When I was young I was so insecure, one negative comment would send me into a tailspin of despair. I thought I was stupid and ugly, so when I entered high school, I was already prepared to feel like the outcast I knew myself to be.
What didn't help was a home ec teacher in my freshman year who targeted me with her loathing.
I saw it on her face the first day I met her, her squinty eyes subtly warning me, "I hate you already and I will make this year miserable for you." She had never before met me, but I figured she must have known ABOUT me, because her contempt was accurately pointed toward the only student in the class who deserved not to be liked – me.
Our first project to sew was a skirt. I was 5'6.5" and weighed not quite 100 pounds. Stores didn't carry size 0 back then, so I wore the next largest size, which I think at the time was a size 5 (still too large for my anorexic-looking frame). She commanded me to purchase a pattern in a size 10.
My mother, however, refused to buy one in a size 10, but then reasoned that maybe this teacher's intentions were to have her students make the skirt too large so they could take it in later. As a compromise, we bought a size 8 pattern.
A too large pattern was not this teacher's intention; everybody else had purchased the size they wore. She was probably angry with me for purchasing a size different from the one she ordered me to buy, but she never said anything about it; she just punished me relentlessly the rest of the school year. In any event, with pattern in hand, I, along with all of the other students, proceeded to open the package and spread out the pattern.
Sewing was new territory for me. I didn't have a clue about how to read a pattern. While Mrs. Bunyan labored over detailing the pattern instructions to the other students in the class, hopping from student to student, she told me to "figure it out." After several failed attempts, even though other students stepped forward to offer me help, I finished the skirt. When I put it on, it promptly fall to the floor.
On "swatch" day, she draped swatches of cloth near the faces of several students while she explained to the other students why a certain color looked good or didn't look good on those students she chose to wear the swatches. To show the differences, she chose a blond, a brunette, a red head, and the only girl in the class with black hair, me.
As she placed the different colored swatches on the blond, she remarked about how good the blond looked in red, blue, orange, black, white, brown, purple – every color, as a matter of fact, except yellow.
The brunette looked good in every color, too, though green wasn't her best look, and the red head looked good in every color but red and orange.
Then she sat me in front of the class. "Notice how green makes her look sick. Notice how yellow drains the color from her face and makes her look sallow. Black makes her look too stark and white makes her look too pale." The ONLY color that looked good on me, according to Mrs. Bunyan, was pink.
With each negative comment, I felt my shoulders slump more and more and my self esteem sink deeper and deeper into the floor. I wanted to run out of the classroom and never return. I wanted to smash her face with a frying pan, but instead I held it all in until I left class and balled my eyes out where nobody could see me. She had humiliated and degraded me in front of an entire class of my peers, and now I knew for certain how truly ugly I was.
Teachers have the ability to make or break a child. Mrs. Bunyan broke me. When I added her insults to my father's injuries (he always told me I was stupid), I felt unworthy of being in the this world, let alone in her classroom. I sunk deeper and deeper into a state of despair and even contemplated suicide. Who could love somebody as ugly, stupid, and unworthy as I was?
Somehow by the grace of God and perhaps my Guardian Angel, I survived her class and I have managed to make it to the ripe old age of 59 without allowing her negative comments to prevent me from moving forward. Why she chose me to attack, I will never know, but I do know that she probably sought out the most insecure person in that classroom – me – and chose me to persecute relentlessly. She offered me no help while I made the skirt, nor did she offer any help with the sleeved blouse I mangled, and she completely ignored me during cooking class.
I know that I am probably hypersensitive to child abuse in any form, and I know that if my child had experienced Mrs. Bunyan as his or her teacher, I'd have forced the school to accommodate my child and I would have gone through all the necessary steps in ridding the school of the cancer known as Mrs. Bunyan.
My parents probably thought I was exaggerating when I talked about the evil woman who taught me home ec, and in defense of my parents, I probably wasn't all that vocal about the abuse back then – I was an extremely emotional and sensitive teenager – but in my opinion, any person who deliberately drains you of your spirit and who thwarts your every attempt at success is evil.
An evil, negative presence that hacks away at a child's spirit prevents that child from moving forward and causes (sometimes) irreparable damage. Parents have the right to remove their children from classrooms where teachers treat their children abusively.
If your child is stuck in a classroom with a teacher who hates him or her, get your child out of there NOW! Don't allow ANYBODY to destroy your child's spirit. She or he will be able to reclaim it someday, but why put your child through the torture of enduring that kind of hell?
Side note: I was nearly triumphant when I heard Mrs. Bunyan had been fired several years after I left high school. Perhaps enough students stepped forward to confirm her abuse and the school was able to rid itself of her cancerous behavior.
This post was written as part of a new Group Blogging Experience (or GBE), previously begun by a woman named Alicia. Today Beth, along with Marie Anne, continue the experience for bloggers to associate with one another, support each other's blogging experience, and hopefully expand their readership by providing a network for bloggers.
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