Search this blog

Friday, 25 August 2017

School Social Hierarchy

I never liked school. I felt lonely, frustrated and misunderstood. I was never comfortable being a teenager (but then who is?) I was a happy child but I was still frustrated – more so when I got to age 7+. I used to dream of adulthood. To me, adulthood symbolises freedom. A choice to be responsible for your actions and take control of your life. Childhood symbolises restrictions and being told what to do by everyone else. I don’t agree with the phrase ‘childhood is the best time of your life’ and never have.

I’m a pretty cheerful person, and care deeply for others. I try to be as positive and kind as I can. I guess it’s normal to have doubts and think things like ‘I’m a bad person’ or ‘no one likes me.’ Children and teenagers can be some of the nastiest people in the world, because they’re too young to fully grasp empathy. Even the cruellest of adults are smarter about this; they’ll play with you overtime rather than dash cruelty straight to your face.

Hierarchy is a part of evolution. The fittest survive whilst the weakest die out. Humans naturally fall into some part of hierarchy. This is one of the reasons I think communism is nonsense; it ignores the basic parts of human nature. Some people are natural leaders. Some are more passive. Some are more charismatic and like to be the centre of attention. Others are loners.

School social hierarchies universally are pretty much the same: populars, inbetweeners and losers. Within these ‘cliques’ you have sub-cliques. What defines a person as popular/unpopular will vary depending on culture and time frame. When my dad was growing up in 60s/70s Tanzania, reading was viewed as cool and all the popular kids read. For me, growing up in 2000s London, reading was viewed as boring; something nerdy kids do.

Popular kids in inner city London are as observed: loud, boisterous and travelling in large groups. The girls can’t be meek, they have to be the forefront of the student body. The boys are usually sporty and equally charismatic. Usually these students aren’t well-liked; on the contrary, the rest of the school secretly despises the popular kids. But they are respected, admired, revered and feared. In secondary school one of the most popular boys in my year was this guy who always was up in assemblies to sing. He was a nice enough guy, but most people viewed him as arrogant and disliked him. Doubtlessly this came from jealousy; he used to get the ‘special treatment’ from teachers due to his charm and singing ability. 

The girls were generally drama queens, waltzing into class with their Blackberry phones and loud chitter-chatter and stylish bags, making everyone else feel intimated. They all had this presence. Individually, none of them were nasty people; I didn’t care about most people I went to school with but I didn’t dislike anyone. It’s not in my nature to hate people anyway (although there are people out there that hate me). But when they were together they created this force, and that I believe is what made them so strong. Autonomy is everything when it comes to popularity. It’s not about wealth or class (most of the kids I went to school with were working class), it’s about character and ‘teamwork.’ If you’re a loner (which I am, in a way) you can’t be popular.

Most of these kids didn’t mind me. In primary school I was seriously unpopular; I was a loser, everyone made fun of me, I was a stone’s throw from being Carrie White without the crazy religious fundamentalist mum. But in secondary school I was alright. I had a reputation that fluctuated. Initially I was ‘just there’, another smart goody-two-shoes. Then in year 8 and year 9 a few incidents happened that got me labelled as a bit of a freak with anger-management problems. I was too young to realise I was depressed, and my school at the time didn’t discuss mental health that I knew of. Later on as I got more engrossed in my music and began making YouTube videos towards the end of my time in secondary school, people started knowing me for that. I used this pseudonym ‘Zoronita’ which gained me some credibility among my peers. Some people took the piss because that’s what teenagers do, but a lot of them actually liked my stuff. I’ll never forget the end of year performance when I performed on stage and my whole year was cheering. They all wrote some pretty great things in my yearbook too about hoping to see me on TV and being successful in the future.

So I wasn’t unpopular in secondary school, but I was never popular. I had friends, and we were definite ‘inbetweeners’; not cool enough to be popular but not lame enough to be losers. But as I mentioned, even though I had friends I was always a loner deep down. Friends take the piss out of each other; girls fall out and drama happens, and I always felt a bit lonely and left out even when I wasn’t. I’d had no basis of healthy female friendship because of my time in primary school, so I never really knew how to behave. 

I always felt in secondary school that if you weren’t popular you were ‘irrelevant’, i.e. irrelevant to the students who ‘ran’ the school on social grounds. Even in our yearbook in pages ‘Sisters’ and ‘Bromances’ there was no mention of anyone who wasn’t part of that massive group that made up less than half of our year. Unless you were close friends with someone who was in that circle, or you were like me – someone with a strong character and sense of individuality – you went through school unnoticed by your peers, apart from your close friends and the teachers that liked you. I always liked the teachers; at my core I’m a nerdy teacher’s pet, a Hermione-type student. I always gave my teachers little messages at the end because – well because I liked them and I never had any trouble with teachers. Kids like me don’t.

In sixth form things changed a bit; when kids hit 16/17 it seems social hierarchy starts mattering less. Once you enter university it’s all but gone, and everyone just blends in with everyone. By the time everyone’s grown up the popular kids are working at McDonalds and the unpopular kids are running the country. That’s pretty much how life goes. But there were still cliques. ‘Roadmen’ – bad boys that thought they were all that, that wore trackies and chatted up insecure girls that would give blowjobs to anyone and were so stupid they barely knew a quarter of words in the dictionary.  Wannabe-type girls, otherwise known as ‘thots’. Mostly just attention-seeking bitches that post pictures of their cleavage on Instagram and get a million likes. 

Then there were druggies – or ravers; people that partied a lot. The demographic of my secondary school was black working class, where people were more likely to drink and smoke weed (not me, cos I was never invited). The demographic of my sixth form was white middle class, where people were more likely to use harder drugs like ecstasy and ketamine (not me, cos I was hardly invited. By the end of sixth form I was drinking alone anyway). My friends were mostly white working class kids. The school my sixth form was attached to had a reputation for heavy drug users. I’ve heard stories about kids turning up to class stoned. I know a lot of them were heavy partiers, and they’d get pissed almost every weekend.

Then you had normal ‘inbetweeners’ which was where I fit in – misfits that didn’t really relate to anyone else, that were all sort of clumped together because we weren’t cool enough to go out with the kids that took MDMA or lame enough to be ostracised by our peers. The ‘lamest’ of kids were usually the disabled ones or just plain quiet; people that didn’t appear to have any friends at all, that everyone else seemed to shun. I remember a few of those types of kids in secondary school.

Generally school sucks. My view is that it’s not a happy time of a person’s life. It starts too early, there are too many rules and regulations, lessons can be boring as hell, kids are petty and mean, all the boys are trying to hit on as many girls as they can and all the girls are squeaky drama queens that fall out every ten seconds. But it’s part of life, and everyone’s got to go through it. The main consolation is that it doesn’t last forever and when you get out the exit is joyous and you never have to return.

No comments:

Post a comment

I'm Zarina Macha, an author, blogger, and musician from London. I write about stuff on the internet 'cos having opinions is fun -- if you want to join the games, please note your thoughts below. All thoughts welcome, even if they're mean (just no spam links please -- can't tell you what a liability those are to remove).
I've also published three YA fiction books and two poetry volumes. To check em out, copy and paste this link into your browser: