7/06/2006

Tales of a Warped Childhood

I'm sure both of my loyal readers are just dying for the next installment in the saga of my half-assed elementary school, so I won't make you wait any longer. I do apologize for the delay in posting; Let's suffice it to say that the last week has been somewhat hectic including yet another dog bite. But we'll leave it at that . . .

In second grade, I remember a particularly awful woman who actually shook a poor student for inadvertently making a pencil mark on a table. Maybe all first grade teachers routinely shake innocent children but I have a feeling it was unique to my school.

The fun really began in the sixth grade when the goal was to teach us a foreign language. It's a great idea & they should have been teaching us foreign languages, so no complaints there. The downfall was the teacher: He didn't speak any English so of course this experiment didn't last very long & was completely unproductive in every way.

The scariest thing about my school, hands down, was the evil witch that taught the 7th & 8th grades. I'm not using witch as a metaphor or a euphism here. She was thin & pinched with a pointy nose, scary bulging eyes & long, stringy, unkempt hair. Lest I offend any Wiccans, I'd like to clarify that this woman looked like the stereotypical cartoon witch & had a personality that would make Hitler seem like an ok guy.

She struck fear in the heart of the average student & was mercilessly mocked by the less easily intimidated. Helpless in the face of mockery, her response was to exert even more cruelty on the weak & innocent. She would pepper her speech with foreign words & phrases, in an attempt to seem educated & cosmopolitan. Unfortunately for her, even most middle-schoolers were familiar with these words & knew that she was using them incorrectly.

A ceaseless bully, there was hardly a parent that didn't come head-to-head with this dragon lady on a regular basis. Psychotic screaming fits, name-calling, belittling students, she was guilty of all these & more on any given day. She would punish students for not participating in church functions on weekends, but was herself exempt from them.

In 7th grade, she mercilessly skewered a girl who had opted to visit her dying grandfather one sunday, thereby skipping an annual religious procession -- in front of the entire class, no less. But in 8th grade, that same teacher spent an entire period detailing why she herself had skipped the festival that year by regaling us with a story of a "fantastic" marathon party she had attended instead. Ooookay.

Even as children, we realized that this was a desperate cry to belong. I mean, who has marathon parties anyway? And even if someone does, who goes to them? Better yet, who views a marathon party as more important than religious duties, but doesn't find visiting a dying grandparent a viable excuse?

We could only presume that this was the first time she had ever been invited to any party at all & that because of her desperate reaction, would probably be the last time as well.

Luckily for me, I was able to get into public school by 10th grade. The Catholic high schools around here are fine for regular students but when your education had been as severely handicapped as mine had been, you need some special help catching up to the rest of the world. After 3 years at one of the city's best magnets, I graduated with an honors diploma, college credits & a full scholarship to one of the most prestigous colleges in the US.

Luckily for everyone else, that school closed years ago & no other children will ever suffer as I have suffered in the name of neighborhood schooling, at least in my old neighborhood.

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