Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Mean teacher

I bumped into Mrs D the other day. It was at the shops. She pretended that she couldn’t remember my name. Which is a bit ridiculous because she was my teacher in prep and grade 2. She remembered my surname, sibling’s names and my parent’s names. She was my mum’s friend for a while. And I’m one of those people who kinda look the same as when I was a kid. She knew who I was but for some reason, she looked awkward and paused for a long time looking up into the air. ‘It’s Jenni’, I said and looked her straight in the eye. Then I realized that she hadn’t changed in all these years.

Mrs D was a mean teacher. She was mean to me and others and she always seemed to hate her job. As a 5 year old preppy, when a group of girls kicked and punched me at school, I ran crying to Mrs D, expecting some kind of comfort when I told her what had happened. Her reply was, ‘Nobody likes a dibber dobber.’ Mean. In class when my friend Sarah had some new textas and offered to share them with me, Mrs D walked past and said to my friend, ‘You know, Sarah, you don’t have to share with people you don’t like.’ Mean. I felt victimized by her, she made me feel confused because she treated me as though I was a bad kid even though I was admittedly a bit of a goody two shoes. She’d always refer to me as the ‘ringleader’ in my close group of three friends and I thought that word meant I was horrible. And so it made me want to be a naughty kid.

But it wasn’t just me she was unnecessarily cruel to. One day when we were sitting in a circle on the floor for story time, one of the girls kept telling Mrs D with increased urgency that she needed to go to the toilet. She kept on repeating to the girl, ‘No, you should have gone to the toilet at recess.’ Even as a 5 year old with a trust in the wisdom of authority figures, I knew this was extreme. Finally, it was too much for the girl and she stood up and in the middle of our story time circle, she wet herself much to her distress and humilation. But I’ll never forget Mrs D’s reaction. She was angry. Angry with the poor girl. Mean teacher.

So as I briefly chatted with Mrs D at the shopping centre, I realized that I wasn’t angry with her, I didn’t even feel hurt anymore. I felt sad and sorry for her. Looking at her with my adult eyes, I saw a strange and awkward woman who may have even been a bit afraid of me. Maybe she thought I was going to tell her off. But I wished her well and said goodbye wondering what had made her the way she was. Thankfully, over the years I had many fantastic teachers to balance out the meanness of Mrs D and I never had such a mean teacher again, oh except for my high school maths teacher Mr P. Now if I ever bump into that guy I’ve got some choice words for him…

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