September is upon us and with it the start of a new school season. Stationery and clothing stores announce that it’s “Back to school” time and parents and children alike all but plunder the merchandise.
Many kids look forward to going back to school, others dread it. I used to be one of them. Every year I hoped for the best, but somehow experienced the worst.
It wasn’t the other kids that frightened me, I could handle them, it was the teachers.
While people generally look up to teachers and call them examples of patience and pillars of society, I have another name for them … bullies.
At the start of the school year, they would present themselves in the best light, and every year I would think to have find a good teacher. Before the first week was over I would come to realize I was wrong. Their friendly façade would disappear and they would show their true colors.
They would dish out punishment to myself and other classmates with relish, and savour our fear as they towered over us.
Punishment ranged from:
Making us write “I shall not lie to the teacher about forgetting to do my homework” a hundred times. It got so bad, some kids developed problems in their fingers and wrists.
Hitting our hands and fingers with a wooden ruler. This type of punishment came to an abrupt end when a classmate was quicker than the teacher, grabbed the ruler and gave her a taste of her own medicine.
Making kids sit on their knees on the flagstone floor. If the child’s back started to hurt and she slouched, she would receive a slap on her back and be commanded to straighten up. If she shifted knees due to pain, she would be told to “walk” around the classroom on her knees.
Kids would also be driven out of the classroom and told to stand outside on the playground. In spring this wasn’t so bad, but in summer kids had to endure scorching heat, in the fall pouring rain, and in winter sub-zero temperatures.
Occasionally a child would tell her parents about this type of punishment and one or both parents would visit the school to have a word with the teacher. This almost always backfired. After all, who was the parent going to believe, a child or a teacher?
After such a visit, the teacher would have it in for the child and make her life a living hell.
Teachers, we hated them.
If the physical punishment was bad, the emotional cruelty was worse. Teachers would favour the smart girls and all but ignore those who struggled in class.
When a mistake was made, they would call us lazy, ignorant or downright stupid.
They would ridicule our body type, ears, mouth, hair and the clothes we wore.
I would often wonder why these women became teachers as they so clearly hated kids.
The worst part was, we were helpless. No matter what we did, no matter how hard we tried, if a teacher didn’t like us, there was nothing any of us could do.
I would have loved to stand up to one of those women, but doing so would only have landed me hot water and ruined the rest of the school year for me.
It took years before I finally got my revenge on one of them.
Through a friend I came to hear that my son’s school enforced corporal punishment. This involved hitting a child’s buttocks with a cricket bat.
I all but flew to the school and confronted one of the teachers. She assured me that all schools enforced this type of punishment and that they were within their legal rights.
“Try it,” I said, “I dare you. I dare you to lay a hand on my son or any of these kids.”
If I had been young and on the short side, my words probably wouldn’t have had much effect, but being older than the teacher, not to mention towering over her by at least a foot, she must have felt intimidated.
When she was about to say something, I took a step closer to her, giving her “the look”. If my words were threatening, my eyes were even more so, laden with years of pend up resentment for these so called teachers. Her words died on her lips.
Madam must have blabbed about me to her fellow teachers as they had congregated the next day when I collected my son from school.
One of them, a rather tall man, approached me and asked if I had threatened one of his colleagues.
“No,” I said, “I didn’t threaten her, I made her a promise. If she hits my son or as much as touches him, or any of you for that matter, you will be dealing with me, personally! And I have a cricket bat too.”
The class cricket bat was officially retired.
School bullies … don’t automatically assume they’re kids, many teachers can be bullies too.