Thursday, September 3, 2009

On Traumatic Childhood Experiences

So I log into Facebook today, and I see one of those random group invitations, the groups which I very rarely join because they are always SO dumb. No, I don’t want to join a group that’s called “I love cookies!” thanks. Anyway, this particular group was “Memories of Name of Old Teacher”. Apparently this teacher is dying of cancer, which is horrible, obviously. The group was set up by this teacher’s kid with the purpose of having a spot where former students and colleagues could write down their favourite memories of this person and the ways in which this person changed them. When all is said and compiled, the stories and memories and pictures will be printed out for this person to see, so this person can see how many lives they have changed. Okay, I was trying to keep this gender neutral in case someone connected with this person found this, but whatever. It’s messing up my tenses and sounding dumb. So we’ll just call this teacher Mr. X. I think the whole concept is a lovely idea, but I didn’t join. Why? Mr. X was one of the worst teachers I ever had. He did not have any positive impact on my life and always made me feel kind of bad about myself.

I had him for two straight years, at a very formative time in my life. I mean, it wasn’t like he was this horrible beast of a guy; he was just kind of an asshole. I can see that now looking back, but when Mr. X was my teacher, he scared me a bit. He was a bit of a bully, and when you are 11, 12 years old, you just don’t stand up to person like that, especially when he is your teacher. At least I didn’t. He had a mocking sense of humour that kids don’t really need when they are in grades 5 and 6. I always tried to lay low so I wouldn’t be the direct target of his wit.

I remember one time I was doing a speech in front of the entire class, which holy hell I hated doing, and as I stood up there I was shuffling back and forth on my feet. And he mocked me, in front of the entire class. “Why are you shuffling? You look crazy!!” I’m shuffling, SIR, because I am extremely nervous about public speaking in front of my peers. You’re mocking me does not help matters, because now I’m overly conscious of my feet and I’m forgetting the words to my speech.

We also had this part of English class where we had to read aloud. We were reading this book…I don’t even remember what it was; I only remember that one of the characters was named “Cynthia”. I could not for the life of me pronounce “Cynthia”, I would start reading, get to a line with that name, and just start sputtering, “Ththia”, “Cytia”. I did not have any kind of speech impediment when I talked normally, but for whatever reason, I had issues with reading in front of the class. Of course, the first time it happened, everyone in the class found it hilarious. Which looking back, it kind of is, but I was mortified. BUT THEN, everytime Mr.X would see the name “Cynthia” coming up in a paragraph, he would stop whoever was reading, and be like “Megan, your turn”. So then I would be forced to lisp my way through the word “Cynthia” and everybody would laugh. Everytime. Eventually I caught on and just skipped right over that name, but god, I hated him for doing that.

He also had days where he would pick on the shy kids. They would actually be called “pick on __” day. We’d be getting ready to go for the day, and he would be like “don’t forget guys, tomorrow is pick on ___ day!” I don’t even remember what the pick on ___ days actually involved because I’ve completely blocked them from my mind.

One time it was the dead of winter, and he made one of my shy friends go stand outside the portable door with no coat or anything. He locked the door, telling her, “when I can hear you yell ‘let me in’ from the front of the classroom, somebody will unlock the door”. She was out there forever screaming “LET ME IN!” She was so freaking embarrassed. Like, I don’t know if that was his way of combating shyness, but what the hell teacher college did you go to Mr. X?

One time he also made us all stand up on our chairs and say three things we didn’t like about ourselves. Only when we did that could we sit down. I always thought that whole exercise would work better in reverse, because when I think back to that day, I remember standing up there on my chair just thinking, why is Mr.X making us bring up all our issues and making us feel bad about ourselves? Most of the girls answered with things like “I hate my hair” “I hate my nose” “I’m too fat”, and I still feel so sad for those little girls.

Anyway, those are just some of the lovely memories I have of those years. We did fun stuff in that class too, like annual dinners, and I’ll admit Mr. X was a funny guy when his humour wasn’t aimed at an innocent kid, but for me, the bad outweighed the good. I could not wait to get out of his class.

So I get this group invitation and just immediately think- I’m not joining that group. I will not make up some good memory just because this guy is dying. Does the fact that he is dying make up for the fact that he basically gave me issues for life? I don’t know…I think in death people always tend to make others out to be saintlier than they actually were in life. People want to remember the good, and rightly so, but that doesn’t erase the bad things. He’s not a bad guy, he’s really not, and he’s clearly loved by a lot of people. The fact that he is dying doesn’t really change the way I feel about Mr.X though. Yes, I’m sorry for his family, I really, truly am, but I don’t think I can contribute to his memory book. I think he was an awful teacher. Anyway, I’m feeling guilt over this. It’s not like he scarred me that badly, and it’s not like I really ever think about him, but when I look back, the way he treated me and the other kids in my class, definitely still irks. I remember it all very vividly.

Should I just let it go and make up some sappy memory, so that when he is sick and looking through this compiled book, my entry can contribute to making him feel just that much better? Maybe. The past is the past right? Or do I just hit “ignore” and move on with my life. I just…I just don’t know.


sp said...

you know what they say "what dosen't kill you makes you stronger" and Mr.X being a PR at times may have shapped your life in some tiny way. I only wish you would have told what a he was like back then so i could have gone and torn a strip of him!

Meg said...

en, nobody wants to be that kid!

Emily said...

I totally don't think you should make up some stupid memory of this guy - he totally sounds like an asshole, dying or not. People do make out the dying (or dead) to be much better people than they were - look at Michael Jackson; someone who didn't know anything about him when he died would have thought he was a bloody saint not a child molester. Nope nope - trust your instincts and sit this group out!

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