Bully Incident #21: The Art Teacher (1980)


I still think it’s quite funny and ironic how our minds work. I have noticed as I continue to write this blog that stories I didn’t even recall start coming back to the top of my conscious memory from my sub-conscious memory. As I wrote my story yesterday of the teacher that my 11th grade class bullied, I started to recall one of the last bullying incidents I had in 7th grade in Lexington, MA. What brought the memory back was that it was also the story of a teacher, but in this case it was a teacher the chose to do the bullying.

If you have read my past bullying experience stories, then you might recall that 7th grade was the culmination of years of bullying that I experienced in Lexington, MA. As this story came bubbling back to the surface of my mind, it also reminded me of maybe why this incident even happened. I still think that there might be things I did to cause the bullying. One thing I know that happened to me is that I went from being a very outgoing and maybe even vocal 7-year-old when we moved to Lexington, to being a withdrawn and timid 13-year-old who worried and felt threatened all the time.

As I look back at pictures of myself during those years, I see a smiling young boy at 7 and then a serious and disheveled 13-year-old with dark circles under eyes and a tired look. Certainly puberty and other factors play a part, but I can honestly say that I think environment had much to do with it also. I did not look healthy at 13. I did not look like a kid that a teacher would be happy to have in their class. I won’t go into some of the more negative details of who I was at 13. I’m not proud of some things about that year and chalk it up to trying to cope with bullying and fears that I had.

I’m telling all this, because I wonder how much it was a factor when I walked into my Art class in 7th grade. My teacher was a gentleman in his late 50’s, early 60’s. To me, Art class was always a break from the stressful work. As a creative person, I always enjoyed it. Even in my career today, art plays a factor, even though I don’t consider myself any type of artist. Early on in Art class, I noticed that this teacher took a great disliking to me. He was very critical of my work and would say it aloud to me in front of other students. He gave me terrible grades and many times ignored me if I had my hand raised for a question. There is little doubt in my mind that he was picking on me. Given my sensitivity at the time, it’s possible I was hyper-aware of this and maybe more judgmental than I would be otherwise, but he definitely treated me different.

I should say that I rarely missed school. I was always in his class and got my projects in his class done. It was Art class, so I feel that art is subjective. How can the Art teacher give a negative grade to artwork I did if I did what was asked. But this teacher would give me C’s and D’s, and all my friends would get A’s or B’s. A few times I would confront him to see why I got a bad grade and he wouldn’t even respond to me. It finally came to a head when he gave me a bad grade on my report card and my parents were upset. At that point I explained what I perceived as what was going on. I told my mother that he would not tell me why he was giving me bad grades. She scheduled a meeting with him.

I recall her going to the meeting and coming back pretty mad. She also didn’t like what he had to say about the grade and me. She was not that upset with me, but upset with him. I pretty much hated going to Art that whole year and he certainly helped make that one of the worst years of school for me. He continued to single me out with criticism and bad grades. I recall on the last day of the year, my mom picked me up from school and took me to a restaurant for ice cream. When we got there, there was the Art teacher, sitting in a booth right across from us and eating. I recall him staring at me and my mother. We stared back. It was very eerie, like each one was waiting for the other to make some aggressive move. Nothing happened, of course, and we moved to Virginia about a month later.

What was it he didn’t like about me, I still don’t know. I know that I was in a very dark place that year. I think it was outwardly obvious to him and possibly anyone else. But I wasn’t a mean kid. I wasn’t a delinquent. I was just having a rough time. Ironically, this same year, I had a teacher that took me under his wing and made me feel great every time I went to his class. He was my Social Studies teacher and I will share his story with you in my next article.

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3 thoughts on “Bully Incident #21: The Art Teacher (1980)

  1. Hi there, I am also struggeling with bullying and have an Art Class story to share, what is it about art classes?
    During art class we were working on drawing portraits for the week, and I was chosen as the model for the day. I was excited because there was one boy in my class who was very talented and I was interested to see how nice his drawing would turn out, the other portraits he had done were very nice A level work. Well at the end of the class we were all reviewing the portraits that were drawn, he turned around and showed the class he had drawn a pig! Even the teacher started cracking up. The teacher announced that even though it wasn’t the assignment he would still be getting an A as it was a very life like pig. I tried to cover my hurt by also complementing him on his nice pig picture, trying to play it off like I didn’t mind, but I was very, very sad. Luckily I had moved past 7th grade at this point, I was very low then, I don’t know what this incident may have done to my mind at that time.

  2. I experienced the same thing in a choir class in 10th grade. I always loved music. Prior to his class I got A’s. We moved to a different school district and this new teacher gave me C’S and D’s. The following year we moved again to yet another district and I went back to getting A’s again, different teacher. This 10th grade teacher seemed to constantly be watching me and looking for anything he could to make into something. I loved singing but was not selected for his advanced choir. I was in the advanced choir in my former school and was selected once again in the new school for both the 11th and 12th grade. I remember my mother wanting to go and talk with him, but somehow I managed to convince her not to. Bottom line is that there are people who are teaching that will do this kind of thing if there’s something they don’t like about a kid. Pretty bad. I might add that in time, I was talented enough to actually make a living in music, both singing and playing an instrument.

  3. My parents moved to a VERY small town when I was five, just in time for me to start kindergarten. Not only were we complete outsiders, but I’m a bit of a “special needs” child and have a service dog now, although I didn’t until high school.
    My Kindergarten teacher made me wait in the office during snack time because she couldn’t be bothered to find foods I wasn’t allergic to. My second grade teacher called me an idiot when I asked for help. My sixth grade history teacher brought food I was allergic to to share with the class and told me I was not allowed to leave, then tried to have me suspended when I left anyway. My seventh grade history teacher managed to fail me on every assignment despite the fact that I often stayed back to talk to him about them. My Science teacher in high school outright told me that she wasn’t going to help me because I was “a problem-maker.” My chorus teacher decided she hated me and began blocking me from any part in the school plays. When I finally got a part (tiny background chorus part) I got into a fight backstage with a boy, who slapped me, which she refused be believe and said I was looking for attention. Now that I have a service dog I’m called all sorts of horrible names and my poor dog gets teased every day. My teachers don’t do much to stop it, either. The Drama teacher decided to suddenly develop a dog allergy, blocking me from ever acting in any play in this town again. I guess it’s no wonder I hate and always have hated school, although I got very good at daydreaming and making up stories, so I think I’ll become a writer. If I can just survive my Junior year.

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