My first story is only first chronologically; it is by far one of the most benign of my Teacher Terrors. Mrs. X was my first grade teacher. As my first experience with full time school, she made the word terror fit the role perfectly. She was stern and always frowning; I can’t remember if she ever smiled at me once. Her voice was such a harsh contrast to my mother’s—my full-time caretaker up until the year I entered first grade—that I sometimes cried when she spoke. She would then, of course, demand to know why I was crying, and all I could say was, “I don’t know.”
Mrs. X was the Queen of the Worksheet. Every day, that’s all we did; if it wasn’t a holiday or special occasion, we could expect our day to be filled with the exact same cutting and pasting, handwriting, math, and alphabet worksheets, completed in painful silence, that the last day was filled with. Already a Type A personality, I had trouble finishing these every day because I never thought they were good enough, so I never got to color, as many of the other kids who breezed through their work did; worse, I also missed recess quite often, as you couldn’t go unless you finished all of the busy work.
Mrs. X was also no feminist. One day at recess, when a substitute was supervising us, all of the boys had climbed one of the climbing towers and chanted together, “Girls are dumb! Girls are dumb!” Horrified, I looked around to see all of the girls just staring at them, transfixed, and the substitute pretty much glued to her spot as well. When I tearfully told Mrs. X, I don’t know if she just didn’t believe me or she didn’t care, but she just told me to get back to work.
It could have been worse. I was super quiet, so I didn’t get into trouble, and there were kids in that school who suffered paddlings, stretching their bodies down to their toes and holding themselves in place until they cried (that was courtesy of our music teacher, I believe), and other horrors. I was lucky. But I still don’t have any fond memories of Mrs. X, and would never allow my daughter to endure the same treatment that my peers had.
Then again, how would one know? I was such a shy, quiet kid that I never told my mother about Mrs. X until I was older. She always knew something was wrong but she could never get it out of me. If anything, Mrs. X serves the purpose of reminding us that we always need to speak with our children, and to not take “Nothing” for an answer to the question, “What’s wrong?” when it’s obviously something.