But I’m going to do it anyway; some fairly strong feelings have been dredged up from the depths of my memory and I don’t want to just let them sink back down, but there’s no question that I can’t write about them where I almost just did.
I’m currently in the process of filling out an application, for the second time round, to TeachFirst. In a nutshell, this is a scheme which aims to address educational disadvantage in the UK by recruiting high-calibre university graduates and fast-tracking them into teaching jobs in schools ‘facing challenging circumstances’. My immediate reaction to every question in the initial ‘values questionnaire’ part of the application process has been ‘waaaah I can’t do that. I can’t do that either…oh god, or that…’
This may be partly due to how rubbish I feel today, physically and in every other way. I don’t know. I’m sleep-deprived and… And. But I’m also going to make a wild and highly topical accusation as to where some of my lack of self-confidence (which I feel grating on me in every little thing I ever do in my day-to-day life, and have recently been feeling I may be reaching some kind of breaking point with) may have stemmed from.
I had a teacher, for years 5 and 6 of primary school, who hated me for no apparent reason. I highly doubt that she’ll ever read this, but I’m a tiny bit afraid that through some weird twist of fate she might; if she were to stumble across this blog somehow, she’d recognise me. I guess if you’re reading this, Ms. Wicked Witch… Hello. : )
So. I wonder how it’s possible to hate a 9-year-old. I never misbehaved or got into any kind of trouble at school; I don’t mean to sound big-headed, but I was usually top of the class in just about everything. Sure, I probably cost the school a pretty penny in sticking plasters for my daily grazed knees and elbows, and sure I had far too many nosebleeds and those are gross, but other than that I don’t think I can really have caused anybody any harm back then. I was the kind of kid who had all the good ideas but obligingly let her friends claim them as their own, until she learned to keep quiet and be more selective about who she shared her thoughts with. (Not a lot has changed there, except that ‘obligingly’ has become passive-aggressively).
So, one week into belonging to the Wicked Witch’s class I got the telling-off of a lifetime. (Only one other telling off from my lifetime stands out in my memory so clearly, and I’m not even sure if that one was real or just a dream). It happened to me and my best friend, B, as we were leaving school at the end of the day. You see, at ‘playtime’ that morning, a silly little argument had broken out between us and two other girls from our friendship group, over who was ‘it’ in a game of tag or something daft like that. The other two had gone straight away to complain to Ms. Wicked Witch that B and I were being nasty to them. We and They spent the rest of the day not talking to each other, and probably doing a fair amount of being nasty about one another behind one another’s backs. Anyway, at the end of the day, B and I were going to walk home together. We got almost out of the door when I realised I’d left something behind, so I went back to the classroom to get it and she waited for me in the corridor. As I left the classroom, Ms. Witch and one of the girls from the other camp were talking in the open area outside. Head down, I walked on past, round to the corridor to where B was waiting for me. Before we managed to get out of the building for the second time, it was;
“GET BACK HERE RIGHT NOW, GIRLS. JUST WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU’RE GOING?”
(er – Home, Miss?)
“DON’T TALK BACK TO ME, YOUNG LADY. There followed a massive rant, mainly about LOITERING AROUND LISTENING IN TO OTHER PEOPLE’S CONVERSATIONS and ending in NOW GET OUT OF MY SIGHT”
When I say massive rant, I mean I have never really been so shell-shocked in my whole life. One thing I always have been, I suppose, is difficult to shock. But on this occasion, a) we weren’t listening in to anyone’s conversation and anyway, if your conversation is so private why have it in a corridor, and b) the way she yelled at us, anyone would think that instead of just being one half of a silly playground argument, the pair of us had been setting fire to puppies or something. We both went home in tears, and both our mothers stormed straight over to school to find out what the hell this was all about. My mum was told that not only had I been incredibly nasty to those two girls that day, but also that I was the ‘ringleader of a gang of kids who bullied and tormented the younger children on the playground on a daily basis’. Oh, and that one of the friends from the other camp, who I also considered a best friend, ‘would do anything I told her to’ and if I said jump she’d say how high.
Even with an adult perspective on the matter, I’m pretty sure no word of that was true. If I say jump, (and to be fair, I’d be more likely to say ‘don’t you think jumping could be a good idea, maybe?’) most people say no Steph, I’d rather just sit here, and I say ok then, sitting’s cool too, I guess. Anyway, I think mum believed her at first, but then thought about it and changed her mind. Either way, I went to bed in something of a state that night, and didn’t feel much better in the morning. I got to school at the same time as B the next day, and we walked into the building together. Ms. Witch appeared, all feigned sweetness and light, came up to us – “Hi S, Hi B!!!” – pinched my cheeks and attempted to hug us both. Of course we were having none of that.
From then on I was convinced she hated me. She could be bitingly sarcastic, and it always got to me. She gave me one of the smallest parts in the Christmas play even though both my singing and speaking were better than the girl’s (one of the other two from earlier) who got the part (and didn’t end up singing the intended solo, solo). One time she told me to ‘Get a Life’ when I got excessively distressed over my computer having crashed. She wrote on my final school report that I needed to ‘broaden my friendship horizons’ which of course I read as ‘you have no friends’. One time she told me that there was no such thing as centrifugal force, I was making up words and called me a ‘total oddball’ when I went and pointed it out to her in the dictionary and turned out to be right. ( I remembered it from the Year 2 trip to the toy museum. Seriously, Google it. It was a little merry-go-round type thing with chairs that swing outwards when it spins).
I’m not sure if ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ applies when you’re nine, but I suspect not. Or, at least, it depends on how sensitive the nine-year-old is. Either way, in her position I would not have favourites, and I would not have un-favourites. I would definitely never, ever use sarcasm on a child. And even if some scumbag-from-across-the-road’s kid was proving herself ever-so-slightly smarter than my own son, I would not take it as my mission to undermine her fragile self-assurance at every opportunity.
I’m getting a Life. No thanks to you, Ms.
And if I couldn’t act then, I’m learning to do it now in order to come across as someone who believes in herself – a necessary illusion for getting to where I want to be, even though I’m not so sure that I really believe anything, or of where exactly it is that I want to be.
Perhaps I was arrogant and did need bringing down a peg or two. Perhaps I wasn’t quite the amazing singer or the fast runner I thought I was; perhaps I was a little too proud of my top of the class status and my grazed knees.
But… I was Nine. Y’know?