The teacher who tried to kill me

Posted: March 19, 2012 in Self-esteem, self-respect, Uncategorized
Tags: ,

She spent two years trying to kill me emotionally and spiritually and to this day, I still don’t know why. But I know she tried and failed.

It was in the 5th and 6th grade when this happened. The school I was going to was right down the street from me and all of us students knew each other. We all lived within walking distance and were all friends for the most part.

There were always new students coming and going, but being female and of the age where what others thought of me defined who I was, I didn’t always get to know the “new kids” simply because I had so many friends that I had grown up with.

The school decided that since we were going to be attending Junior High soon, they would acclimate us to having to move from one class to another rather than having only one teacher for the entire day.

This bothered me because I loved my teacher, Mrs. Aronson. She was VERY old since she was probably in her 60’s and I was 10 but I loved her and she had been the only teacher I had known since first grade.

But the “Powers That Be” wanted us to learn how to go from classroom to classroom and have all of our materials with us, so the journey began and I was put in a Math class with a teacher called Mrs. McDougal.

The moment I saw her, I froze. She was much younger than Mrs. Aronson and very pretty. She dressed sharply and had the most beautiful hair I had ever seen. It was straight where mine was curly. She was thin and I was approaching puberty and starting to have very strange things happen with my body.

She stood at the front of the class and glared at us. She then did roll call and quickly rearranged where we were to sit. She didn’t know most of us and I had never seen her before, but she pointed her finger at me and said “Susan, come over and sit right here,” which was the first seat in the first row, closest to her desk. I got up, grabbed my books and sat down. She then pointed to another girl, whom I didn’t know, and had her sit next to me. Her name was Donna. Once Donna sat down, Mrs. McDougal sneered at us and then looked at the class.

“This is where the stupid people sit,” and then laughed.

I didn’t understand what she meant and Donna and I looked at each other. When it dawned on me that she was referring to both of us, I felt my face turn red and the tears sting my eyes. Donna had the same reaction and we said nothing and could hear the other kids laughing at us.

For the next 2 years, she picked on us. I never said a word to my parents because I thought she was right because she’s a teacher and teachers know everything, right?

Plus I then became convinced that I was stupid and I didn’t want anyone to know. My brothers had always called me that and I gave as good as I got, but that’s just sibling’s doing what we do – tease each other and then be friends again.

But now I had someone, an ADULT, telling me at least twice a week how stupid I was. Sometimes she would call Donna and I up to stand in front of the class and point to us and say “This is what a stupid person looks like” and then have us sit down again.

I can just hear you, the reader, shaking your head and wondering why I didn’t say anything. Well, if you don’t know why, then maybe you don’t understand what it’s like for girls at that age and how vulnerable we are. You might not understand or remember what an adult’s words can do to a child.

They are worse than bullets and do much more damage. This is the reason I will always believe what a child tells me. Always, no matter what.

I somehow made it through her class after 2 years, but to this day, I have never been good at math. My parents hired a tutor for me and for a while, it got better. I can figure other things out and my IQ is high enough, but I will always consider the day that calculators were developed to be a holy day for me.

Years later, when I was married, I said something about this to my husband. To say he went sideways is an understatement. Up until that point, “me being a stupid person” was something I felt shameful about and was always afraid someone would find out. It took a lot of talking with him to pull the whole story out of me.

When I told my Mom about it, she almost cried. She had no idea and if she had, she would have been down at that school, told them what was going on and had me pulled out of that class. She understood why I never said anything but I suspect that it has never set right with her. It wasn’t a matter of trust in talking about it. That was not why I hadn’t said anything.

It’s a matter of shame regardless if it’s misplaced or not. If you believe it, then it’s true for you. All other points of view are not valid. What you think and believe about yourself is what matters.

Ironically, what happened to me is something that I value because it has made me very good at my job. I teach and I know what it’s like to learn something new and be confused and yes, somewhat stupid until you master it. It takes the right materials and the right person to guide you through it.

It takes someone who knows what it’s like to feel stupid and to understand that you aren’t stupid – you just don’t know something.

As an aside, after I told my husband about it, he asked me if I knew where she had lived. I did as it was right down the street from my old childhood house. He got a wicked look in his eye and asked me if I wanted to go visit Mrs. McDougal. I said I did, so we jumped into the car and drove over there.

I stood on the sidewalk and looked at the house. It had been many years since I had been there and I was convinced that she had either moved away or hopefully died. We walked up the steps and rang the doorbell. I held my breath.

She answered the door and at first, I wasn’t sure it was her. She had not aged gracefully, which made me feel better. Her skin was badly wrinkled, she was no longer attractive and her hair was the same. I then realized that the hair I had envied for so long had always been a wig.

I asked if she was Mrs. McDougal and she hesitated for a moment. She was hunched over and was wearing a dirty robe even though it was late afternoon. She nodded her head and for half a second, I felt sorry for her but that was all.

Here was a woman who was evil. God knows what other lives she had destroyed.

I told her who I was and it did not register with her. That pissed me off. I explained that she was one of the worse human beings I had ever had the displeasure of knowing and that there was no excuse for what she had done to me and Donna.

When I said Donna’s name, I saw the light go on in her eyes. My husband was standing next to me and never said a word but glared at her.

“Oh, you remember, don’t you?” I asked. She stood motionless.

“Well, I wanted you to know that you didn’t succeed. I am fine and I turned out to be a really good person, despite your efforts to kill me. But if I ever see you again…” I said and let the sentence hang in the air. She nodded. We turned around and walked away. She didn’t close the door until we had driven off.

I hope she’s still awake, waiting for me to come back.

  1. Woah. Teaching is a hell of a job, and I guess some people like Mrs Mc Dougal evolve these cruel games to focus the…what, hatred? Anger? of the class on someone other than herself. But the fact that it happened is horrific, and I can only applaud you for making it through the experience with your sanity intact (even if your self-respect took a hell of a bashing). You get extra points for going to see her and for saying the thing you needed to say.

    I had a hard teacher for a couple of terms, but my fear of him and his disapproval resulted in my falling down two sets (we were streamed by ability in my school) and I spent the remainder of my school career happier at a lower level. In the rest of my education I occasionally encountered incompetance, but never the evil that you did.

    • Susan Lewis says:

      Thanks Damien,

      I think, for her, she was a rotten soul and her picking on myself and Donna was random. It didn’t feel like that at the time. She had never seen me or spoken to me, so she may have just arbitrarily decided “The first two girls who walk in will be my victims.”

  2. I never had a bad teacher like that. But I have had a couple of bad bosses in my career, and in some ways, that’s worse. So I can sympathize.

    But, wow. This woman deserves a very, very special hell.

    • Susan Lewis says:

      Yes she does Sheila.

      But seeing her again just made it all good again when I saw how miserable she was. Maybe that’s not a nice thing to say, but it’s how I felt.


  3. nicolepyles says:

    You know there is a word for women like that. It’s starts with a “b” and ends with an “itch.”

    Wow this reminds me of my 5th Grade teacher who at the VERY SECOND TO LAST DAY OF SCHOOL in the 5th grade we were having an ice cream party and I ACCIDENTALLY splattered whip cream on her. And she says, “You are being such a pig.”

    I DARE her to run into me again.