Friday, March 2, 2012

This Witch Had No Candy

I have been spending a lot of time in schools lately. I substitute teach for several different districts and am working on a teaching degree which requires me to do a lot of classroom observation. I even got to spend a day at my old high school. I have been amazed at how different school is from when I went.

There are different teaching methods, classroom set ups, educational theories and safety concerns than there were when I was a student. One of the things I remember from school that no longer exists in most states is the possibility of being beaten with a plank of wood for misbehaving.

Q: Do you know what the holes are for?
A: To cut down on wind resistance.
SWATS!  That's what we called it. If you didn't stop acting up there was always the possibility of getting swats. Nobody wanted that.

Despite the fact that those paddles were rarely taken down to be used, the sight of them hanging on the wall was enough of a deterrent for most kids to stay out of trouble. We knew someone was in deep doo-doo if the teacher started to reach for the paddle. If the offense was bad enough, the teacher would threaten to get Mr. Scrivner to deliver the punishment. He was known for his paddlings and it wasn't good.

I am not an advocate for bringing paddling back into schools. While I am not against kids getting a good swat when they need one, the liability and potential for misuse is just too much, so I am not really against this practice, I just think it is better to leave it out of the system. I got swats once in 2nd grade and, trust me, I deserved it. I also got swats once in the 7th grade. Once again, I had it coming. However, I can't tell you how many times I got swats in the 4th grade. These were different.

I started the 4th grade with a lovely teacher named Mrs. Scroggins. I still don't know if this was her first teaching job or first job at our school, but we had never seen her before. I went to a rural school and the entire fourth grade was in one classroom. It was a very large class. After a month or so, it was determined that she had more students than she could handle and one-third of us would be moved across the hall into the 3rd grade room. Those students would then be in a split 3rd/4th grade classroom. I was one of them that got moved.

She had a special teachers' lounge,
where she dined with other teachers of her kind.
DISCLAIMER: I am not a legal expert and have no idea what exactly constitutes libel or slander, so I will not be using the real name of my new teacher. For the remainder of this post, she will be referred to as the Witch.

For the most part, it was a regular classroom. The Witch was strict and not nearly as cheery as sweet Mrs. Scroggins, but I wasn't worried. If I kept my head down and did my work, then everything would be fine. It turned out it wasn't that easy.

Now, I hate when whiney kids start complaining that their poor grades or punishment is because "that teacher doesn't like me." While that is possible, it is rarely the case. Bad grades are usually due to a deficiency in the performance of the student. In most cases, if a student got into trouble, it is because he was misbehaving in some way, but something different was going on in this class. I won't even try to make the claim that The Witch didn't like me, because I don't think that was true. I just believe that she had a bubbling cauldron in the coat closet an evil side.

The trouble started with a comic book assignment. Each week, we constructed a comic book about an alien named Gloo McFoo. I am not positive on the name and scoured Google for pictures, but can't find it. This was 30 years ago. Give me a break. On Monday she gave us 3 or 4 papers with the pages of the comic that we were to color, fill in some of the blanks with our vocabulary words, glue to construction paper and construct a small comic book by Friday. This was not a difficult assignment and was supposed to enhance our reading, vocabulary, spelling and art skills. There was a small problem. I hated Gloo McFoo.

See! Aliens are usually green.
I didn't hate him at first, but the hatred came pretty quickly. The first week I did the assignment and turned it in, but when we got them back on Monday, I discovered the Witch was not happy with my work. She pointed to the example hanging on the wall and told me that Gloo McFoo is a blue alien. She berated me in front of the whole class for coloring him green. Honestly, I hadn't really thought about it. In the cartoons on TV they were green, so that's the color I used. The Witch didn't let up on her tirade until I was crying in front of everyone.

The following week, I made sure to color him blue instead of green. I did not want a repeat of the week before. However, when they were returned this time, she said she wanted to see me in the hall. The Witch grabbed the paddle as we stepped out. I didn't know what I had done, but was already shaking, because I knew what was coming.

My heinous crime was that I had failed to trim the edges of the construction paper to match the size of the papers on the inside. I cried that I didn't know I was supposed to. The Wicked Witch gave me three swats.

The worst part was that I hadn't trimmed them the week before either, but the Wicked Witch hadn't said anything. I had corrected the thing that she said was wrong and still got into trouble. Being the wonderful child that I am, I did not tell my parents about this. I didn't realize that what this teacher had done was wrong and I did not want to get into any more trouble at home for being "bad."

The following week, I received swats for not numbering the pages. This time I tried to explain that she had never told me that before. The Ugly Wicked Witch gave me an extra one for arguing. The next week, my swats were for putting the title at the top of the cover page instead of in the center. Once again, it didn't matter to the Ugly Wicked Witch that I had done it that way since the beginning and she had never corrected me.

