Back to School

Posted Aug 17 2011, 5:16 pm in , , , ,

It’s that time of year again. Back to school season. When I was a kid, I dreaded the end of August with the same dread I now reserve for swim-suit shopping. Sure, it was nice seeing friends again, but it also meant going to bed early, homework, studying for tests and for me… upset stomachs.

I had a lot of those.

I always got the meanest, nastiest, worst teacher in the school. Every. Single. Year.

In fourth grade, I got stuck with Sister Bernita. Her face was frozen in a permanent scowl and she’d shake a crooked finger at me when I was in trouble. Which was often. Oh, not because I misbehaved. No, I was in trouble because of poor penmanship.

In sixth grade, I waited with a sense of entitlement as our home-room teachers were assigned on our first day. I’d already survived Sister Bernita. Surely, I’d be assigned to Mr. Mele’s class – the coolest, youngest, nicest teacher who ever worked in my school.

I got Sister Victor, Sister Bernita’s evil twin. When they pulled me from the girls’ bathroom that day (upset stomach, remember?), I remember crying to my mother how unfair it was to get two mean teachers. I suffered through various tortures like having my hair pulled every time she could’t read my hand-writing. But the worst of the indignities I survived was Religion Class.

Sister Victor was an artist and frequently assigned art projects for homework. The problem? I am NOT. The product of a father who builds elaborate carpentry projects without plans and a mother who could reproduce any picture in oil paints, I could not draw a straight line with a ruler. So, when my Moses Scroll project was returned again. And again. And again, my mother finally did the project herself. The assignment was to illustrate Moses’ life from basket-in-the-reeds to fleeing with his people from Egypt. Each illustration had to be done in color on a separate piece of precisely measured paper. Each pane was taped together to form a scroll.

Admittedly, Sister Victor’s comment on my first attempt was accurate – “This looks like a kindergarten project.” My second and third attempts fared slightly better. Her issues with the last effort? Too many words and not enough pictures.

I always preferred the words more than the pictures.

After emerging from the bathroom with yet another upset stomach, I burst into tears and my mother took pity on me. She stayed up all night and did the scroll herself, with pastels and colored pencils, which I was certain would send Sister Victor into an artistic coma.

I was wrong.

This time, I was sent home with comments that the tape holding each pane together was crooked. My mother took the scroll, took my hand, marched me back to school and into Sister Victor’s classroom and demanded to know why sixth graders were being marked by artistic ability instead of the material. Was Moses found in a basket? Yes. Did he warn Pharaoh about the plagues that he would bring on him if the Israelites were not freed? Yes. Did he part the sea? Yes. Seems like she should get an A.

And I did!

Sadly, she was not the last mean, wicked teacher I got. That trend extended well into college and shifted to evil wicked bosses when I graduated.

But that’s a whole other blog post. :)

Are you dreading or looking forward to school starting? Tell me why! 



5 responses to “Back to School”

  1. Jeannie Moon says:

    Oh, Patty. I feel so bad for you! I just had a grade school flashback. First grade was Sr. Adrienne. I hated school because of her. I remember loving kindergarten, but first grade was awful. She was mean, called the class stupid and had a pair of students every week that would be her “favorites” as she called them…meaning they were the pair (a boy and a girl) to be picked on.

    I hate when I hear this. I worked with a wonderful principal when I was an elementary librarian who instilled this philosophy in her teachers: “It may be your tenth, twentieth, fiftieth time teaching 3rd grade, but the children in your class do it only once. Make it count for them.” That’s how it should be.

    But I will say, those nuns were particularly brutal.

    I go back to school in three weeks…mixed feelings, as always.

  2. Linda G. says:

    Awww. Kudos to your mother for sticking up for you, though. :)

    Actually, the beginning of the school year doesn’t affect me much anymore. My kids are grown and I stopped teaching. (See? There are some perks to getting older. *grin*)

  3. I’m a firm believer that a child’s teacher makes or breaks the year. To wield that power is an honor and responsibility.

    I’m so happy your mother stood up for you, and so sad you suffered through more than your fair share of what I would consider to be incompetent, bullying individuals.

    I savor my summers, but I always look forward to a new school year by mid-August. September, to me, is a time of new beginnings, new friendships, and new growth.

    I admit I become anxious for my children and hope with all my heart their educators are there because they love and understand children, learning, and teaching. *fingers crossed*

    Now, about those wicked bosses…

  4. Stories like this make me so sad. I hate it when the people you are supposed to trust are the ones who let you down.

    I don’t like back to school time. I love having my kids around. I also don’t like having to get up at stupid o’clock :)