Secondary school is a world unto itself.
Inhabited by creatures whose brains are being rewired to such an extent that they no longer resemble other human beings on the planet. Fizzing human bombs (© Danielle Dax) whose hormone levels explode like weapons grade plutonium within the space of a few months and then pulse with a seedy half life that lasts for the next 30 years (if they’re lucky).
I remember it as a callous no-man’s land that delighted in alienating the weak or the different or (rarest of all) those who retained a modicum of human compassion. I felt alone and “outside” for most of my secondary school career. Hey. Why pull the punch? I felt dis-included for ALL of my secondary school career.
It could not be changed. It had to be borne. It had to be endured. And it was a horrifically lonely journey.
My eldest boy has suddenly found himself immersed in that same world. Curriculums might change. Teaching methods might be revolutionized. But the world of the geeky teenager remains essentially the same. The rites of passage that you largely walk alone.
He doesn’t make friends easily. He has trouble “getting” other people. He doesn’t connect well. He swings from ultra negative to overpowering positive without touching the middle ground in an instant; switches from totally controlling teen-god one minute to uber-victim the next who is unable to take responsibility for anyone or anything and thus finds himself always hopelessly disempowered.
Karen and I are at a loss as to how to help him beyond giving advice, helpful practical hints and trying to keep home life as secure as possible.
Because the simple truth is, unless you are one of the lucky ones, secondary school life starts off being diabolically damaging and only gets marginally better with each passing year. End of story.
How do you deal with the sniping comments of others? How do you deal with the bullying tactics of the playground – both overt and secretly snide? How do you deal with people who you once thought of as friends but now decide to ostracise you and leave you out in the cold at every opportunity?
What possible advice can I give to an 11 year old to combat all these issues when they are problems that, 28 years after leaving secondary school and now in full time employment, I still come up against and struggle with every week if not every day?
Because the sad fact is, although Secondary school is a world unto itself that isn’t meant to last forever, for some people (both good and ill), it bloody does.