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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Are We Mollycoddling Our Kids?

Walking around my classroom today while my students were writing a story, I noticed one of my brightest boy’s handwriting looked like a chicken had scratched across the page.“That’s terrible handwriting Harley!” I said calmly. “You need to rub it out and start again.”

The next time I looked at him he had his head in his hands,

“What’s the matter Harley, why aren't you doing your work?”

“You said my writing was terrible,” he moaned.

Oh crap, I thought, I’m going to be in trouble now. Teachers aren’t supposed to say things like that to kids any more. It damages self-esteem and can cause long term mental issues… apparently.

One day at Kindergarten when I was four years of age I got into trouble with the teacher for trashing yet another paper lantern with my inept scissor-cutting technique.

“If you ruin this one I’ll cut your fingers off.” She snapped at me. 
When I told my mother she pulled me out of the Kindy immediately. 
Akin to going from the frying pan into the fire my parents enrolled me into an all-girls convent complete with a plethora of horrible, vicious nuns.

Fearsome (and probably overheated) in their voluminous black habits they were an unsettling and intimidating presence in the eyes of a four year old.
One of the old crones swept imposingly into our classroom one day.
“You! Girl in the corner! Were you talking?”

“No sister.” I blinked back tears of terror.

“Liar,” she snarled, “Come here to the front of the class you bad, bad girl.”
She then proceeded to put chalk all over my outstretched tongue as retribution for talking and lying.

I was only four and was convinced the chalk was poisonous. 

By the time my mother picked me up my tongue had dehydrated like a prune from my having had it stuck out of my mouth for the remainder of the day. Soon after that I was relocated to a State school.

For the rest of my primary schooling my parents ignored any complaints I made. 
Short, skinny, sh#t at sport and in possession of an oddly shaped nose I experienced my fair share of bullying. I just did what normal kids did and picked on someone weaker.

If teachers persecuted me for whatever reason, my parents would just say it must have been my own fault. 
If I was in strife at school then I was in trouble at home ten times the magnitude of school. 

Eventually I learnt resilience.

I had a mongrel of a teacher in Year Seven. Getting off on the wrong foot with him in the very first week was my father’s fault.
“Mr. Fitzgibbon, my Dad says your name is Irish.”

He looked pleased.

“My Dad says that ‘Fitz’ means ‘son of’ and that a gibbon is a monkey, so you must be the son of a monkey.”

My father was such a smart arse.

Fitzy was the old-school type of teacher that would hurl a blackboard duster at inattentive students and called everyone either ‘girly’ or ‘boy’.
One day I was reading aloud in class and I pronounced the word France as ‘Fr-ar-nce’ as opposed the colloquial ‘Fr-air-nts’.
“That’s not how you say it!” he mocked loudly. “Who do you think you are Miss Hoity Toity!”

The whole class laughed while he brutally humiliated me for about ten minutes.
Did I go home bleating and sooking to my mother? 

No…what I wanted was vengeance.

Fitzy was in charge of the Sports Room which housed the entire school’s sporting equipment. Useless twit that he was, the key to the Sport’s Room was constantly going AWOL. 

Fitzy was forever standing up week after week at assembly going red in the face about how his beloved key was missing again. 

Eventually the moronic gorilla had the common sense to dictate that he was to be in sole possession of the key. The lock on the sports room door had been replaced for the final time and no one (except for him) was allowed to touch it under any circumstances.

His crucial mistake was to hang his precious key on a hook in our classroom. My friend Lyndell and I furtively hid the key behind some books on a shelf and waited to see what transpired.

Fitzy hit the roof. I swear I have never seen an angrier or more florid face. His blood pressure must have been off the scale and the school was in an uproar.

From memory I think Lyndell and I continued the torture for a few days. Eventually it was we two heroes who ‘discovered’ the key which had somehow fallen behind the books.

Fitzy resigned within a month.