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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Lost and Found – Teachers Who Kill Their Students' Spirits and Students Who Reclaim Their Lives

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.

If you would like to read more from this author, click any of the following links:

All Craft Connection

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Theresa Wiza's Blog 

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  1. Teachers and adults in general don't often realize the power of their words with children. Very sad when this happens and it happens way too often.

    Good blog!

  2. Yes, the frying pan seems like the right idea! On behalf of sinful people everywhere Theresa, let me apologize for Bunyan's cruelty. We individuals are too often mean, and we citizens are too often careless in letting people like that hold positions of power. God allows us the free will to sin, but He does not really let anything go in the end.

  3. AMEN! (so be it) dont let the child be poisoned..yet..if they are stuck..they will build up a resilience! AND karma has a way of smackin;m right out of God's territory! "what one does to you is their karma, how we respond to them is ours" MUAH! love this

  4. You are brave to share such a deeply personal story. She sounds like she was a terrible teacher. Hopefully your other teachers were better than this dud. Her color game should have been reported.

    Unfortunately, many parents today take the attitude that their children can do no wrong and as a result, I've seen a lot of good teachers (not Mrs. Bunyans) accused of things that just aren't so. The parents fall for this so the kids play it up.

    A parent needs to conference with the teacher before stomping their feet and yanking their kids out of class. A lot of kids are quick to say, "She doesn't like me," but it might really mean "I'm doing poorly in her class, so I'm going to say, 'she doesn't like me' so I'm not blamed for my bad grades." I've seen this!


  5. Parents are the real creature of any individual. They should be respected with full dignity and honor.

  6. I'm happy I found you :-) And pls check my blog for a well deserved award!

  7. What a great post and a good subject to bring up. I'm sorry that it happened to you, and as I was reading I found myself wanting to stick up for you to this mean, rotten teacher.

    I was fortunate, I only had one teacher that acted questionable...and my grandparents picked up on it and had her confronted in the principles office. It was the first of many confrontations and then other parents started coming forward. It never deterred her behavior though. So sad.

    I don't remember her name just how she treated me and many others...but I remember the teacher we had for the second half of second grade...she was an awesome teacher.

    Many hugs to you. Cheers, Jenn.

  8. Though I've seen and heard of far too many examples like this this, I'm still amazed that people such as Mrs. Bunyan not only choose, but manage to hold onto careers in education...sometimes for decades. Adults need to take seriously the fact that we have an a great deal of influence, especially when it comes to our dealings with children.

  9. @Theresa - no worries, happy you found my blog :)

  10. Teachers like this make me crazy. I had one in the 4th grade. Mrs. Willis. We called her Witch Willis.

  11. I hate people who don't like kids who are teachers! I'm sorry she singled you out as her "whipping boy"

  12. Wow, what a riveting post!! I hate to think of my kids dealing with a teacher like that. She was a nightmare from hell. It is to your credit that you survived such abuse. No one should have to put up with crap like that!! This woman had no business holding a position in education in this life or in the next.


  13. Fortunately, despite abuse at home, when I came up against my teaching nemesis, I fought back immediately. Mr Bocock (oh yes, for that was his name) and I spent three happy years hating each other and trying to one-up at every opportunity.
    Sadly, not many children have the ability to do so and end up as you were. I'm so glad you made it through and out the other side, and that she got what was coming to her.

  14. Oh my goodness, what a terrible teacher and experience. I am so sorry that you had to go through that.

    My sister who is 5'11" and quite thin and sensitive had a similar experience with her health teacher in middle school. When the students pulled a research topic out of a hat, she pulled out "anorexia" which the teacher proceeded to use a class lecture on how perhaps this time the research would save a lost anorexic girl. There was nothing worse for a 12 year old girl unsure of herself, friends, appearance and place in the world.

  15. What a horrible women. Glad to hear she got fired. No kid should have to put up with that, especially from a teacher.

  16. I JUST read your post as you commented on mine. This breaks my heart...what a horrible-hearted woman. I'm glad she was fired, and I hope she never had the opportunity to hurt another child again!

  17. Talk about a teacher having an impact on a child. That was just terrible of her to do. I have no clue how you managed to stay there, but unfortunately it happened. The blog was great though. Thank you for sharing your story.


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