Pamela Butchart - embracing your 'inner weirdness'

Published on: 15 November 2016 Author: Pamela Butchart

Petunia Perry and the Curse of the Ugly Pigeon featured as one of our Bookbuzz books in 2016. Author Pamela Butchart writes about her own experiences at school influence her books.

Pamela Butchart

I found the move between primary and secondary school a bit tricky. When I first started secondary school I was labelled 'weird'. I had weird shoes, an even weirder skirt, two pet rats and I played the spoons. This had been fine at primary school (encouraged, even!) but secondary school was a different beast.

As the year went on I became more and more self-conscious. I began to shed myself of the old, 'weird' Pamela so that I could blend in with everyone else. I went shopping for new clothes, gave up playing the spoons, violin and African drums and stopped reading in the playground. I was weird, but I didn't embrace it.

I wasn't bullied, exactly, but it did seem that I got a hard time for almost everything that I did. I just couldn't do right! For example, EVERYONE started getting perms, so I got one too (without telling my mum - yikes!). But somehow I came out of the hairdressers looking like a sheep that had been in a fire and got 'baa-d' at in the corridor for weeks.

To be fair, I think it was the same for everyone. The key to not standing out was to, well, not stand out! Your perm had to be JUST right and not too 'perm-y'. You could laugh at jokes, but you couldn't snort. And you could only do 55.8% of your homework MAX without being labelled a 'geek'. It was brutal. Fitting in meant wearing the same as everyone else, acting the same as everyone else and generally checking your soul at the school gates upon entering.

Eventually (thank goodness!) I began to relax, be myself again and care less about what people thought of me. I decide to embrace my 'inner weirdness.' If I wanted to go to the school Halloween disco as a fossil then I'd go as a fossil (even if there was a good chance it might not go down well).

If I could go back in time I like to think I'd do it all differently. I'd be myself from Day 1 and not care about what other people thought. I'd rock up to school wearing an 'I Love Rats' t-shirt, enter the talent show and do a brilliant spoon solo. I'd probably also join the school choir and sing only in my awesome (male) operatic voice. But I can't go back, so I've firmly made it my mission to be 100% weird and eccentric EVERY DAY in school (I'm a secondary school teacher) and encourage my pupils to always be their own, unique selves too.

Who wants to conform when instead you could dye your hair blue, start a band called 'Cheese Face' and rock-out on the xylophone?

Something I saw when I first became a teacher also inspired me to write about starting secondary school. A pupil passed me in the corridor; she was wearing big glasses, carrying a huge instrument case and reading a book as she walked along the corridor. The memory of a group of girls laughing at me as I walked through the playground with my violin case while reading a book came flooding back to me. I instantly felt very protective of her. That was until I spotted her backpack. It said 'Nerds Rule!' I burst out laughing. It was the best thing I'd ever seen! I admire that girl so much. I wish I'd had the guts to wear a backpack to school that said 'I have a metal detector and I DIG IT!'

You have to learn to love your uniqueness and stand up for who you are (even if who you are is a bit weird). The weirder the better, I say! Petunia Perry and the Curse of the Ugly Pigeon is about a girl (not me) trying to survive the move between primary and secondary school (still not me). There's quite a bit of spoon-playing involved.

(Ok, so it might be a BIT about me - expect for the 'poo bit'...sort of).


Bookbuzz is a reading programme from BookTrust that aims to help schools inspire a love of reading in 11 to 13-year-olds. Participating schools give their students the opportunity to choose their own book to take home and keep from a list of 16 titles.

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