Friday, April 02, 2010

Flashback Friday: In which I don’t stand up for myself

Again I seek inspiration from my friend Bridget, who shared a story about the one time she was sent to the principal’s office for misbehavior—or an almost misbehavior.

I was a pretty straight arrow throughout my school years as well. I was also pretty miserable through many of my school years, particularly the years spent in High River. I moved there when I was ten years old, joining a class that had been together since kindergarten. I found a few good friends but mostly remained an outsider. Things did not improve much when we entered middle school the following year.

Middle school rarely improves anything.

I was quickly pigeon-holed as nerdy, poor, zitty, anorexic, unathletic, and unfashionable. I was also known as a goody-goody, a loser, a teacher’s pet, a Mormon, and (later) as a witch.

I can still hear the jeering and taunting.

“Skeletor! When’s the last time you ate?”

“She’s a Mormon. She probably drinks cat blood for breakfast.”

“Yeah, Mormon-witch! We’re going to follow you home after school and burn you at the stake!”

So life was basically pretty miserable and I was a very misunderstood individual. You don’t have to feel bad for me. I had friends—they were just treated equally poorly—we banded together, a hodgepodge of unwanteds.

In Social Studies class one day, our teacher broke some bad news to our class: group assignment.

At least, that was bad news to me. I hated group assignments in school because I was the “nerdy teacher’s pet” and always ended up doing far more than my fair share because I had to get an A even if the rest of the group couldn’t care less.

To make things worse our teacher announced that we couldn’t work with our friends. She would be assigning groups. This was a very, very bad thing.

I ended up in a group with three girls, all members of the “in” crowd.

The assignment was some sort of geography something or other and my method of dealing with being forced to be with these girls was to cut the chit-chat and get the assignment finished as quickly as possible so I dove in right away.

While I was scribbling down answers and giving half-hearted attempts to solicit answers from my peers I was pelted with objects.

A pen lid here. A wad of paper there.

My method for dealing with this was acting like nothing happened, which was working fine until I stopped.

“What’s the capitol of…”

*thunk*

An eraser bounces off my head and lands on the ground beside me.

“On which continent is…”

*doink*

A pen lid hits my forehead and falls into my lap.

“Where is…”

“Hey, loser!”

“What?” (I don’t know why I ever answered to that).

“Give me back my pen lid!”

“Why?”

“Because it’s mine.”

“You threw it at me.”

“So?”

“So why would I give it back if you’re going to throw it at me again?”

“Because it’s mine.”

“Give it back to her!” Another girl piped up.

All three of them started throwing things at me while hurling insults and issuing threats.

Being in middle school we were now “mature enough” to be allowed snacks during class. I don’t know why. So thus it happened that one girl had oriental noodles—Top Ramen, as it is known in the States. I don’t know if they do this everywhere, but in Canada (at least in all three of the elementary schools I attended in two separate provinces) a popular snack is a package of oriental noodles raw, crushed, with seasoning packet added to coat the noodles in a fine layer of dehydrated hydrolyzed soy, beef powder, and disodium guanylate. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

This particular girl was getting to the last dregs at the bottom of the bag and decided that instead of eating it she’d just, you know, throw it in my face.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever gotten powdered cow in your eyes, so I’ll just tell you that it stings. I’m actually not sure what was stinging—the beef powder, the maltodextrin, the chili powder, the salt, or the MSG. Whatever it was, it was causing my eyes to smart and wanting the torment to stop, I did whatever any rational-thinking person would do. I gave the pen lid back by ungraciously tossing it to the girl who threw it at me.

Well, it hit her in the face and do you know what she did?

She told on me.

My teacher let it slide; she wasn’t unaware of the problems I had with my peers. But even she wasn’t brave enough to confront the girls. I would like to pretend that teachers and administrators are above favoritism and other such things, but it just so happens that for some reason the “in” crowd was also “in” with the assistant principal.

The assistant principal was a short woman, shorter than most of the student body. She hyphenated her last name after getting married. She allowed certain students to eat lunch in her office with her…the same students who called me a “teacher’s pet.”

