There are certain moments that are seared in your mind that when you reflect back on them, you aren’t just look back, but you find yourself IN that moment.
For me, it’s in Grade 10. I’m standing at the front of the classroom and I’m turning in to the teacher my textbook for a Basic Bookkeeping class that I am dropping. Being the person I was back then, I don’t know how I didn’t pass out from the stress and anxiety. Being the person I am now, I’ll like to punch that asshat in the mouth.
It started innocently enough. My Mother is a wiz at math and felt that an entry level accounting course would serve me well. The course description certainly sounded appealing, even for a low-functioning mathematician like me. [Insert laugh track here]. I was terrible at math. It started in Grade 3 when the teacher of my split Grade 2/3 class told my Mother that I was a clever girl and that I’d figure out multiplication on my own; she had other students (namely those in Grade 2) who really needed her help. She was wrong. But, we all have our strengths, and since I never planned to become an accountant, we didn’t sweat it.
However, a Basic Bookkeeping course offered to enlighten the student on how to balance a chequebook, how to calculate interest and develop a budget. You know, simple life skills that all people should have. I was excited to learn “real world” stuff and not B.S. math like Trig and Algebra. [It should be noted that I ROCKED Algebra, something I attributed to the fact it was the only math that had LETTERS!]
I knew within moments that I. Was. Screwed. The teacher was a short, portly man with thinning white hair. I am still amazed that they made belts that long. Even though it was the 80s, this man was from a time much farther in history. His lessons were confusing, incomplete and complex. Within two weeks, I was behind. By the midterm exams, [Yes Virginia, you used to have to write the mid term exam to be exempt from the final exam. Can we discuss how ancient I am another time?] my chances of passing were slim to none. My Mother helped with my homework as I turned myself into knots. An experienced bookkeeper in her own Right, she was stunned at the course material. There were no references to personal finance, rather, we were being taught the same material that she herself was paid to do for a corporation. Spreadsheets for God sake!
My parents went to Parent-Teacher night when Little Sister and I were in elementary school, but I can honestly only remember once that my Mother attended the high school Parent-Teacher night. It was to address this teacher. We went together, since she wanted both sides of the story at the same time. Teachers were stationed in the gymnasium with parents cuing up to speak with the teachers in a civilized fashion. Around the gym were teachers and parents have conversations, except for at one desk, which was empty. My teacher’s desk. There was a line up of parents several feet deep, with my Mother being second in the line. When it became evident that this particular teacher had no intention of attending, the parents started talking. Quickly we found out that most of the students were in risk of losing the credit. Even the most clever, numerically gifted were struggling.
Fed up, Mom left the line up and searched for the Vice Principal. He happened to know us from when he was the VP at our elementary school and he knew full well that we weren’t the type of family to blow smoke about a situation. They discussed the frustrations I was having, and he agreed with the need to speak directly to this teacher. With his help, Mom found the teacher.
And then she ripped him a new asshole.
I had honestly never seen my mother like this. She started calmly, logically, and when this sad excuse of an educator started giving her attitude she dropped the hammer on him and turned into a Momma Bear. The last thing I remember was walking away with her and seeing the other parents moving in for the kill. While I wouldn’t have assumed he would have survived the evening, he did live to die another day.
That night it was decided that I would drop the class, and take a SPARE! Yes, the world was ending.
Mom joined me in the guidance office the next day, with a very sympathetic counsellor, who agreed leaving the class was the best option. I simply needed to turn in my text book.
I walked in shortly after the bell rang and the rest of the class was seated. When I walked to his desk to hand him the text book, he stood up and without moving a muscle, save for his tongue, proceeded to rip me apart.
The Coles Notes version is:
- I was a pathetic student
- I was a quiter
- I was never going to amount to anything in life
- His course was the cornerstone to success, with I was never going to have
- He did wish me luck with the rest of my life, although something tells me that was not a genuine sentiment.
I can still remember what it felt like to stand at the front of that class. I was a head taller than this man but his words hit me and flew by me like shrapnel. It was surreal. I could see the students in my peripheral vision. They were almost as traumatized as I was. I could see them pitying me and envying me at the same time. Most of them looked down at their desk. Some of them, as though they were watching a train wreck couldn’t look away. And I suppose it was a wreck of a fashion. A teacher destroying a student.
This impacted me for a long time. Until I realized, the man was wrong. I didn’t respect him. I didn’t like him. Therefore, his opinion of me didn’t matter. No one I cared about felt the same way he did. He was an angry, bitter man. Maybe he was jilted by a Sarah back in his hay day and I was going to pay the price. Maybe he didn’t like the crick in his neck that he developed when he had to talk to me. Regardless, from that time forward, I cared less and less about what other people thought of me. I had support and I was raised to be strong. I cannot imagine what it would have been like for me if I hadn’t had that support and strength.
But when Second Born Son came to me with a serious problem last week that involved the classroom. I knew what had to be done. Much is written about the beauty of teachers who are the foundation of a child’s success; how their love of learning shapes and nurtures a child for the rest of their lives. [And we value the ones who have touched us! CR ❤ Sadly, there are small minority whose impact is much less desirable, and scarring. They too can impact a child for a lifetime.
So fret not; SBS has support. And he has strength. And he has a Momma Bear.