Saturday, August 8, 2009

Insensitive Teachers

You'd think that adults would display a certain amount of sensitivity with kids and try not to intentionally do anything to humiliate them. These days, I'm guessing that a teacher who did anything which had a pretty good chance of publicly embarrassing a kid might get in trouble, but it wasn't the case when I was a child. In fact, teachers did things which I find it hard to believe that they'd get away with now.

When I was in 4th or 5th grade, one of my teachers was talking about some topic or another and decided she would make every kid in the class announce his or her weight aloud so she could note it for whatever nonsense she was doing. In a class of about 20 kids, I was the only fat kid. I believe I weighed somewhere in the vicinity of 130 lbs. at that point in time in a class which was full of kids who weighed 70 lbs. or less.

I remember the teacher going down each row and each kid saying his or her weight while I was furiously thinking about how I could deal with this situation without utterly feeling humiliated. I figured that I would pick a weight which was higher than everyone else's but nowhere near the embarrassing truth. When the teacher reached me, she didn't hesitate, but you could tell every kid in the class was just waiting to hear what I said. Once more, I was the focus of negative attention because of my body size and this time every single person in the room was waiting to react to what I said. My lie was, "85 lbs." I didn't fool anyone and my reply elicited a bunch of stage whispers disbelieving my obvious lie.

In retrospect, I wonder if the teacher did this on purpose. Teachers are, after all, no more enlightened than others and I witnessed more than one occasion where a teacher went out of his or her way to be cruel to a kid for one reason or another. For example, one of my fellow students had a bad habit of talking out of turn and not raising his hand. If he wanted permission to do something, he'd just blurt it out and this annoyed the teacher. One day he blurted out a request to go to the bathroom and she chastised him and said he had to raise his hand and wait to be recognized. He then raised his hand to comply with her request and she ignored him for a long time. As he sat there, he started to squirm in discomfort. By the time she finally agreed to recognize his raised hand, he was practically dancing in his seat trying to hold it in and fighting tears. Teachers do not necessarily have to be advanced humanistic beings, even those who work with children and should be more patient and understanding.

In my case, I wonder if the teacher may have tried to embarrass me as a way of exacting more pressure on me to lose weight. It would have been very easy for her to simply ask everyone to write their weight on a piece of paper and then collect them in a hat. It would have served the same purpose as making each of us announce aloud what our weights were as she was simply marking them down in a notebook of some sort. If she was trying to "help" me, it didn't work. In fact, the suffering and isolation I felt only made it all the more likely that I'd turn to food for solace.