Actress - Emma Summerhayes in Eastenders
1. What was your school like?
A mixed secondary modern in Oxfordshire.
2. What is your favourite memory of school?
Being involved in the school plays.
3. How did your school experience influence/help your career?
It encouraged my passion for acting, photography and creative skills, but also highlighted the subjects I wasn’t very good at, like maths and physics! I quickly knew what path I wanted to persue!
4. Were you bullied at school? If so how did you overcome this?
I was bullied, but not in the conventional sense. I thought the group of girls I hung out with were my friends, but they certainly were not what I would consider to be friends now! I didn’t realise there was anything to overcome at the time as I thought that is what friendship was! A friend is someone you look forward to seeing, who makes you feel good about yourself and supports you. Not someone who knocks your confidence or makes you feel anything but safe and happy. Just because someone says something with a smile on their face doesn’t mean it is not hurtful or unkind. If someone makes you feel bad about yourself; avoid them.
5. What was your favourite school subject?
Drama, English and photography.
6. What did you look forward to when you went back to school after the holidays? What advice would you give to young people who are going back to school after the holidays?
I liked the independence of going to and from school on my own, and new stationery! I looked forward to my drama and photography classes, and probably seeing whichever boy I had a crush on at the time too! Focus on the positive. Don’t let others ruin your time at school. Success really is the best revenge. If you are good a particular subject or skill persue it regardless of what the bullies say. It’s our differences that make us unique.
7. Was there anything you worried about when you went back to school after the holidays? How did you overcome this?
I was worried about academic success and getting good GCSE/A level results, there is so much pressure put on children at school with exams etc. It is important to aim high and try and achieve the best results you possibly can, but it shouldn’t be too stressful. I excelled in the creative subjects so really focused on those. I’m not sure I did overcome it, I had to go to school that was the end of it. Obviously I’m grateful I did now though as a good education is a wonderful thing and not everybody throughout the world is fortunate enough to get one.
8. What was your favourite school meal?
I genuinely can’t remember what the school meals were like, but I do remember liking the pickled onion monster munch in the vending machines!
9. If you had to go back to school again what would you change?
I would pick my friends a lot more carefully and not be as desperate to be included in everything. It’s so easy for me to say now, as I’m older and looking back and I do still remember so vividly that need to be part of everything. Deliberate exclusion from a group or activity and the pleasure some people take in it is a form of bullying and can be extremely upsetting for those left out. I also wish I could have believed in myself more and had better confidence and self-esteem.
10. What advice would you give to anyone who is worried about going back to school because of bullying issues?
Bullies get their power and strength from your pain, humilation and hurt. if you can rise above it and show them that their words or actions don’t bother you, their power is removed. I’m not suggesting that you won’t be affected by it, but try not to show it to the bullies. Tell someone you trust what is happening. You can’t get help if you suffer the abuse in silence. It’s not telling tales, it’s self preservation! You must love and respect yourself. Bullies need to be stopped! If there are no ambassadors at your school perhaps you could become one?
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