When the friend request came through, I thought, “Wow! I loved that teacher! I’m glad she reached out to reconnect!” Then enthusiastically accepted her request.
In the months that followed, there were certain things that she would post that had me scratching my head. She would make comments to classmates that I know she did not have as students. “Weird,” I thought, “maybe she got to know them through her kids.” She had two children who were a few years older than me. They were active in sports too, so maybe that’s where the connection came from.
A couple of months ago, I realized I had made a big mistake.
She was not my favorite teacher, but a teacher I would rather forget. How did I mix them up? She has the same first name as my favorite teacher and has since gotten married to someone who had the same last name as my favorite teacher. In a town of about 10,000 people, I was a bit perplexed as to why she would want to have the exact same name as another well-established teacher in town. But then again, keeping her last name may be too feminist of her.
This teacher was my homeroom teacher in 7th grade. In my hometown, there were five elementary schools serving various neighborhoods in town but only one junior high and one high school. So for six years, you went to the same school with the same kids only to be all tossed together in 7th grade. The social caste system took over where the haves got separated from the have-nots. While this process is painful at any age, it was especially painful given we were all in the throws of puberty.
All of the other teachers recognized what was happening and did not play the games of who would be where in the 7th-grade pecking order. They expected the same from all of us, got annoyed with all of us the same, and wanted us to do well. Encouragement and punishment were handed out as needed and earned. And the bullshit games that kids this age play hit resistance from the teachers.
This teacher was the exception to all of that.
She had her favorites. She wanted to see them at the top of the pecking order. She wanted to be their friends. She was in the middle of the popularity game just as much as the kids in some cases.
And just like the kids, she would be cruel to those who were not kissing her ass or who realized the game wasn’t worth playing or who just wanted to be invisible. She would single them out. She would openly criticize them using shame and humiliation in front of other kids. She made it quite clear to everyone who she liked and who she did not.
I was on the top of her “do-not like” list for some reason.
While other teachers would call me out in positive ways, she would shame me for what I was wearing, how worn my bookbag was, and how I would read aloud in class. (That last one on the list, I should note, was a really hard one for me. I had a hearing issue that did not resolve entirely until I was 14. Hard to learn the pronunciation of words when you have never been able to hear the nuances of sound. My reading comprehension was off the charts, but reading aloud gave me nightmares. While this teacher would shame me for it, other teachers understood and tried to encourage me.) I had her for homeroom and an English class. No matter how hard I tried to become invisible in her class; I could not escape her focus.
When my parents talked to her about things, she gave some bullshit story about how she was just pushing me. My parents saw through it. But because she was so loved by the other parents who were active in their kids’ educations, it was hard to get anyone to pay attention to what she was doing. My parents calling her out helped calm her down a bit, but the focus for me was just getting done with the year.
Since 7th grade, I have had some tough teachers. They would drive you to do better – drive you to do more. But they never did it through shaming kids or humiliating them. These teachers taught me a lot about the subjects but also about myself and what I could do.
“Oh, Jane, you were always my favorite teacher” is what most of my classmates still write on her Facebook wall today. And she eats it up just the same as she did back then. I laughed once at how she loves to call out all of the great things her students are doing; taking credit for helping them find their paths. Ironically she did not teach all of us, yet she takes credit for all that is good.
She was a bully back then. She still feels like a bully now.
After realizing who she was, I cannot help but wonder why she friended me. Was she hoping to poke fun? Was she trying to validate that I did not grow up to do anything great compared to my peers? Was she hoping to take credit for my successes?
I unfriended her today. She has recently taken to spewing a bunch of bullshit statements about the recent presidential elections and all. Today it was a rant about how she does not believe anyone is better than anyone else, so why does voting for Trump make others believe that she does.
Because she always did when I knew her – she always believed there was a group that deserved more than others no matter how hard the others worked and tried.
Maybe it is because I’m married to an educator and have so many teacher friends, but damn…….she was a shitty teacher. Everyone that succeeded did so despite her.