Teachers - and how they influence our lives! Part 1. Miss Kendry.
A friend or an enemy?
School day memoirs.
Outside of parental influence, most of us will have been moulded or at least strongly affected by those who were responsible for the hazy days of our education. I once considered steering towards a career as a school teacher, but a love of music and theatre led me in another direction, but I remember thinking "I'd like that. To be responsible for character building. To use my knowledge and experience to mould the minds of the young charges who would be in my care." And I truly believed that I would do a better job of it than some of the twits that had attempted to teach me!
I was an angel at Primary school. (I was! Just look at me!!)Techers loved me. I was shy and quiet, respectful and eager to learn. Erm.... ok, that might have been true for my first three years of education, but it changed when I was in primary 4, and it changed because my respect for teachers was altered dramatically during that year.
(I'm going to change a few names here to protect the not-so-innocent!)
Miss Kendry was my teacher in Primary 4, and what a bitter, twisted old bitch she was. Probably in her early 40's at that time, and a spinster. (Perhaps that was her problem. Single, passing by the child-bearing years, and unleashing her bile and frustration on the progeny of the women she resented so much for their happy-family life-style. Only an opinion!)
Miss Kendry had a face like an angry cat! In fact, she was an angry cat! There was no warmth in her at all. She taught us as if she didn't expect any of us to amount to anything. It was like, "I don't know why I'm bothering to tell you this, because none of you will ever remember it, because you're all too stupid!" At least, that's how it appeared to us. Never shall I forget the day when, after only a few minutes of Maths class, I realised I really needed to pee. Miss Kendry hated toilet breaks, because they interrupted her flow, so for a good ten minutes I clenched every muscle that was clenchable, wriggled a lot in my seat, and tried to ignore that my bladder was likely to burst at any second. Eventually the pain was becoming intense, and I had no option but to raise my hand. She saw it. She clearly saw it raised, but she chose to ignore it. After a few minutes, I accompanied the raised hand with a weak, and rather terrified "Miss?".... which she definitely heard, but again, she chose to ignore it. I gritted my teeth. I had no idea how long this stand-off was going to last, but I was certain I couldn't hold on for much longer.
"Miss? Please!" I tried again, weakly. "What in the name of God is wrong with you?" she bellowed. "You're only in the door five minutes. You can't need to use the toilet already!"
"Well, excuse me for not having a flow-control pipe attached to my appendage!" I thought. "How dare my body react in such a thoughtless manner as to need relief at a time that is inconvenient to you and your unalterable timetable." (Actually, I doubt if that's exactly what I though. Appendage, inconvenient and unalterable would not have been frequently used words in my 8 year old vocabulary, but I am aware that many thoughts ran through my head at that moment, though not a single utterance managed to pass my lips.)
I peed my pants. What else could I do? Not just a few drops that manged to struggle free of the muscular strangle hold that I was exerting on my pee-shooter, but the whole flood. I just let it all go. It soaked through my pants, formed a pool on my chair, dribbled down my legs, soaked my socks, and made it's way to the floor. Not that Miss Kendry noticed. Oh no, she was up at the front of the class by then, tormenting some other poor pupil.
I might have managed to get to the end of the class without attracting any attention had the little girl sitting behind me not shouted out, "Miss! Peter's pissed himself!"
I had to sit in an office with a blanket wrapped around me for 45 minutes until my mother arrived with fresh pairs of socks, underpants and trousers. I will never forgive Miss Kendry for that embarrassment.
My second reason for loathing Miss Kendry concerned school dinners. When she was on duty in the canteen, you dared not leave a crumb on your plate, for fear of receiving her notorious lecture on "starving children all over the world"! I didn't usually have a problem with emptying my plate. I always had a healthy apetite. Except when it came to Turnips. I hated turnips. And when Turnip day coincided with Mr Kendry's canteen duty day, I was in a predicament. I would never have dared to simply explain that I just didn't like Turnips, and especially not after the incident that had occurred a few weeks earlier, when the cat-lady had forced a boy two years my senior to eat his Brussel sprouts, despite his loathing of them. He hadn't managed to swallow two of them before he wretched violently and threw them, and a disgusting mixture of soup and mashed potato, all over the table. As he cried with anger and embarrassment, Miss Kendry launched into him.
"That's disgraceful. You ungrateful wretch. Don't you know that there are children starving all over the world?"
"So send them the f***ing Brussel sprouts!" he yelled in a fit of rage, and threw back his chair and stormed from the room.
Oops! He was suspended from school for a week, but there wasn't a word of reprimand to Miss Kendry for force feeding him with food that he obviously couldn't stomach.
Fearing a similar confrontation, I always managed to scrape my turnips into a tissue and hide them in my blazer pocket until I escaped the hall. Except on one day. She saw that my plate was nearly empty, bar the pile of untouched turnip mash, so she stood over me, glaring, daring me to cause a scene. I couldn't do it. I was too timid, so I scooped up the offensive orange paste on my fork, and tried to gulp it down in one enormous swallow. Not a hope. I regurgitated violently, and the offensive paste shot out of my mouth and created what I might have considered a rather abstract-artistic splatter effect on the table.
A sympathetic canteen operative came rushing over with a cloth and a glass of water, for which I was extremely grateful, but Miss Kendry just stood there glaring at me, and then, in a tone of utter derision, she uttered the words with which I will always associate her.
"You sad little man. You'll amount to nothing!"
I have absolutely no idea what became of Miss Kendry, but it would warm my heart to think that maybe she ended up as a 'Miss Hannigan' type old spinster, running an 'Annie' type orphanage, swamped by hundreds of screaming children, who would eventually overwhelm her, tie her to a chair and force her to eat bucket loads of pureéd vegetables until she croaked her last breath.
And did I learn much from Miss Kendry? Indeed I did. I learned that not ALL people in positions of responsibility are deserving of respect, and not all teachers perform their task through either a love of children or a love of education.