The media focus on bullying has got to remind a lot of adults of incidents when they bullied or were bullied. I know it reminds me . . . .
In March of 3rd grade we moved to a new house, and I was forced to change schools near the end of the school year.
I went from a secure position in a classroom led by a decent teacher to . . . Miss Slack’s classroom.
“Introduce yourself to the class.” The young blonde teacher nodded to me as I stood there next to the desk she had had someone vacate for me. It was in the middle of the classroom, in the second row.
I said my name aloud for the class.
She sighed with an exasperated spout of air. “Where did you go to school? Why did you come here in the middle of March?”
“Um, I go to Gull Road School. Miss Dixon is my teacher. We moved here.”
This time, instead of making a disgusted noise, Miss Slack looked at the rest of the class and rolled her eyes. OK, maybe she didn’t actually roll her eyes. But it felt as if she were making fun of me. She was putting me on display, and her manner was disdainful.
“Sit down. Open the red book to page twenty-four.”
I tried to find the page the rest of the class was on, but words and numbers blurred beyond recognition.
Ten minutes later, Miss Slack announced the beginning of reading period. The kids scrambled around the room, dragging and pushing desks into three circles. I looked for my reading group, the top one that I’d always been in. But Miss Slack pointed to one of the smaller groups and said to me, “Luanne, join the middle reading group.” Apparently the large group was the top group. I was being put in the bottom half of the class in reading. Me, the best reader every year.
I glanced at her in surprise. I had heard the principal assure Daddy that my new teacher already had my records and that there wouldn’t be any “gaps in her education.”
“Luanne, you might be used to being smart at your old school, but here we have a whole class full of smart students. There isn’t any room in the top reading group, so you will have to join the middle one.”
That afternoon, we worked on multiplication. I was the first student Miss Slack called to the board. She asked me to multiply 33.16 x 48.12 on the board. “To see where you’re at,” she said.
I did my work, carrying over and counting places for the decimal. Now she’ll see I am a good student, I thought.
“That’s not correct,” she said, when I was finished.
I looked back at the problem, feeling a thick crease between my eyes. I wasn’t sure where my mistake could be.
“You must make a box around the answer,” Miss Slack said. “Jeremy, go to the board and show Luanne how it’s done.”
Jeremy drew a square box around my answer. “Now it’s correct.” Miss Slack nodded for us both to sit down.
At the end of the hour, Miss Slack asked me to do another problem. The problem was easier, 7.04 x 15. I finished it and turned to sit down.
“Incorrect!” Miss Slack gloated. “What’s wrong, class?”
The whole class sang out that I had forgotten to box my answer. I hadn’t redeemed myself at all, but had made myself out to be stupid and a fitting target for the teacher’s cruelty.
Next post: Part II of this bullying story.
Note: because this happened many many years ago, I don’t remember the exact problems I worked on the board. My memory tells me they were decimal multiplication, but I could be wrong about that. In the way of memoir, I just made up the multiplication problems here.
I’ve asked myself many times if there was some way that I had shown any arrogance that would have caused this teacher to treat me this way, but I was brand new and very shy and scared. Maybe my shyness irritated her.
Most of the pieces I share with you won’t go into my book, but they are from the same stock of memories.