The class of thirty 9-year-old third-graders looked like something out of a 1950s photograph. They sat perfectly still. Their reading books were held in identical grips in their chubby hands. Every student held their books at exactly the same angle. No one slouched. It looked like a model classroom.
What no one knew was that, just the day before, their narcissistic teacher had taped a student’s mouth shut, tied him to his desk and struck him.
They were not model students. They were quite simply terrified.
The Mean Teacher
Finding out who your new teacher will be at the start of each school year is always very exciting. In my über-religious Protestant school, there were two third grade teachers. There was the beloved nice one who, unbeknownst to us, was slowly dying of cancer.
Then there was the other one. A newlywed. Very young. Very pretty. Very mean.
As luck would have it, I got the mean teacher. But I adored her. Back then, I adored all my teachers and often was teacher’s pet.
You’re Not Sick
Who doesn’t have a dire tale to tell of getting sick at school. On this particular morning, I felt fine when I boarded the schoolbus. I felt fine when I arrived at school and handed in my completed project.
Then it struck me, the waves of nausea. That salty flavor in the mouth that precedes losing ones cookies. “Please teacher,” I begged. “I think I’m sick. Can I go call my mommy?”
“No,” she snapped. “You’re just pretending to be sick because you haven’t finished your homework.”
It wasn’t true, but she was scary. So I shut up.
Then I threw up…all over the floor. Served her right.
The highlight of every day was our morning gym class. It always started with laps. When school started, she made us run five laps each day. Soon, she upped it to ten, then fifteen, then twenty. By the end of the year, we 9-year-olds were forced to run thirty laps around the half-gym or a distance equal to one mile before we could play gym games and have fun.
A mile. Third graders! Call me kooky, but I think that falls under the heading of Teacher’s Ego and Cruel-And-Unusual-Punishment.
Maybe the others found it easy. Maybe they were more athletic than me. Or maybe they cheated. All I know is that I, the skinny little girl with the dark neck indicative of hypothyroidism was beet red and gasping for air, still running laps while the other children were well into their games.
Standing in the middle of the gym, spinning her whistle by its chord around her outstretched index finger, she was hardly a paragon of athleticism. She never moved a muscle…even before she got pregnant.
But she’d whip her class into shape if it was the last thing she ever did!
There’s always one child who’s the “problem” in the classroom. Even back then, I knew they were the ones who were hurting the most. But our teachers didn’t seem to “git” child psychology at all. The child who hurt the most was always punished and punished and punished. As a result, they “acted out” even more. It was a vicious circle.
On this particularly day, the little boy wouldn’t stop talking. Cutting up.
He was ordered to copy a Bible verse fifty times as punishment. It didn’t shut him up (nor did it endear him to God, I’m guessing. Been there. Done that. Stupidest punishment ever!)
He was banished from the classroom. He still cut up when he returned.
He was forced to put his nose on the wall for ten minutes. It didn’t subdue him. Nothing did.
At this point, our teacher should have marched him down to The Office. Delegated to her superiors. But no! What narcissist would admit defeat by requesting help!? Heck no! She’d break his will come Hell or High Water.
Next, our teacher fished a roll of masking tape from her desk. Pulling out a length, she taped his mouth shut. Still he made noise and continued to disrupt the class.
The thought fills me with horror too…but it gets worse.
Her next trick was to bind him to his desk chair like a prisoner. I’m proud to say neither his spirit nor his will were subdued. The more she abused him, the more we rose to the challenge, thrashing and fighting his bonds for all he was worth, sucking oxygen through his nose as he struggled.
“Everyone watch,” she said to the class. Then she did it. She struck him. We were filled with silent horror.
Eventually, this teacher was placed on administrative leave. For a while. In no time, she was back. In the same role, at the same school, traumatizing more children…for over two decades. Like all the other scandals at my school, this one was also brushed under a very lumpy rug. There was no transparency. There was no humility. Small wonder then, when the old school building was demolished a few years ago, some former students watched the demolition…and cheered.
Narcissists Never Change
Almost two decades after surviving Third Grade, I had the extreme bad fortune to run into my teacher again. Of all places, our meeting was in the Ladies Restroom of the church/school were she worked and I previously attended. It was Intermission of the church’s annual Christmas program. All our bladders were full. The line of ladies waiting to use the stalls snaked out the bathroom door.
My former teacher was first in line. I was second. Four stalls were in use. The large stall for the disabled was available. Timidly, I mentioned to her that the handicap stall was open and maybe she should, like y’know, use it so we can all get a chance to pee sometime today! Only I didn’t say it that way. I’d never have dared!
Her narcissism and narcissistic reply shocked me. “No!” she snapped, launching into a self-righteous lecture. “That’s only for disabled people.”
I looked back at the line of women. No one was in a wheelchair. No one was in a lark. No one was even on crutches. But all of our back teeth were floating! She was being deliberately bloody-minded. She hadn’t changed a bit!
But fear of teachers dies hard. I shut up and waited when I should have butted in front and used that damn stall! To this day I regret not putting her in her place. So, I’ll do it now.
You, Mrs. ______________, are a narcissist.
You had no empathy for your students.
All you cared about is that we looked good so you looked good.
Your abuses baffle the mind!
You should have been “defrocked” and never allowed to teach again.
You’re not holier-than-thou. You just imagine you are.
I feel sorry for your students, husband and children.
Of all my teachers, you were the worst.
I have no fond memories of you nor
do I remember learning anything in your class except
how NOT to be!