Monday, May 29, 2017

My Invisible Best Friend

I read an article recently about a Texas teacher that awarded one of her students a superlative for being "The Most Likely to Become a Terrorist," and it got me thinking about all the questionable things that teachers sometimes do and don't realize will still impact a person for years down the road.

In my personal experience, I once got disciplined by a teacher - in front of the whole class - for being too talkative.  She told me that I should only speak if I had something important to say, and then proceeded to draw a big, angry red "X" on my behavior calendar for the week.  I was so traumatized that I never spoke again, and constantly questioned if the things I did say were important enough to be considered "important."  I would later be made fun of in middle school for being too quiet.  Side note: kudos to my poor parents who had to deal with my floodgate of chatter the minute they picked me up from school, because heaven knows I could only hold that kind of restraint for so long and needed to share my racing thoughts with somebody.

But I digress...what I really want to talk about is the teacher that made my best friend "invisible." Let's start from the beginning.

Growing up, I had a best friend that lived two doors down from me.  We spent the majority of our time with one another, and because we looked sort of similar - same brown eyes, same long brown hair, same 90's fashion sense - the teachers in our school liked to say we were twins. Our only difference was that my friend was a little bit louder than me (RE: the "I never talked again" incident), and I was a steadfast rule follower. We were a great pair. She would pull me out of my shell when I was acting too shy, and I would rein her in when she was being too crazy. Once second grade rolled around, we couldn't have been more happy to have been placed in the same class. Little did we know, that year would be memorable in a way we never anticipated.

I'd like to preface this by saying that at the time, I really loved my teacher (moving forward, we'll refer to her as Mrs. Sybil due to the split personality way she dealt with her students). Mrs. Sybil was very nice to me - I actually considered her one of my favorites for a good while - but I was also an ass-kissing teacher's pet with a perfectionism problem.  My friend was not.  She wasn't a bad student by any stretch of the word when it came to academics, but as I've already mentioned, she was loud and a bit of a rule breaker.  Her and Mrs. Sybil did not get along.  So much so, that Mrs. Sybil retaliated in a way that can only be described as "that's pretty fucked up."

Oh, how badly I wish I could remember the events that lead to my friend's punishment, but the only thing that remains fresh in my brain is the punishment itself.  Whatever it was that happened, it set Mrs. Sybil off so badly that she declared to the whole classroom that my friend would be "invisible" for the rest of the year.  How, exactly, do you make a 7 year old girl invisible?  Following Mrs. Sybil's logic, you do the following:

  • Move the student's desk to the corner of the room by the backpack and coat storage.
  • Wheel the two mobile chalkboards over to the corner to close the area off.  Now, the student can see no one.
  • After realizing that you and the rest of the class can still see the child's feet, cover up the bottom of the chalkboards by leaning large posters up against them.  Good, now no one can see her and she has successfully been made invisible.
  • Make it very clear to all your other students that they are not to talk to the invisible girl, and she is not to talk to them.
  • When taking morning attendance, skip the invisible student's name every day.
  • When the invisible student still does well on tests or homework assignments, do not award them with a congratulatory gold star like every one else.
  • When the invisible student's journal entry is selected as the best one of the day, read it out loud to the rest of the class, but also make backhanded comments like, "This was a great journal, but it's too bad we don't have a <insert friend's name here> in the class."
  • Continue this process for the remainder of the year.

Was I lying when I said that the whole situation was pretty fucked up?  The only time I was allowed to talk to my friend at school was during lunch and recess, so it was basically like we weren't in the same class at all.  And don't even get me started on how she was affected.  As far as I can recall, we never told anybody or talked about the invisible situation outside of school, because I have a feeling Mrs. Sybil would have lost her job or been forced to end the punishment had we told another adult. In fact, I had forgotten about the whole incident for a long time until one day in high school my friend casually mentioned during lunch, "Do you remember when Mrs. Sybil made me invisible?! Like, for the whole year?  God, I hated that bitch."  

Obviously, she was still bothered by it...

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