If The Teacher Only Knew!

During my school days, the teachers used to beat us like crazy. Many kids dropped out of school because of corporal punishment. They called this truancy. It was a system inherited from the apartheid era. Teachers ruled by fear.

I used to have panic attacks every Sunday evening on the thought of Mr Mabuza alone, the Maths teacher because Maths was not my strength.

I in particular remember this other day when we were doing oral reading. This is where you were required to stand in front of the class and read a story assigned to you by the teacher.

A number of children didn’t know how to read. These were particularly the older kids of the class! Who were known to have repeated every grade. The teacher would then ask, what’s wrong with you? Are you brain damaged? Are you retarded? and the class would laugh at them, HARD.

Those were hostile and dark days, If you would have asked the teachers if they knew about ADHD, ADD, Autism or Dyslexia they would in fact beat you for thinking that you are smarter than them.

Thinking about all of this now I feel very sorry for those poor kids. They are adults now, I’ve seen one of them some couple of weeks back when I went to Nelspruit my home town. He used to sit with me in class and I would deliberately let him copy my work. We never spoke about me letting him copy my work, it was something we both knew I had to do because we both knew his struggle with learning!

This guy is now running one of the biggest shops and butcheries in the township, he also has a tent business, where he hires out tents. He is indeed a very successful business person. A thousand folds better than the teacher who used to make fun of him.

And I’m thinking but this guy couldn’t read in class in fact I’m pretty sure to this day he still can’t read because he dropped out of school because of his struggle to read!

This write up is to say I’m sorry for laughing when the teachers made fun of our friends. THE TEACHERS DIDN’T KNOW THAT THEY DIDN’T KNOW!

6 thoughts on “If The Teacher Only Knew!

  1. Bobby…so good to see you again. This is quite a coincidence. I have started substitute teaching, for only about three months now but today I came home, after subbing a class full of 29 4th graders with mixed emotions. I go to different schools all the time, with different grades; mostly the lower grades. I have only had two “bad experiences” during this first year of subbing.
    Today was one of the “bad days”. I was analyzing it and came upon three major reasons for this.
    1. A horrid adult, permanent Teacher’s Aid who was much like the math teacher you described who traumatized you and the others. She was very militant (to the kids, nice to me). She came into my classroom about an hour into the day and started in immediately dictating to the kids what they were to do and not do and she did it in such a MEAN way. A little girl who arrived early and bent over backwards to help me and was a joy to be around seemed to be on her “hit list”. This child had some major anger issues after this teacher lit into her. Nowadays, teachers are not allowed to touch the kids…in my substitute training we are told we cannot even touch them in a nice way, like a hug, due to the bad things some adults do to kids but I find myself hugging the kids quite often in spite of that rule and I see other, good teachers, hugging them as well; in these lower grades. I would never hug an older child of course.
    Anyway, this teacher’s aid was going around to different kids in the class bossing them around and telling them all the things they couldn’t do. Even when we went out to watch a game of kickball between the staff and the 5th graders, she was bossing everyone around telling them to be quite, don’t sit on your chair wrong, on and on.
    I was wondering how I was going to stop this. Even as a substitute teacher, I have the authority to run the class, not a teacher’s aid. I didn’t want to create an even worse negative situation but was about ready to throw it all on the line and tell her to get out of my class. My biggest pet peeve is bullying and working in the schools in various positions, I see it not only from kid to kid but from adults to kids which I have intervened in the past over.
    Finally, in a subtle way…I let her know I can handle the class, I am in charge and I wanted her to quit it. She acknowledged this and sat at one end of the class and her whole demeanor changed. I took back the control of the class and was able to try to relate to the kids in the way I have found works and creates a good feeling in the class. I never really created what I wanted, mostly because in the first part of the day, she put the kids in a fight or flight mode and many were seething from her abusive behavior. I saw the anger well up in them and the little ways they tried to deal with it; like one boy ripping pieces of paper up and rolling them up into tight knots and working that paper over and over. You could visually see the anger in their eyes and I thought; this is a reason why some kids are mean.
    I have had the feeling for the past few months that children don’t start out mean or broken. They develop these things as they are treated exactly the way this aide was treating them or other adults that they cannot openly and equally respond back to.
    I am happy to hear that your friend has a successful business in spite of his earlier days in school and I felt gladness in how you helped him in looking at your work though neither of you spoke of this taking place. What a small heroic action and you described it so well.
    I came home today, before reading your post, Bobby, with a story in my mind that I wanted to write about. Substitute teaching is giving me a story. Early today I made notes on my phone about what I wanted to call it….”Reckon With It”. This I came up with before I even got to school, thinking of this past week and my teaching experiences. I have learned to overlook a lot of things in the class room and “pick my battles”. I have learned it is normal and natural for kids, any of us, to communicate during the day with those around us and I felt like it is okay for the kids to do this while in school and working on projects, if the situation is appropriate for conversation. I think part of an education is learning to feel comfortable and worthwhile in a social situation. I was focusing on learning how to ignore certain behavior in kids that is somewhat disruptive as long as it isn’t so disruptive no one can think and it turns the class into pure chaos.
    Later, after today…I decided to make this a chapter in my book instead of the title of my book.
    I’m thinking of a new title. At first I came up with “The Heart and Soul of a Teacher” (not just a school teacher of course since I am really not a licensed school teacher.) I may add the word Wisdom to the title as well because without wisdom…we end up demanding submissive behavior in a militant way and want to control the students to fit our needs.
    Anyway, I sure don’t mean to take over your post, Bobby. I just found it so interesting that I haven’t been on Word Press for so long, nor heard from you forever and decided I would come to Word Press to try and start my story here and saw you had “liked” something I wrote, came to your site and read this memory you had yourself from your days in school. It fit exactly what was on my mind today and this past week.
    I am amazed how spending only one day with a class, I come away with them imprinted so deeply in my psyche…I think of them all the way home and share stories about them with my husband and kids.
    There was a book, made into a song and movie, years ago called “Bless the Beasts and the Children”…they have no voice and need adults to protect them. Amen to that!


  2. So good to hear from you Maggie.

    Over the years I’ve learned that in life there are just bad people. It seems as if being bad is some sort of drug that keeps them going through tough times. It’s bad.

    I’m interested in knowing if setting an example for her actually taught her a lesson or her heart is so much dented that she’s beyond repair and went on to abuse the kids in your absence again.

    This thing called Karma really exists. If you are good as a teacher this inculcates a culture of trust and love. I tell you now. All the teachers who treated us nice, we passed their subjects with disctinctions but the ones with diabolical attitutes we struggled with their subjects.

    Keep up the good works Maggie.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A good post Bobby. I think most of us have encountered mean teachers.
    I know I did.
    I went to a Catholic boarding school when I was five.
    Remember it clearly.
    A couple of really sadistic nuns.
    But, we survive!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s