Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Teacher, Teacher

Today's run = hills in the neighborhood. 2.13 miles in 21:25, 10:03 pace, included waiting for traffic to pass.

Women Who Have Shaped My Life - #2

Ever since I blogged about my mom, I've been thinking about other "dynamic" women who have shaped my life, positive and negative. The task was to write about 5 women who have shaped my life. Well, for #2, my thoughts keep going back to my childhood -- more specifically, my childhood at Catholic school...

I attended Catholic school from grades 1 through 12. The high school years were fine, not overwhelmingly great but pretty decent by all accounts. It was those formative grade school years that scarred, um, impacted my life forever... Most of the teachers were nuns from an order in Spain. I thought they looked scary in those full on black habits, where only their face and hands were the only skin visible. Not one had a decent grasp on the English language, so it was a nightmare learning the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance. I don't think the kids I went through that school with actually learned the proper words until we got into about the 7th grade, and even then the words were sketchy. There were a couple of the nuns who were actually very nice and kind hearted, such as the nuns I had in grades 1,2,4, and 5. It was the ladies in grades 3,6,7 and 8 that made my life miserable. I went through life in grades 1 and 2 thinking that these nuns in the scary black get-ups weren't so bad after all. Then 3rd grade came along. I swear, this witch, um, I mean nun had something against me from day one, and I never knew what it was - perhaps it was my cute, pink, horned rimmed glasses? After all, they weren't military issue black plastic frames. I dunno. My favorite subjects at the time were reading and art. She very rarely called on me for reading, and when it came time to pass out the art supplies, she skipped right past me and I sadly watched my peers delve into their bright paints and Play-dough. I soon brought in my own art supplies and pulled them out when she passed over me. She noticed my art supplies but never said anything. One time I left my homework folder in the classroom over the weekend. On Saturdays the classroom would be occupied by other kids for Catechism classes - the kids who attended public school but needed to come to class for their weekly dose of Catholic doctrine. One of the kids who sat at my desk drew a picture of a naked man and woman and placed it in my homework folder. Come Monday morning I saw this piece of "art" but I didn't have time to covertly remove it. The teacher looked through my homework folder, saw the naked drawing and hit me upside the head, hard. Damn, that hurt! I just sat there stunned. I didn't give her the satisfaction of crying. I held back. That following Wednesday, the day our class went to church for confessions, this same nun pulled me aside and told me to confess my evil sin of what was in my folder. Of course, I didn't do that, but told her I did, just to get her off my case. Finally, Friday arrives and my mother comes to pick me up from school that day, since my brother was home sick and couldn't walk home with me. This teacher is eager to talk to my mom to tell her about my big "sin" of the drawing of the naked man and woman in my folder and how she told me to confess my sin. My mom let this nun "have it;" first of all, for hitting me, second, she reminded the nun about Adam and Eve (in the BIBLE) and that an innocent 3rd grader probably drew the picture because of the BIBLE story of Adam and Eve. Then my mom asked to see the picture. The nun said she threw it away. After that chat, my mom just told me to not leave my folder at school anymore and to make sure there's only pictures and drawings of flowers, houses, and cute animals in it. I was so confused. Heck, I was only a 3rd grader and my biggest problem was getting home in time to roller-skate with my best friend in the driveway. What did I know about censorship? It wasn't even my drawing that caused this bizarre situation.

Years later, in the 1980's, I'm attending San Diego State University and I'm an Art major with a Journalism minor. It occurred to me (while I was working up a sweat -- sketching furiously on a huge sheet of news print with charcoal at my life drawing class, where my subjects happened to be a real live nude couple) that I was once was punished for having a drawing of what I'm now attending classes of higher education for. Perhaps the 3rd grade nun's negativity shaped me to do the things I was denied? Maybe I was going to follow that college path, anyway? Was this my "making lemonade out of lemons?" I'm not quiet sure, but that 3rd grade year impacted me greatly. If those same set of circumstances happened now, mostly the getting hit part, I'm just about sure that it would have made news. It was the late 1960's when I was in the 3rd grade, and I guess teachers could get away with corporal punishment at that time. After all, a nun was supposed to be all holy. If they hit you it was supposed to be for your own good. Um, I don't think so.

Now that I have my own kids and have been through the grade school and high school years, I realize that it's just not Catholic school nuns that can cause grief for a kid. In all fairness, my kids have had their share teachers that really should not be teaching, and teachers who should be given the very highest praise. There have been wonderful, WONDERFUL teachers in my life, and next time I'll blog about one of them.



Dori said...

Whoa, talk about a Twisted Sister! I'm a recovering Catholic myself and have had my share of nuns. The nuns in my school weren't too mean, but the nuns who taught my dad in the 30s and 40s were tough! He told me of one nun who would through a huge ball of keys at the kids to keep them behaving. Can you imagine if it hit someone in the eye! Makes the slap on the back of the hand with a ruler seem tame in comparison.

I laughed at learning the words to the Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem. I can just imagine how the words got mangled.

Irene said...

Thanks for posting a comment. I was beginning to think I posted something just a little too heavy, since there have been many site hits but no comments, but if you've ever been through the Parochial school system before the 1970's, then you'd really understand. There were some things we all laugh about now, especially when I happen to run into someone I spent grades 1 through 8 with. I did come away with some good memories, too, like my life-long friends.