I’m now 36 and I remember school like it was yesterday. Everyone has a school story and for this reason even though I hated school I now work in education passionately to change it for the better. For everyone.
I spent most of my time between 5 to 7 standing outside the classroom because as a profound dyslexic I could not write or read at all. One day having stood outside the class all day I was sent to the head teacher as I had pointed out that I then couldn’t do the homework. As I had not been in class all day whatever hope had I anyway. I had chairs thrown at me … I was Isolated at a desk on my own with 2 feet all round so I couldn’t communicate with anyone to ask for help as my teacher realised I had one friend in the class who would spell for me on the quiet. No one else in the whole class ever spoke to me.
Then there was the endless humiliation of the spelling tests …
At 7 I was told by a teacher in front of the whole class having struggled to read a story aloud that “I was too stupid to be in the school and should be in the school down the road for the mentally retarded”.
I was moved to a new school. The whole time I so excelled at maths I could do the 6th class maths in 1st class. In the new school I was motivated to finally do well by an amazing teacher who saved my life. I had him for two wonderful years. Then it took a wobble with the next teacher as I was now on the road to doing everything brilliantly, when I asked what I had done wrong in a test I was mocked in front of the whole class for being an annoying perfectionist. Somehow I had the strength to ignore this blip and keep going.
In that year of that school I was also accused of doing something I didn’t and had my honesty questioned in front of the whole class till I had melt down again and the equally amazing head came in and sorted it all out and I was never picked on again. I left that school to read my first book.
On my first day of secondary school I had to defend my right to stay in mainstream English class. There was no way in this world I was going to “veggie” English! I had decided I was going to university and I was aware I needed honours English for my course. I was staying. But it was a humiliating battle that took place in front of the whole class and set the tone for my next six years.
By my final year in school the same remedial teacher met the department of education official to tell them I didn’t deserve support as I didn’t have a “real problem”, I had done too well in school in all honours subjects including English. She discussed my “case” openly with me in the school corridor for all to hear.
At the same time when I was desperately looking for someone to read my exam papers to me, my other teachers were openly humiliating me in class for my writing, spelling, reading and most ridiculously not correcting my mock papers because I hadn’t spelt their names right. I was stopped in the corridor in front of other students to complain about how hard it was to correct my exams.
Then there are all the teachers who continually for 6 years made me read out loud in class – what’s in paragraph blah Naoisé? I didn’t know what page we were on never mind where we were on the page! I had panic attacks in certain classes for years. Teachers asked me to read off the board and then spoke to me in pigeon English when I got it wrong.
The gap, transition year was the worst as every day was new and I never knew what was waiting at school for me. I had to read Shakespeare aloud amongst other awfulness and everyone had so much more time on their hands to bully me.
I’d love to say it’s all different now but my students are always surprised I understand them so well – I see the humiliation in them like tattoos and many cry at our meetings as I’m the first person who has been able to understand then. It’s overwhelming for them.
When will adults realise the importance of their behaviour? You set up how everyone else will treat that person, that child. Whatever you say and do in public sets the ground rules for the environment and what can and cannot be done to that person.
After my first day in English where I needed to defend my right to be in the same class as everyone else I spent years picking my books out of the bin in every class I went into, because I was rubbish. I spent years been used as target practice to have objects thrown at me repeatedly in the locker room. No one wanted to be my friend. Every table I went to sit at was “full” – and worse that I will not talk about. Teachers were often deaf, dumb and blind to what happened to me.
It’s called respect. It’s a two way process. You earn it. It’s not assumed and it doesn’t correlate with your title or how many letters there are before or after your name.
The first thing I do with every new student I meet is to shake their hand. They are my equal.
What you do in public sets the private behaviour FOREVER, not just that one moment in class.
Dr. Naoisé Expression Developist™