kind I'm on about... the ones where cars run down the middle, footpaths either side and walls splattered full of graffiti in many colours. Danny and his friends were still following closely behind as I noticed a couple of really good friends coming towards us in the opposite direction, with there backpacks firmly over their shoulders they noticed me approaching. There was a look of confusion across their faces because me being surrounded by a huge group of friends wasn't really something they'd witnessed at school. As we approached them they almost stepped around us but at that same moment Danny pulled the metal bar from his sleeve and raised it above both the lads heads fuelled with anger "What the hell do you think you're doing kicking shit out my mate, huh?" Danny said. Instantly the lads became scared, they're mouths dropped, eyes wide open and in total confusion as to why he didn't let me tell him who they were, I had to defuse the situation as quickly as I could before he did something reckless and start on the wrong lads. Calming the situation, I asked the two lads if they had seen the group that had been causing me problems, their answer "Why? What do you want them for?" as expected was a question, a question that I know would later lead to them passing on our answer to the lads bullying me so "Just want to ask them something" I replied. I could tell just by looking into the lad's eyes that they knew why we wanted to speak to them, due to Danny's anger and raising the bar earlier in the conversation. "You just missed them, they just got on the number two bus up the street" they told us. That's when I knew that not only had the chance of Danny kicking off with the group of lads and causing more trouble for me the next day at school had been avoided but my hot sweats and pounding head could finally ease and we could get back in the cars and go home, then come up with a better solution to the problem. After all, two wrongs don't make a right so not finding the group of bullies was the better outcome all round.,