Monday, May 17, 2010

Mean Teachers


My daughter’s 2nd grade teacher recently left on maternity leave. I’m not sure the substitute teacher is a big hit with her class. I went to school to volunteer in class the other day, and I’m not sure the substitute was a big hit with me either. Each morning, the class gets together on the rug for their morning meeting. They shake one anothers hand and wish each other a happy Tuesday or fun Wednesday or something similar. On the day I visited, the teacher cancelled the happy rug time to berate the children for leaving the classroom in a “mess” the day before. Her tone was not to encourage to class to do a better job, but to humiliate them for their earlier actions. Or so it seemed to me.

At dinner that evening, my daughter asked the hubby and me if we ever had mean teachers. We explained that in the olden days, teachers were pretty much allowed to be mean. My third grade teacher kept a hand-shaped paddle next to her desk and used it when the need arose. I don’t recall any teachers I can call mentors, but I really don’t remember any that ruined my life either. Except one. And I can’t really recall who it was. The memory is just an inky cloud with a whispery voice. And the memory of that voice and what it made me do gives me the shivers.

I believe I was in third grade. The class was learning how to write in cursive. I guess I just didn’t see the point. Why did we have to learn a new way of writing? We already knew how to print, and most of us could have used a good deal more practice with that before learning cursive. I never really mastered either. Could this be the fault of the black cloud with the whispery voice? I’m going to venture a “yes.”

The echoing vault of my memory tells me that this must have been a special class in another room, as the normal beehive-haired, paddle-toting teacher was not a part of this. Nope. It was the snake-voiced witch who cruelly maneuvered our hands through the strokes and loops of cursiveness. I just didn’t get it. My writing was messy and I didn’t care. The witch did. She would float up behind me, and with her snake tongue she would tell me of her disappointment. Then, briefly, the clouds parted and the students were told it was time for art or recess or some classroom enjoyment. But I was to be excluded from this break. Instead she brought me a set of burlap covered boards. Each was printed with a large cursive letter. I was told to repeatedly trace these letters with my index finger. How in the hell was this supposed to help, I wondered (silently to myself). Now, if anyone wants to know how I felt tracing my finger over this rough surface, just go and scrape your fingernails on a chalkboard. I protested that I couldn’t stand the feel of those boards against my fingers. I got no sympathy. Just a disembodied snake voice sharing its disgust with me. Not only was I cursed with bad handwriting, I was a whiner too.

I don’t recall any improvement in my cursive handwriting. I do recall a distinct lowering in my respect of authority. Would my life had been greatly improved with proper handwriting skills? Probably so. But by how much? We’ll never know. And now I can type instead. If I could look up the address for that despicable, snake-tongued, black cloud witch, I’d send her a note letting her know how I still feel about her.

Might have to send it c/o Satan.


  1. I love everything your "blog supports." Good for you for putting it out there.

  2. the right teacher makes all the difference in a child, and i never gave it much thought until i had my own children! though i have to say... i think i may have channeled that witch this morning... it was one of those days...


    Yes, the room may have been left messy - but she could have made a game of cleaning it up, and the kids would have looked forward to the next clean-up instead of being humilated and feeling small or resentful.

    I had a fabulous teacher in High School. She kept me from dropping out, and even though it is now 35 years later, I still remember the positive influence she had.