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to me is that I went from being a very outgoing and maybe even vocal 7-year-old when we moved to Lexington, to being a withdrawn and timid 13-year-old who worried and felt threatened all the time.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.