90-to-40: Forgiving My Fifth Grade Teacher

Day 80
My Fifth grade teacher was insane. I mean full-on, clinical insanity. Certifiable. Nuts.
For my catharsis - I will call her Mrs. CrayCray.

This unbalanced woman affected my life for many years after her reign of terror which left me with a new understanding of how adults are not always right - and interestingly enough, taught me how to keep my head down and not draw attention to myself. She is dead now - and, no I didn't kill her - but even the mention of her name makes me feel ill.

It was the second day of school and I came down with the flu. I was sick in bed for two or three days with a fever, chills, and all the other fun stuff that goes along with it. When I returned to school...
...and, as instructed by my Mom, I asked Mrs CrayCray if there was any homework I needed to make up. Her response was, "If you have the audacity to be absent the first week of school, you deserve zeros!"

She also ostracized me for my family's religion. When I asked politely (as taught) to be excused from the typical holiday activity of making decorations out of construction paper, she replied with, "If you are too stupid to use scissors then you can just put your head down on your desk for the rest of the day." I think I actually just did the exercise to avoid being singled-out, but still had to put my head down on my desk at some point.

When my mother excused me from class for holiday parties, I was always required to get up in front of the class and "explain to them why I was too good to be at their party like the rest of the class."

It doesn't end there.

Friday afternoons were BINGO days. Yes... we played BINGO! We were told to bring in old toys or games wrapped in paper. Winners would get to draw a prize. Kind of a grab-bag thing. That seems like sort of a good way to recycle toys, right? Except that Mrs. CrayCray brought personal items from home. Among my winnings were a mushed ball of USED soap, and a travel hair dryer. (It was as if she was trying to get me to shower with the hair dryer.) No joke.

I was instructed by a note written in red pen on my spelling test - and I quote: "No! No! No! Write the letter "d" fifty times and turn it in today." - I dutifully did as I was told. To which Mrs. CrayCray proceeded to scream "No!" And beating on her desk said, "Not with a loop, with a stick." as she angrily dug her red pen into the stem of the letter "d" and threw the paper toward me. "100 times!" she screamed as the entire class turned around to stare. Crying, I tried to replicate her "d" perfectly 100 times. To this day, I intentionally loop the stem of my lower case "d."

My Poor Parents:
I was a pretty mature kid, but I was still a kid. My parents were phenomenal. With each expression of Mrs. CrayCray's spiral into instability, my parents logically and responsibly responded. The principal and possibly other administrators were met with, my exasperated mother would make sure I understood that the teacher was behaving badly, not me... but that I must respect my elders. They kept the dialogue open and went to bat over things even I didn't realize.

I just learned last night that apparently she once slammed a door ON my Dad. Both of my parents tried desperate measures to reason with Mrs. CrayCray including, with the most honorable intentions, showing up at her home. (It was a small town).

Finally... at some point, the woman just started to ignore me, and I stayed very low-profile. My parents assured me that it was resolved (all the while fighting her every step of the way behind the scenes.)

A Small Mind
At some point during the year, I discovered that the teacher's son was also insane. He had a violent, murderous streak and spent most of his life in prison for drugs, murder and "matters of national security." I'm not proud of this but, the last week or so of school, I made sure every student in that class knew about her crazy kid.

Hey... I was 10. It was my only revenge. But, I'm being honest here... so it is what it is.

Mrs CrayCray was, in my adult opinion, damaged goods. Whatever happened to her in her life that made her so incredibly mean, must have been far worse for her son. Clearly he snapped. Or, maybe his insanity caused her to snap. I will never know.

In the wake of her craziness, I felt small and helpless and learned how to exist in a hostile environment by keeping my head low and letting other children be my camouflage.

The experience is one of many in my life that I'm positive has affected me in some way. I can laugh about it today, but that sense of inferiority and helplessness started there. In fact, she is one of my "butterfly effect" fantasies. Oh, the things I would say if I had the ability to re-engineer my responses back then. But... I can't.

So... 30 years later it is time to put Mrs Cray-Cray to rest. I forgive you Mrs. CrayCray. I'm sorry your life was so difficult that it made you hurt children's self esteem and disrupt their education. And... if I'm completely honest, I am sorry my Mom didn't sock you square in the nose.

Most of all, I'm sorry that it backfired on you. Because, I still make my d's with a loop and I'm a stronger person now. Neither of which was your intention, I'm sure. Nonetheless, I am fine... you are gone.... and I'm forgiving you. I wish you far better rewards in your eternal game of BINGO than a mushy soap ball.

No comments: