My mind wandered today, following a discussion about home schooling, thinking about my own childhood. School, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The good: Mrs. xxx, my grade six teacher, a woman who was born in Germany, German speaking with a heavy accent in English, Jewish, escaped Germany buried in a coal car with her parents and sister during World War Two. I loved her, quite literally. She encouraged me to write, and did not tolerate bullies in the classroom, or in the playground when she was on duty. She was an incredible human being.
The bad: Miss xxx, my grade nine typing instructor, a woman who thought a physical disability was a challenge to her authority, an act of defiance. I would be sitting there struggling with the typing, my right arm on fire with the pain of it. My elbow stuck out, it couldn’t be lowered without breaking it, which meant I certainly could not lower it myself. She would approach me from behind with her wooden yard stick, take a wide swing and CRACK. Right down on my arm and elbow. “Elbow down”, she would shout at me. I get a stomach ache just thinking about the meanness of it, the humiliation of being beaten in front of the class, and of having my “difference” contemptuously exposed. She was one mean little human being. There was no recourse.
The ugly: I was co-captain of the cheerleading team. When it was time to run auditions for new members to the team, a jury of teachers graded the girls performances. It was down to the captain and I to tally the scores and announce the winners. The captain had a favourite who did not make the cut. She wanted to alter the records to cut another girl, who she didn’t like, and bring her favourite onto the team. My response was NO! She pushed. NO! She fussed. NO! She threatened me with social disapproval. NO! NO! NO! NO! She lost the struggle, and I remember watching the girl at the games, the girl who deserved to be there, but might not have been. I enjoying that she was such a great member of the team. I never told the girl who deserved to be there what happened, it wouldn’t have made her feel better about being there. We all knew the captain was an asshole, we needn’t have counted the ways.
Date: 2:00 PM EDT Thursday 12 July 2018
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.3 kPa
Dew point: 20.0°C
Wind: SSE 19 km/h
Visibility: 24 km
“When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
1803 – 1882
Not always surprised to find though, some bullies have weapons and a long memory… choose your battles.