THE happiest days of your life – or a stomach-churning daily hell on earth?
Both these statements can tell of many young people's school experience. Sometimes these diverse statements can each accurately reflect the experience of pupils walking the same school corridors, taking a similar range of subjects, and encountering a very similar team of teachers.
And the difference between those two polar opposite summations can all too often be the impact of the school bully or bullies.
Slowly, we have learnt the need to confront the issue of bullying at school. We have also learnt to see the issue in the round, and along the way we have found that the bully is frequently an inadequate young person, starved of love and attention and perversely seeking both by negative and damaging activity.
Today the Irish Independent brings you revealing research work by two psychologists at NUI Maynooth which shows how bullying has migrated into 'cyberspace'.
Texts, photo or video clips, mobile calls and emails, bring new opportunities for the bullies who have the bonus that they are harder to detect.
They further limit the victims' chance of respite out of school hours – and many students find cyber-bullying more pernicious than the traditional school yard bruiser or the caustic loudmouth.
Fears are augmented by the prospect of being shamed before a mass audience far beyond the school.
The research is additionally interesting because it has a largely rural base. It also highlights the role of female students in bullying.
There is also a note of hope in that bullying rates appear lower than in other jurisdictions, suggesting action could forestall further difficulties.
What happens to you at school can stay with you for decades – if not forever. School days can and do frame a whole life.
Let us do everything possible to ensure that it is not the school bully – increasingly known as the cyber-bully – who is central to the school experience.