Calum McSwiggan

I Guess This Is Growing Up

In Eat on July 11, 2012 at 3:51 pm


‘Maybe I should cry for help, maybe I should kill myself, I blame it on my ADD, baby.’

– Awolnation

I only turned around to write something on the blackboard for a split second when I heard the all-mighty crash. I spun around to see one of my students sat on top of another, repeatedly smashing his head against the corner of the cupboard and screaming at him in Italian. There was blood and cries of agony like I’ve never before heard, and for a few moments I froze, not knowing what to do.

I leapt over my desk, ran across the classroom, pushed the tables out of the way, and pulled the boy off of the other. He thrashed violently, his fists clenched with sweltering rage, still desperately trying to attack the other boy. It took all of my strength to contain him, and he was only nine years old.

He was usually such a well behaved kid too, but when I asked him why he attacked the other boy he said it was because he didn’t like him, and didn’t give any other reason. But he wasn’t alone in this thinking, the boy had ADD and sadly the children couldn’t understand why he was so different, they found the way he acted to be irritating and, after sharing a classroom with him for two weeks, they’d simply had enough.

I took the beaten boy for first aid and then needed to take a moment by myself in the staff room; I blamed myself for allowing that kind of bullying to go on in my classroom but didn’t understand how kids could be so violent at such a young age. I’ve seen kids fight before but this was something else- no holds barred adult violence just in miniature form.

This really opened up my eyes to what bullying can really be like, it’s so easy to say that it’s just a part of growing up but when something like this happens it reminds you how cruel kids can really be. The kid trembled every time there was a loud bang, and he even flinched in terror when I raised my hand to give him a high-five.

I began to think about all of the gay teenagers out there who have committed suicide just for being themselves, and I started to feel anger towards the teachers out there who do nothing to stop it- if bullying isn’t stopped during childhood it will more often than not continue into adult life. But bullying is harder to pick up on than I ever realised, especially when working with children who speak another language, and I knew if I ever wanted to effectively tackle it, I would have to adopt a zero tolerance approach.

When I began my new job in Switzerland I found myself working with children of all different nationalities, and naturally it didn’t take long for racist tensions to arise. I quickly noticed that the Russians were mocking the Saudi Arabians, and with the image of the badly-beaten child still fresh in my mind, determined to not let history repeat itself, I decided to give them all a lesson on culture and tolerance.

It was dreadful. It was like pulling teeth, they refused to communicate with each other and absolutely despised me for making them do it. I perservered, though, and by the end of the lesson they were all excitedly telling each other about their respective cultures and I think some of them even became friends. I felt an enormous sense of accomplishment when one of the Russian boys put his arm around one of the Saudi Arabians at the end of the lesson.

It was exhausting but it was definitely worth the time and effort, and hopefully it will be enough to stop any further blood-shed this week.

  1. Good on you! Bullying is so difficult to monitor. By it’s very nature, it’s often cleverly concealed. And children are uber-sensitive to difference. Well done for trying to redress the balance.

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