I have always been it seems, a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. My face doesn’t fit and never seems to have, no matter what area of life I encounter. It was brought home to me even more last week when an old classmate posted a picture from Primary school circa mid 1980’s on a social networking site.
Whilst everyone waxed lyrical about you, our class teacher and what fond memories of the place they had, all it did to me was send me straight back to the misery I endured as a child at that time. I was relentlessly bullied my fellow students and disliked immensely by the very same teacher they all loved, you.
In the mid 1980’s when that picture was taken I was 10 years old, 5ft 6 inches tall and wearing a ladies size 7 (UK) shoe. I literally stood out like a sore thumb. If you add in that I was vegetarian and a committed atheist (not baptised or christened) and didn’t wear the same clothes as the rest of them you can see why I was bullied. My nickname at school was Giant Haystacks after a wrestler that was popular during the 1980’s, I hated it and now if I hear that name it makes me feel uncomfortable.
I was very different as a child and I am proud to say I still am different .I form my own beliefs, my own principles, I hold people to a high moral standard, I hate liars and people that are superficial. Unfortunately as a child I held those same beliefs and I saw straight through you. I would never lie or stay quiet to “fit in” its never been in my nature to do so and I’m glad that despite from the age of 4 until 18 that I was relentlessly bullied and picked on, my beliefs and moral standards / principles have never wavered. I have my parents to thank for that, although as a child (all I wanted to do was fit in and they never bought me the “right” clothes etc), I blamed them a little for the bullying I suffered.
I must have seemed to you, dreadfully precocious. Here is a 10 year old that challenges what you tell them and likes to express her own opinions, very different from my classmates. I was bookish, unathletic, quite bright and brimming with confidence. I was the ten year old that refused to go on the school trip to the maritime museum because I would rather spend the day in the library (and whose parents refused to pay for a trip I didn’t want to go on, explaining as much on the permission slip).
As we were called one by one to your desk to hand in our permission slips, I remember being filled with dread and cursing the fact my surname didn’t begin with a Z. I handed you the slip and saw your face darken. You began shouting and screaming at me in front of the class. I showed no emotion, I remember very clearly to this day it took all my might not to cry, I don’t like shouting I never have. I remember I replayed the song “big girls don’t cry” over and over in my mind, as you ranted and raved and eventually stormed out of the classroom. I returned to my seat the whole class watching me eager to find out why you had erupted. I kept my mouth shut, it was no one elses business.
What you did next I will never forgive you for. You sent home a letter to my parents asking them to attend a meeting with yourself and the headmaster, claiming I had thrown a tantrum when questioned as to why I didn’t want to go on the trip. I didn’t throw a tantrum, in fact I didn’t do anything other than stand in front of your desk, hand you the permission slip and tell you that I didn’t want to go. Until I arrived home that night and my parents showed me the letter, I had no idea about the lies you had spun to cover your own childish and unprofessional behaviour.
Luckily my parents knew that I always told them the truth when asked. Obviously kids lie but when it was something serious, like this allegation was they knew that I wouldnt. They sat me down that evening and discussed it with me.
Thats the sort of thing you couldnt understand, parents discussing things with their children or the fact I was allowed to open and read my school report before my parents did. That used to wind you up a treat didn’t it? Even the small square of cellotape you used to seal the envelope didn’t stop me and in my last year, I would take great pleasure opening it up in the classroom in front of you. I know I can be a wind up merchant but by then I really no longer cared what you thought of me.
These days you wouldn’t have got away with writing a letter home to my parents without corroborating statements from my classmates. It was a different time then and the teachers word ruled and the majority of people still respected your profession. Funny how thats all changed now but with teachers like you it was never going to last forever.
I have to say a little bit of my faith in adults was shattered that day, it was an important lesson for me to learn that people in authority can and do lie to cover their own asses. Its a real shame I had to learn it at the tender age of ten.
What makes me sad is I wasted so much of my time at school trying so very hard for you to like me. I could see through your phoney smiles, pretend niceness and knew that it wasn’t working. I think thats what bothered you the most wasn’t it?
At every opportunity you made fun of me in class when I struggled with maths. Yet you were the adult and should have figured out that my inability to understand maths was strange and needed further investigating. After all as you liked to tell everyone you were the maths specialist in our school. You turned a blind eye when other kids hit me for losing sports day races because athletics and I just didn’t mix. How it must have galled you when I was chosen for the school netball team. That decision had been made by another teacher, had it been down to you I know I would have been excluded.
You decided from that day on you would make my life a misery, no matter how hard I tried to please you. I would try and act like the other kids getting you to talk to me like you did with the others. Your response was to send a school report home saying that I was attention seeking and demanding. I feel so sorry for that 10 year old child who tried so hard, the older me would tell her to cut her losses. This teacher wasn’t worth all the pain and the heartache they caused.
Did you know how your treatment of me used to make me cry myself to sleep? Did you enjoy crushing me constantly like I was some kind of bug or something less than human ? How many children have had their educations ruined by teachers that don’t like them I have to wonder?
Thank god I was strong enough to realise I would only have to endure you for another 12 months or so. A weaker child would have given up on education completely but I had belief in myself and I knew I was clever enough for university and all your mocking wasn’t going to dissuade me.
When you told my parents at a parents evening that I was “Joe Average and would never amount to anything” did you really mean it or were you still continuing your war of attrition against a child? It must have made you feel so superior and clever. I wonder how many other children you did this to and how you manage to sleep at night?
I remember many years ago now, you came through my checkout when I was working my way through university. You thought you were oh so superior. All I saw was a sad, grey haired, still overweight, person in front of me, not this person of power you had been all those years ago. I wanted to tell you then what I have intimated now but couldn’t because I was working. When you sneeringly asked if this is what I was doing now, I cheerfully replied “No I am doing a degree in history and paying my own way, not bad for a Joe Average”. The look on your face was a picture! Something I will treasure for years to come and whenever I think about you, which is rarely. You clearly remembered what you had said about me to my parents all those years ago. I wonder how many other children’s parents were convinced by you that their children were not academic enough for university, through your vicious throwaway remarks.
Its sad that someone in your position abused their power so easily and used the children in their class to bolster their own ego. To me you are someone who never should have entered the teaching profession. You don’t get to pick and choose which kids you teach and you aren’t supposed to have favourites or make your charges lives a misery.
I am now 40 and amazed a photograph from the mid 1980’s can stir up so many negative memories for me. I can honestly say I didn’t enjoy school, there were days that were less crap than others but on the whole it was a pretty joyless experience.
Honestly I am happy that I am different, I may not like the consequences I have endured due to being that way but I know who I am. I dont ask for anyones approval to be me. I’ve certainly never needed yours.
I am a fighter, one of lifes scrappers and I will always do my best in any situation that is thrown at me.
Thank you for showing me that adults in authority were not to be trusted. I may have learnt that a little earlier than my classmates but its the only thing of worth I can remember you ever teaching me. So thanks for that.
So Teacher, I am a square peg in a round hole and do you know what I don’t care.
Your less than favourite pupil.