I picked on anyone who was an easy target

By Vaimoana Tapaleao

Helen Magasiva was a bully when she was a pupil at West Auckland schools in the 1990s. Photo / Supplied
Helen Magasiva was a bully when she was a pupil at West Auckland schools in the 1990s. Photo / Supplied

School teacher Helen Magasiva is known for her happy personality, big smile and love for children.

But some who knew her as a child will know her as a bully.

Ms Magasiva still remembers the fear she sparked in children she harassed growing up as a youngster in West Auckland in the 1990s.

"There was one girl I collared against the wall and just told her to stay out of my way or else I'd beat her up. I still remember her face - she was scared as.

"I remember her trying to be nice all the time and not stepping out of line.

"She used to give me her lunch even though I never asked. I went from primary to intermediate with her."

Back then, the word "bullying" wasn't around, she says, and those who acted up did so to gain material possessions, food and power.

But for her, it was all about getting high on the popularity stakes.

"It was the need to be popular. You picked on anyone who was an easy target.

"I bullied anyone, really. Just whoever was either in my way or didn't do what I said or just someone who others or my friends didn't like."

Ms Magasiva admits she used physical violence, but was best at mind games - teasing and tormenting.

Knowing her older brothers and sisters were at the same school made her feel invincible.

"I knew no one would do anything because they knew I had older siblings and we all went through the same schools.

"Back then, I know I didn't care. But looking back now, I know it was wrong. I know the effects it can have on victims and I can't take it back, but instead learn from it."

Ms Magasiva is a primary school teacher who has taught in Auckland and London and is now at an international school near Jakarta, Indonesia.

In each country she has worked in she has dealt with the issue of bullying in the classroom and her experience as a bully has helped her address it quickly.

"I can recognise easily when someone is being bullied and even identify who the real bully is. Sometimes people copy others - they copy the leader - and the real bully doesn't get caught. Instead, it's the followers that get caught.

"There are different levels of bullying. What I've seen with some kids is that they are so sly in the ways they bully. Sometimes just a look can tell you something is wrong."

Ms Magasiva says the fact she was never disciplined for her actions only meant the behaviour continued longer.

"I didn't have anyone sit me down and talk to me about what I was doing.

"I was never pulled into the office, I was never told by teachers what I was doing was wrong. Maybe it was because I hid it well or just the fact that it just had no name back then.

"[Today] there is more information, more awareness out there about it now, and in most schools there is a policy to address bullying."

Asked whether she ever apologised to the girl she threatened, she says sadly: "I've never seen her again, but I know she's married with children now.

"I don't have any relationship with the people I bullied.

"I know they have moved on and I used to always ponder about meeting some of them and what I would say.

"There is no word to say other than sorry."

- NZ Herald

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