This practice became my Monday morning routine for the rest of the fourth grade. It didn't happen every single week, but it was the majority of them. I always did something wrong: the middle crease wasn't centered, too much glue in one of the corners, forgot to put my name on it and others. I will admit that after a few months of this, my effort on this assignment slacked off. I knew I would not be able to please the Ugly Wicked Witch and just accepted the fact that I was going to get paddled. Plus, the worst part of getting paddled was the fear beforehand. I was no longer scared of it.

It wasn't until I got much older that I realized the problem was her and not me. The Ugly Evil Wicked Witch never went to get another teacher to observe the swats. That was school policy to ensure it was done properly. Sometimes, she didn't even take me out to the hall, which was also policy. She did it in the classroom in front of the other kids.

I was relaying this story over Thanksgiving dinner a few years back and my mother exclaimed, "I wish I had known about this." In hindsight, I wish I had said something, but my 9 year old mind did not understand at the time.

Now, I do not want to give the impression that I was scarred for life and horribly traumatized. It should not have happened, but it was just a bad year. I still believe I had a wonderful childhood, she was just a dark shadow that didn't last very long. The Horrible Ugly Evil Wicked Witch has since retired and is no longer working with children. Hopefully, I never learn what nursing home she is in.

44 comments:

  1. Funny, I've been pondering a post about the worst teacher I've ever encountered. But she was just hopelessly incompetent, not cruel. If I had a teacher in my past who did something like that, I'd be hunting her down and pulling all kinds of crazy shit to make up for it.

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    1. You gave me an idea for another post. I had a Spanish teacher in high school that was just useless. She had no control of the students. She was completely removed from reality and was just awful, not mean, just really bad.

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  2. I went to a Catholic school for first and second grade. There, the teachers and nuns were allowed to paddle the students, provided they had written permission from the parents. My mother opted not to allow me to receive paddling, thank goodness.

    I'm sorry for what you went through. That is traumatizing for a child, especially when some teachers get carried away. Personally, I don't think teachers or school officials should be allowed to resort to this form of discipline. The decision to spank or not spank a child should be solely the responsibility of the parents.

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    1. I have heard those nuns can be pretty mean when they want to be. Of course, my info only comes from movies.

      It was not fun, of course, but I came out okay on the other side.

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  3. I too have been paddled at the alter of Gloo McFoo! I was (of course) also wrongly accused!! Although it is not a laughing matter, as soon as I saw the post of this new blog pop up I knew who you were talking about and laugh out loud (really...not just a LOL) as I was reading it. I would like to say thank s for the memories, but she is one witch I could live without remembering. BUT... I do think you should order this book!:) Love the blog.....ALWAYS :)
    Gloo McFoo's Comprehension Worksheets (Reproducible) by Jane Ward Hayes and Jean Clark Shoults (1979)

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    1. Thank you for confirming that I am remembering this right. I tried every name combination I could think of. I guess I remembered it right. And I am glad to know that I am not the only one that thought she was awful.

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  4. yes- i too was not liked by the evil witch and found out later in life why she seemed to be so angry& took it out on the children....i will not be traveling to florida where she lives now- but i do remember her screaming tyrades&making a specticle of whatever child (had it coming) and igot to be one of those on occasion....and i did cry. Is it ok that i tell you Thankyou like everyday, for bringing up yet another topic that some people choose to overlook? P.S I was always under the assumption that you were a "good boy" in school- i think you still are.

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    1. Like any boy, I did get into trouble every now and then, but I think I can say that I was one of the good kids.

      I never knew there was a story behind her insanity and would be curious to hear it if you are willing to share. My email address is in the left column on my Facebook badge.

      I wonder how many kids she terrorized.

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    2. I'm half curious to know why she was so angry.

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  5. This post has me livid (not quite but I'm all worked up). It's unbearable to think that such a messed up person would be left in charge of children. Obviously she got a thrill from abuse and she saw that you were a soft target. I can't stand to think of children getting hurt like this. It's just terrible.

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    1. I can remember seeing it being done to a few others, but I don't know to what extent. At 9, my world revolved around me so I didn't really notice.

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  6. I wonder if Ms. Mean ol Bat was related to Snape or she was just into S&M. Good story. I think she might have been my third grade teacher. She’d complain if Jesus Christ came down and handed her a $50 bill.
    Crack You whip recommended you on her blog. Enjoyed your story.

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    1. Thank you for coming over to visit. You caught me on a day when I am being much more serious than usual. I hope you visit again.

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  7. This is such a sad tale of an authority figure abusing their power.

    At the age of 8, I don't think my teacher knew what had hit her, when she was witnessed, unduly punishing my little brother. She later found out that it was my mum...literally.

