I was very quiet during m short time in public high school. I got picked on a lot too. Going to the woods to explore under rotting logs and poking around the streams in northern Virginia were much more appealing to me and I was always thinking about my next adventure outdoors. I had no desire to fit in, just the desire to be left alone. I was always bigger than my "peers" so not being noticed was difficult.
In one of my classes, the teacher would pick on me because of my California accent, whatever that was, and she turned her back when the 3 bullies in class would walk by me and punch my arm. There were bruises on my biceps that stung constantly. I was ashamed. One day without really any warning, I changed. It occurred to me that I was indeed bigger than most of those clods and had to do something. After getting laughed at and punched in the arm again, and the teacher doing nothing, I got up in the middle of class and punched one of the bullies in the face. His glasses flew across the room and he cried.
The harassment stopped immediately. Imagine that.
I hated that place with every cell in my body.
Then I went to boarding school and everything was different. It was an opportunity to rework how people saw me. With the hell of public school behind me, I could pursue the things that interested me. We were all under scrutiny and there was very little opportunity for people to be bullies or slack-offs. Sure there were assholes but they were much easier to deal with. The biggest difference from public school, aside from the fact that I didn't have to live at my public school, was that I was respected. It was a great experience and I met some of the closest friends I've ever had.