So this girl told the principal about the incident during lunchtime and I got called into the office that same afternoon where I was harshly reprimanded for my attack on my classmate. After I was given the opportunity to explain myself I was told that she “didn’t care” what the other girls were doing, and if she ever heard of me doing anything similar there would be severe consequences. She even mentioned suspension from campus. Seriously.

Any form of retaliation I had previously engaged in stopped.

I said nothing and did nothing when I was cornered in the hallway by the “in” crowd who taunted me for my hairstyle—they even took out my hair things and chucked them down the hall. Still, I did nothing.

I said nothing and did nothing when my picture in the hallway was defaced with a moustache and devil horns.

I said nothing and did nothing when I was followed home, pelted with snowballs and death threats.

I said nothing and did nothing until I couldn’t stand it anymore. Then I told my mom that I was never going back to school—not ever, not for anything.

And that is how I ended up homeschooling.

I used to be spunky and assertive but that all drained away when I moved to High River. It took me a long time to get to a place in my life where I liked myself again.

11 comments:

  1. I have half a mind to track down our old assistant principal and forward her this blog post.

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  2. Frankly, it doesn't matter now. I turned out fine in the end.

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  3. I just started delving into some similar issues. It has been surprising how many defenses I still have up that affect my life today. I've come a long way, but I still have a hard time being myself until I know someone really well.

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  4. Oh Nancy, this almost made me cry! Why is it always us good kids who get in trouble for the one bad thing we ever do at school??

    I would be really interested to know how those girls ended up. Obviously you came away a better person, eventually. I just wonder about them. Maybe they're writing blog posts about that poor girl they feel so bad for tormenting.

    (And yes, dry Ramen was a big hit in the US, too.)

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  5. I like you - I'm sorry that it was such a bad experience....did you really drink cat blood? (ha ha ha) :)

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  6. Oh that was depressing...like reliving junior high. I always wonder, do the "cool" kids have these stories too...or is it just us "nerdy" kids?

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  7. ((hugs))....i hope rose is okay and not hiding that....mmmmm

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  8. same type of thing happened at george perks in poco....i was cornered just so that the "in" crowd could see what tag my jeans were....rosie says it's not as divided like on the show "mean girls"

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  9. this post is awful nancy. it made me cringe because i had similar experiences in middle school. the only thing different about me was that i was in the "in" crowd and left because awful things like you described started to happen, which brought awful retaliations. i remember praying that my dad would bless me in his back to school blessing that i would make some friends (because i had none) which he did, and i did that year, thank goodness, or things would have been unbearable. based on my experiences and yours, it makes me really tempted to home school my kids until high school. i'm with david though, it would be interesting to see what that assistant principal is up to, and kick her trash (which is i'm sure what he really wants to do being a brother and all) :)

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  10. Wow. I was never in the "in" crowd, but I was never on the outs. I was just there. But all of that is just cruel and pathetic.

    When I was in 6th grade, our teacher left the classroom for just a moment, and during that moment, a few of my fellow classmates picked up another student (frequently taunted) and put him in the trash can. The teacher, Mrs. Foster (a fantastic teacher) walked in at that same moment, and boy was she upset. She stopped all math assignments and she lectured the class for the rest of the time.

    Years later, when I was a senior, I was in a group project with one of the girls who was involved with this trash can dumping. I was a much more confident person, and talked to her just as easily as I did anyone in my class even if she was a cheerleader. Anyway, we talked about elementary and she brought up this day and how she can't even believe she was involved, or let her friends do it. She just knew it was downright cruel. I wonder if any of them apologized to him about it years later. Doubt it, but I was glad to know she wasn't the same person as she was in elementary.

    Anyway, this may have inspired me to write a post of my own. cuz I have more stories. But nothing as awe-ing as yours.

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  11. I'm sorry you had such a bad time in High River, I still occasionally run into some of the girls that you're talking about, just know that you made the better choices in life. For as Bad as it was here I'm glad that you came, otherwise I never would have met you and my life would have been the poorer for it.
    -Tyne

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