The door rattled as he knocked on it.
“Hurry up – we gotta go soon, Beccy.”
“Okay, okay…but, is Josh out of the shower yet?”
My younger brother, Neville, replied in the affirmative as I struggled out of bed and trundled into the shower. Sleep still clung to my eyes. Another day brought another fight. At seven years old, I was sick of my ‘Christian’ school – tired of the kids, the bullies and the constant effort of trying to fit in. I was the second of three siblings. Rather than waking up on my own, we were awakened bright and early and hustled into the shower. We learned how to knot our ties and tie our shoes, before filing into the car and driving to school. At school, assembly would start and we would listen to the headmaster and whoever else decided they wanted a turn at the microphone before heading off to our first class. After two classes recess, eventually lunch came.
I really didn't like recess and lunch either. During these times, I felt lonely and rejected. While I didn’t feel like I wanted to be part of the popular group, I wasn’t keen on being in the Christian girls group. I thought the Christian girls were so boring because they never did anything exciting. I would hang out on the fringes of the cool group, or spend time with Neville and his friends at recess. I liked spending time with Neville. However, I couldn’t spend too much time with him or the other children would brand me as ‘uncool,’ for spending too much time with the ‘little kids’.
So I’d wander off down the newly mown school yard by myself. Joshua, my older brother, was mad about soccer and at lunchtime he was always trying to kick the leather off the ball. But, he was a year older and always too busy to hang out with the ‘little kids’. I understood. But then I was still lonely. Sometimes, I would catch a glimpse of my father who would volunteer to mow the school lawns. My heart leaped when I saw who it was and I’d run over and give him a hug. Seeing my father was the highlight of my day. My father! Here at my school! However, he would soon send me back to the classroom, afraid of interfering with my education.
I didn't like my lessons either. I was at the bottom of my class and I struggled with feeling stupid as I was usually one of the last ones to finish the tasks they set for us. It seemed like everyone else understand, but me. Was it just me who was always waiting for the teacher’s help? Having my hand up constantly was so humiliating. I had to ask for help all the time. The girl sitting at the next desk from me would always put up her hand first to signal she had finished. I was only half way through. Soon I was embarrassed as everyone seemed to be waiting for me to finish and I was holding the class up.
At the end of the day, we filed up for the bus in multiple lines. The teacher shouted to quiet everyone down and get their attention, something she did all the time. “The best-behaved line gets onto the buses first.” Everything was a contest. That was the only way they could control us. Everybody didn't like waiting in line...unsurprising, I know. So we tried to behave as best we could. In the end, the oldest line of Year 4 students always got picked anyway... I don’t know why I tried. Things seemed a bit futile!
When we were on the bus, my younger brother, Neville, usually sat with me in the front row because it was a bit rowdy at the back. Neville and I always sat together. I didn’t mind that part. I listened to him chatter away about his day. I loved hearing my little brother talk. It was almost relaxing. We enjoyed each other’s company. However, this day we got on the bus and the big kids hadn’t taken the back seats. Neville looked at me with excitement and ran to the back seat. What an opportunity to sit where the ‘cool’ people sat, he must have thought. I watched him running up the back of the bus, his oversized school bag bobbing up and down on his back. He signaled to me to sit next to him. I declined the offer but sat a few rows up to keep an eye on him.
Something told me the back seat was a dangerous place to be. As the bus filled up, the oldest children sat next to Neville, either side of his small body like towering pillars. But, where was Jordan? He was the biggest and coolest of them all. He was the pack leader, the show-off, and the bully. Neville was oblivious to the danger. As the bus was set to pull out, Jordan jumped on the bus last and sauntered toward the back seat, making jokes with the children and throwing insults as he went. Eventually, he reached the back and saw Neville. His eyes narrowed as he saw the little boy on the seat, a big grin displayed; Neville was enjoying himself immensely.
“What are you doing in my seat?” Jordan bellowed.
“It’s not your…”
But before Neville got further, Jordan caught him by the hair of his head, lifted him out of the seat and dumped him unceremoniously on the floor. Neville started to cry, his face going red with fear and embarrassment. He picked himself up and shuffled over to the spare seat beside me. I got out of my seat, furious at what I had just witnessed and exploded. “I can’t believe you just did that, Jordan! You big bully! You’re horrible and that was a nasty, nasty thing to do to a little boy.” Jordan looked shamefaced and mumbled something about being sorry. I got in my seat next to Neville, who was still sobbing quietly. We were hoping the day would end soon…
While I only spent three years at school, I’d already discovered so much wrong there. My Christian school was supposed to provide a good Christian education. While the school’s theory and curriculum looked Christian, what was modeled by my classmates (and sometimes even teachers), was not. Our Christian school was often a lonely and ruthless place. My early school experience felt like doggy paddling in a vast, deep ocean with no land in sight. Here we fought for survival.
About the Author
Rebbecca Devitt is an Australian Christian homeschooling author, writer and blogger at whyonearthhomeschool.com. She is a homeschool graduate, dementia nurse, wife and mother who lives in Wollongong, Australia. If you would like to contact her with questions, please contact her on the CONTACT page.