Monday, January 18, 2010

School Memories: The Kindergarten Years* (Part II)

I mentioned in my first kindergarten memory post that while most of the memories are happy ones, there is one that had a long-lasting, negative impact on me.  This private school I attended allowed teachers to spank the students with a wooden paddle.  They didn't even have to be sent to the principal!  This is not a good idea.  Would you send your child to a school where any teacher having a bad day or a bad year can take out their frustrations on your child?  I don't remember any other spankings I may have gotten at school and can't tell you how many there may have been.  But there was one instance I have never been able to forget. 
I was in class with all my fellow students when Mrs. Browder, my teacher, had to leave the room for several minutes.  She left the door open, and while we tried to remain quiet, of course being only 5 years old we weren't completely successful.  At one point, I was talking to the girl next to me and admiring her dress, which had a tiny, soft velvet bow at her neckline.  Five-year-old girls like soft things.  I felt her little bow and for some reason was really impressed with it and decided to express myself by yelling "Mommy!"  I know, it doesn't make any sense.  But the point is not what I said, but the fact that I said that one word loudly enough for the teacher across the hall to hear me and become irate with me.  She stormed over to our classroom and asked who it was who made that noise.  Being an honest person, I raised my hand.  This woman was one of the Mean Teachers that every student dreads. Her name was Mrs. Parsley, and I don't think I ever saw her smile. She pulled me out of the classroom and dragged me into another room.  It was probably just an empty classroom, but I remember it as being a dark storage closet.  She pulled my dress up and spanked me quite harshly with her wooden paddle. 

After she paddled me, she marched me into her classroom of 2nd graders and made me stand in front of all of those big kids, my face tear-stained and my feelings sorely abused.  (Not to mention my posterior!)  I had to apologize to all those older students for disrupting their class.  I was always a shy child, so this was extremely humiliating and stressful for me.  Even if I had been there for a positive reason, it would have been embarrassing.  And to have to do this in front of the big kids, with tears streaming down my face?  Horrifying.  This woman wasn't even my teacher!  I said ONE WORD loudly enough for her to hear.  She caused more of a disruption to her class with her attack on me than I could have possibly caused with my actions. 

At the time, being as young as I was, I had no idea how inappropriate her actions were.  She was a teacher, an adult, a figure of authority.  It never even occurred to me to tell my parents.  After I was older, I realized just how inappropriate her actions were.  She should have waited for MY teacher to return and told her what I did and let Mrs. Browder discipline me as she saw fit.  She shouldn't have been allowed to grab any random child in passing and lay her hands on them because she felt entitled to do so.  (I wonder how many other students she disciplined who weren't her responsibility.  She probably kicked puppies too.)  I'm assuming she told Mrs. Browder what transpired, but I don't remember her ever speaking to me about it.  If she did, it didn't bear remembering.  I would recall the event often as I grew older, and knew that I was still angry about it.  I have always been grateful that my parents moved me and my brothers to public school after I finished 1st grade, so I never had to have Mrs. Parsley as my teacher!  I never realized how deeply I was affected by this event until sometime during college. 

My extended family was having a 4th of July get-together at the lake.  My grandmother, who still went to the church that was affiliated with the school I attended, invited Mrs. Parsley to the party!  I didn't even know they were friends, but I can tell you that even a bazillion years after I had last seen that woman, I recognized her on the spot.  (I could probably sense her evil aura pulsating through the hot summer air as dark storm clouds appeared out of nowhere to blanket the sun.) I can't begin to tell you how ambushed I felt to see her there.  My own grandmother brought the enemy into our camp!  I had to politely greet this woman when all I wanted to do was toss her into the lake.  And even then, I still thought I was only offended and angry.  As everyone else was outside enjoying the beautiful day, my mom and I went into the house to make some banana pudding.  We were talking and I decided to relate to her the story of that horrible day back in kindergarten.  I started telling her the story, and promptly burst into tears.  Big tears of anger and humiliation that I had apparently still been harboring.  That stupid woman had scarred me! My mom was understandably upset and wished I had told her then.  If only I had thought to do so, I may have gotten over it sooner.

That my dear readers, is my worst school memory.

*Despite the title of these posts, I only spent one year in kindergarten.  But "The Kindergarten Year" just sounded wrong. 

Photo found here.


  1. Oh my dear, Surfie. I'm feeling so sad about this. I had a similar experience where I was talking to a girl behind me before a test (quietly) and was made to put a big fat F on my test paper. The punishment did NOT fit the crime, as in your story. You know how I feel about mean teachers and people who say insensitive things or make you stand up to be embarrassed (what IS that? It's torture!) There is just no excuse for it. Obviously it scarred you to this day and I totally understand that.

    I’ve harbored a lot of ill will towards teachers and students (mostly the latter) from my grade school days who made it their business to humiliate me. But I do try to laugh about it today if I can. But some things are just not to be laughed at and your experience is certainly one of them. If I could hug you right now, I would.

  2. Ah! How horrifying! I cannot imagine that happening to a little girl. I hope it helped to write about it.

  3. This is an awful story. That woman should not have been allowed to work with children.

  4. What a horrible story. I don't know how old you were when you saw her at the picnic but you should have gone up to her and confronted her, or your mother should have. If she is still alive I suggest you search her out and tell her how bad she made you feel. Stand up for yourself, that woman has no power over you.

    You know, the only kind of behavior that will come of a situation like that is that kids will lie. She asked you a question, you answered honestly and you got beat for it. What's wrong with that picture?

  5. Om my gosh, that is just awful! Was she a nasty woman at the party too? I don't know what I would have done if someone like that had resurfaced years later.

  6. I think it's amazing that you still want to go into teaching after such a horrible ordeal. My son had a bad Kindergarten teacher, and it took a couple of years to undo the damage.

    Your experience is a lesson to all teachers to get to know your students. If children are abused at home, they won't necessarily know it's wrong and that they should say something.

  7. Kathy - I have read some of your stories about school when you were young. At least you turned out well despite all that meanness and cruelty.

    Wendi - It did help to write about it. It's amazing how some things can stick with you like that. :(

    Pseudo - I know! It makes me wonder how often she paddled her own students and for what kind of infractions.

    Jen - I was in college when our paths crossed again. I thought about confronting her but decided letting her know that it still bothered me would only give her more power over me. I wonder if she would even remember the event. I seriously doubt it.

    Margaret - I didn't do anything other than greet her (because it would have downright rude to ignore her), so I'm not sure whether she was unpleasant or pleasant that day. I wasn't about to socialize with her and ruin my day.

    Theresa - This woman was never actually my teacher. She taught in the classroom across the hall, which only makes what happened even more horrible. But thankfully I had only two teachers in my schooling that I considered "bad", and both of them were left behind by the end of second grade. I had lots of teachers that I was mostly indifferent to, and several that I adored. I think that made all the difference.

  8. Oh no, that's so terrible! I would still feel hurt too. Not only would I retell the story once and cry, but probably everytime because I'm like that. :(

    Hugs. I will kick her ass for you, does that help?

  9. How awful! It sounds like that lady had no business being a teacher.