The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

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.

Worldly Distractions


Date: 2:00 PM EDT Thursday 12 July 2018
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.3 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 23.4°C
Dew point: 20.0°C
Humidity: 81%
Wind: SSE 19 km/h
Humidex: 31
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.


  1. Teri

    There aren’t many memories from high school that I look to, anymore. There were hard ones and humiliating ones, and a few good ones, but at more than 50 years ago none of them affect my life today so I don’t really “look” at them anymore.

    Now, memories from maybe 20 years ago, sometimes I’ll walk through them a moment. But they don’t really affect my life either. They’re more likely to be tied to people who were in my life back then, and I wonder how they’re doing and if I’d be able to find them on the internet. I’ve found one or two and added them to my FB page. Honestly, they haven’t really added anything special to my feed.

  2. Joan, yes, we all loved my sixth grade teacher, we were so lucky to have that experience. The mean one chose a few of us to pick on, I think she had her victims chosen in each class she taught. In my class it was me, and a girl who was not co-ordinated. The rest had nothing to fear from her as long as we were there to bear the load. I don’t think anyone liked her. The cheerleading incident was one I felt very, very strongly about, and it did contribute to my cynicism about some people.

  3. Teri, I find the memories symbolic, representing lessons learned about people. My sixth grade teacher introduced me to the concept that an authority figure could be kind, it was a new concept at the time, and I am grateful to her for giving me that gift. My typing teacher taught me that adult bullies are not happy people, and that when they are in authority it induces silence and averted eyes in most people under their thumb. The cheerleading captain taught me about pettiness and unfairness in the small minded and hearted of this world. All lessons I needed to learn about the outside world, since I was spending my formitive years in the classics of literature.

  4. I had so many amazing teachers and remember all of them by name. Not what they did but how they made me feel.

    I also remember Mrs. O., my grade 4 teacher. I struggled in math. One time she knocked really hard with her knuckles on my head and asked if I rocks in it. I remember going to me seat and crying, KNOWING I was stupid and useless. I am almost 50 and still have not fully recovered from that.

  5. Birdie, good teachers were rare in my experience, so the good ones stand out in my memories. That grade 4 teacher of yours was a twisted soul, the best part for you is that you left her classroom and moved on, the worst part for her is that she remained herself.

  6. The sad thing is, she (figuratively) sat beside me in every classroom I was in all the way into college where I learned that I was actually quite intelligent and graduated with a 4.0 at the top of my class. She ruined me academically. I was already struggling with low self-esteem coming from a broken home and a violent alcoholic father. I often wonder what kind of difference she would have made in my life if she had put her arm around me and whispered for to come in at recess and we could work on it together. My high school accounting teacher did that and it was the only reason I was able to graduate. I wish I could say thank you to him.

  7. Birdie, so sad that mean little people seek out positions where they can do real and lasting harm to other humans. They are everywhere, hiding in the cracks of society, waiting for their chance. Too bad there wasn’t another teacher in the early years to counterbalance her actions, because the attitude behind the incidence you remember so vividly would have been there as the authority every single school day for the entire school year. Glad to know that the lies they told you were outed, although late in the day as they say.

    What I found when I was teaching, was that when a student was struggling with a subject, it was almost always because they marched to the beat of their own drum, and the necessary classroom approach, which worked for most kids, didn’t work for them. In almost all instances, it had nothing to do with intelligence.

    A little tweaking of the approach almost always led to an epiphany and relief from the pressure of being out of step. The structures of learning in schools are fairly rigid, and the talented teacher is able to see the need for tweaking, understand what is needed to build a bridge, and assist the student in building it. They do not teach this in teacher training. The school system puts teachers under considerable pressure to achieve the best results for the MOST students, so less talented teachers often fail the exceptional child, and poorly suited teachers usually fail abysmally.

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