The moment I touched the dip pen I was flung back in time to a classroom when I was in junior school
and I felt again the horror, the sickening feeling of being bullied. It was because the dip pen was so
often the instrument of torture used by my bullies. It was stabbed into me as I sat in class. My pen
was taken and stabbed into the desk so that the tip became anything but a writing implement and I
would have to go out to the front and ask for a new nib and of course this would then bring in the
second form of bullying: name calling. And it wasn't just from other children; it was from the teacher
"How much is that duck worth?"
"Why is there a puddle on the floor?"
"The duck weed".
"We don't want rotten duck eggs around here."
And all because I had come up from the south of England, from London with a southern accent that I
tried so very hard to change as quickly as possible and with a surname, Duckworth, that at that time
was not the household name it became after Coronation Street and Vera and Jack. Many is the time
that I pleaded with my parents to allow me to change my surname. Every day was a struggle at
"I don't want to go to school; I've got a tummy ache."
"I feel sick, I've got a headache. I just don't want to go!"
And my parents just saying, "But you have got to go to school!"
They didn't understand what was going on. They couldn't understand that a teacher was instigating
this sort of bullying. And I never did discover why because he died before I was old enough to ask
him. So it went on until I was rescued by the eleven plus, which separated me from most of my
tormentors and at long last I got the chance to start to enjoy schooling in a way that I hadn't done for
the past five years.
Bullying is the worst thing that can happen to a child who is already uncertain of themselves. It has
affected my whole life. Even now I cannot watch TV programmes on bullying without being physically
sick. I cannot cope with arguments in meetings. I was always most careful when I was teaching to
stop bullying as soon as I was aware of it and not only in my own class.
Looking back I have to admit that in many ways I was lucky. When I was at school bullies used fists
and boots and words, not knives. Only today on the one o' clock news I heard that a teenager had
died in hospital having being stabbed by a gang of other teenagers. That did not happen when I was
being bullied. And for that I am most eternally grateful.