Little daggers from tiny savages

Back in the days when Food Technology was just called Cookery in schools, I had a disabled teacher called Miss Bartlett. 

(I was in middle school, so between the ages of 8 and 12.) 

Up until this morning when I really thought about it, I regarded Miss Bartlett as one of the worst teachers I ever had.

I thought she was one of the grumpiest old bags I’d ever met. 

She did nothing to kindle a flame inside me for cooking because her lessons were so painfully depressing.  

She explained the recipes and methods with zero enthusiasm. 

She barked and whinged at us constantly.

Cookery classes were a shit show. 

When I say she was disabled, I’m not sure what she was affected by but it was pretty severe. 

She was in a motorised wheelchair and just about had the ability to propel herself around with a joystick and move her head slightly to talk to students. 

Looking back on it, it’s no wonder she was bad tempered with us, because we were complete dickheads.

When she spun away from us, we would pull faces at her and mock her hand movements on our own imaginary joysticks. 

We thought we were being sneaky about it, but there’s little doubt she was smart enough to know when we were laughing at her expense. 

I don’t know why she popped into my head this morning, but I feel compelled to write about her because it’s worth remembering that when you were a kid, your sense of self was undoubtedly influenced by little savages like middle-school-me. 

Kids often take psychological chunks out of each other. 

Much of our self image is informed from our childhood social interactions, so we need to be mindful of what we’ve absorbed and from whom.

If we were lucky, we’d have had a lot of positive influences growing up, but all through our childhood our peers were probably hate-spouting-idiots experimenting with how far they could push the boundaries of verbal decency with each other. 

Quite often, negative comments stick more successfully than the positive ones because they trigger strong emotions, and when it comes to forming our identities it’s the emotion attached to the thought, rather than the usefulness of it, that shapes our self image. 

Can you think of comments that have stuck with you from childhood from your peers? 

Things they’ve probably forgotten they ever said to you, and would be horrified by if you reminded them?

Little daggers from tiny savages make wounds that potentially never heal.

You have to go looking for those wounds and take action to kill the persisting infection. 

Thankfully, effective action can be as simple as realising the context of the comment. 

As for Miss Bartlett? 

I’ve suddenly found renewed respect for her. 

I mean, how difficult must her life have been teaching ungrateful little gits from a wheelchair?

How much effort must it have taken every single day to even turn up for work let alone function there? 

If I had met her as an adult, I would probably have been inspired by her determination to carry on with her career despite her physical limitations. 

I hope my tiny daggers bounced off her. 

The author 

Vicki LaBouchardiere