For Alex (friend) who suggested it and Alex (son) who lived part of it…
Now. I am not a particularly shouty person, nor am I particularly vengeful either. Perhaps those who know me in real time would disagree… whatever. However, like the majority of people, I am bound to leap to the defence of those I love…
As I mentioned in a post last week, I was fortunate enough to have some very good teacher at my school, like my headmistress, Mrs. C. Mrs J. was the English teacher we were blessed with, a somewhat nervy and neurotic woman, but such a dedicated and effective teacher that she instilled in me a love of the English language and classic literature that remains with me to this day.
Miss M. was another matter altogether… like a fat shark she circled our year group, searching for the weak, the unknowledgeable, the downright scared… And then there was me. She was a Maths teacher, of course. Maths was never my best subject, and like a shark, she scented my uncertainty, my lack of ability and seized upon it.
She had an aura of indefinable menace about her and held my lack of numerical skills up for all to see and laugh at, yet in such a subtle way it appeared as if by exposing me, she was helping me. Clever woman. Her mental abuse would not be tolerated today, no doubt, but she was cunning enough to avoid detection by Mrs. C and convincingly authoritative so that her bullying would be dismissed as firm teaching methods by other adults.
Most of my peers acquired enough knowledge to make it through her lessons, but me? Yeah, well, suffice it to say, quadratic equations to this day induce a rising sense of panic in me … My school life was a lot more pleasant when|Miss M. metaphorically left me for dead and left me to the mercy of Mrs. A, whose only goal was to ensure you could add and divide sufficiently enough to budget for a dinner party of twenty…
My somewhat mixed bag of school experiences with both peers and teachers left me hyper-vigilant when it came to my own sons. My oldest managed a reasonable school life, though not distinguished particularly, and there were only a couple of incidents where I was called to school on account of a fight.
My younger son was different from the word go. Kind and intelligent, he was singled out by his peers as a target, especially when he went to senior school. One insult in particular always puzzled me, a veritable oxymoron – emphasis on the moron – he was called “gay” because he was nice to girls. Rather a sad indictment on the standard of education in ‘academies’ I feel. However, I choose not to dwell on this, rather one particular incident that involved a teacher, who drew my wrath down on her unsuspecting head through her lack of fact, finding and mere assumption.
It was a couple of weeks into a new year and History was always one of my son’s favourite lessons. This teacher was relatively pleasant most of the time, but on this occasion, my son had somehow got caught up in a prank of hiding a girl’s books. He wasn’t directly involved, but he and another girl were caught out in the act of returning the books to the other girl, and instead of listening to the story, Mrs. H. assumed that they were the ones responsible, and dished out detention, punishments and letters home. During the rest of the day, this teacher kept rubbing her hands with glee and saying to my son:
“Oh I can’t wait to meet your mother and tell her how cruel you were to E., you’re always complaining how people pick on you.”
It just so happened that it was Parents’ Evening… my son came home for his tea and told me about the incident and was understandably very upset; and when I heard what she had been saying, I was furious.
My parents hadn’t said anything about my bullying at school – there was NO way I was going to let this happen to my son. Off we went, despite my son’s pleas that we didn’t… the evening passed pleasantly, glowing reports from his other teachers, and it was becoming glaringly obvious that we were avoiding History. I didn’t want to stress my son further, so I thought:
“Well let’s sort this out at the top.”
It just so happened that I knew the headmaster rather well, an attractive man – think a somewhat overweight Harrison Ford – who had a soft spot for my son since he represented the school favourably on a number of public occasions. I briefly filled him in on the situation and he said:
“Oh, there must be some misunderstanding, I know your son wouldn’t be involved in something as silly as that. Don’t worry, I’ll sort it out with the Head of Department.”
Suitably reassured, my son felt confident enough to approach his History teacher, but the apprehension on his face, and the smug smile on hers as she realised who I was, annoyed me. Somewhat.
“Oh Miss. Murdoch, you don’t realise how much I’ve been looking forward to meeting you.”
Channelling my old head mistress and looking down at her, I said in my best Received Pronunciation 1950’s BBC-worthy tones:
“Oh, Miss. H. I rather think I do. Considering I had a very upset little boy to deal with when he came home I am prepared to listen to exactly how pleased you are to see me and justify his detention, bad marks, negative House Points and letter home. Please, do tell. Why, I will be entranced to hear how after one of my son’s favourite lessons he was distraught; and positively enthralled to hear how you listened to his side of the story.”
Her mouth dropped open. And I had the pleasant experience of reading her facial expressions as clearly as if I had been holding a book… “Oh s*#% ! I might be in trouble here…”
She began to formulate a weak reply:
“Well, your son and S. were…” but then Mr. D. came up behind us, placed one hand on my shoulder and one on my son’s, and leaning forward said with tones of menacing jocularity:
“Everything all right here? Good lad, aren’t you?”
I looked her straight in the eye and allowed just the faintest of smiles to curve the corners of my mouth… Miss H. went white. Then red as Mr. D. moved away, then (to my secret horror) her eyes filled with tears that overbalanced and rolled down her cheeks.
“I-I-I’m sorry. It’s been a difficult day, they’re a very challenging class.”
“Well, let’s move on, shall we? How about History then? So far, my son has really enjoyed your lessons about the English Civil War…”
I was prepared to be gracious and leave it, since she had both apologised and I knew no further action would be taken against my son. Later, at home, I reminded him that the gentlemanly thing to do was to never mention the incident again and needless to say, his reports from her were outstanding, during the rest of his time at that school.
History remains one of his favourite subjects – he went on to do it at A Level – and I’ve never made another teacher cry. But, I won’t stand for injustice, I hate unkindness and you know what they say about assuming… “Never assume. It makes an ASS out of U and ME…”
Clear Quartz for clarity of thought, aiding the learning process and amplifying the effect of other crysals