    Glad you've not been too badly scared by the whole incident

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    1. Had I spoken up, I know it would have been taken care of. My mother was one of the people who worked very hard to get rid of the high school school superintendent. He was only their one year due to their efforts. Awful man.

      As parents should, they always had my back.

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  8. A teacher at my junior high hit a friend of mine. He never worked again. At least not in education. And while teachers were not allowed to hit students, my eighth grade algebra teacher loved to humiliate any student that got below an 80% on a test. Oh, she was horrible. We were made to get up in front of the class while she told us how stupid we were.

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    1. That doesn't give students the incentive to learn. In fact, it makes them hate school. I don't know what's happening out there.

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  9. I really wonder how people like this are even allowed in the education system to begin with. Seriously, what kind of screening process allows a monster like this through?

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    1. She may have been better in the beginning. I really don't know. I do know her reign of terror lasted for a stretch of time. In the above comments, the first one (Stephanie) was a year behind me in school. The second one (Amy) was a year or two ahead of me, if she is the Amy I am thinking of.

      Once I got out of her class, I never had to deal with her again, so I don't even know how long she was there.

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  10. You say this project was also to enhabce art skills, but it sounds like you were given no creative license! "The title wasn't centered"? WTF! (If you'll pardon the implied cursing.) And fyi, old, classically published books have uneven page edges. People used to slice the pages apart with a "paper knife".

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    1. I don't think she was interested in any of that. Actually, I don't know what the problem was. If they were actual issues she would have pointed them out the first time. But you are right that there was no creativity in the assignment. We were to make it the way she said.

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  11. I'm glad you turned out alright. Well enough, anyway. I just wrote about my experiences with a similar teacher, who is still working with children. I remember trying to wear extra undies to dull the pain. That only amplified it.

    Your post brought back some bad memories, but yours is written so well.

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    1. I just read yours. Maybe it was the same woman.

      Your teacher seemed to be much crabbier than mine.

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  12. People like this should have been kicked to the curb the first time they reached for that paddle. But I guess times were different so they got away with it. Glad you didn't let the wicked witch ruin your childhood.

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    1. I just didn't like going to school when I was in her class. No significant lingering effects. I have no idea how she got away with it for so long.

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  13. She wasn't in MN was she? My sister used to have a teacher that knocked her to the ground...

    Pearl

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    1. No. This was southern Illinois, but apparently these awful teachers were all over.

      Luckily, there's good ones all over too.

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  14. You were definitely abused. She had some serious issues. That is horrible what happened to you and honestly this just makes me sad and angry that she got away with it.

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    1. I don't know if she was protected by tenure or if no one ever spoke up. I don't know what happened to her. Once I left the 4th grade, I never looked back.

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  15. That is disgusting

    It is lucky you had other things growing up otherwise you may not have come out so well

    Could it have steeled the mental strength for your stunt pursuits later in life?

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    1. Possibly. I never thought of it that way.

      The worst part was the fear and embarrassment. After I had received them a few times and realized they weren't that bad, the fear was gone.

      Take a few swats: no big deal. I still didn't like it, of course, but it got easier.

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  16. This post made my stomach drop. What a cruel, BAD woman. I can only imagine how helpless you must have felt.

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    1. I have thought the same about her and I don't know who else she did it to.

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  17. Holy crap... what a horrible teacher. Hell, what a horrible person...

    When I was a kid in school here in Canada, the "discipline" was done with hockey sticks rather than paddles... how is that for a stereotype gone all wrong?

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    1. Should I feel guilty for laughing at that?

      I am thankful that we didn't use the tools of "America's pastime." Baseball bats.

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  18. She is probably an elderly dominatrix somewhere.

    Honestly, that sucks dude. I don't think any child should ever be hit. Like, ever.

    I'm glad that you turned out okay.

    At least it seems that way ;)

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    1. She was a horrible woman, but I came out all right. I have no idea where she is now.

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  19. Yipes! Sounds like she had some serious issues. Probably you reminded her of someone.

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    1. If that's the case, she really didn't like this person.

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  20. Horrible.

    That's child abuse.

    But when I saw the first picture I thought it was a giant bourbon biscuit.

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    1. I am not sure what a bourbon biscuit is, but I'll bet it would be less painful.

      It was abuse and I don't know why she got away with it.

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  21. I love the teaching posts :) I'd like to hear more about your experiences as a sub. We were always mean to subs unless we had a horrible teacher - and then we were grateful for the sub.

    I had a Witch too but swats weren't allowed, thank god or I probably WOULD be even more traumatized. You've given me a great idea for my Witch story. It isn't really a big deal at all but it's funny how these "little" moments stick out in your mind.

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    1. I am glad it was helpful. I will have to do more teaching pieces.

      Sub stories so far:
      Teacher Troubles
      My Remembrance of 9/11

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    2. Both of these are from September 2011

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