Hello Dazzle! Thanks for coming and hanging out with me today, I’m glad that you are here. Today I want to talk about my experiences as a child in the public school system. The American public school system is not a great place for children and especially not for those children that have any kind of special needs; including those children that are exceptionally brilliant or gifted.
When I think back on my experience with the public school system most of what comes back to me is memories of being abused. I was yelled at by teachers on a daily basis. They frequently insulted me and compared me to other children. I can recall being called things like lazy and stupid on a rather frequent basis. There are even memories of being assaulted. More then once I had my hands hit with a ruler or was paddled as a form of discipline for being too loud or disruptive in class.
The result is not surprising. I hated school. Even though I loved learning and have always been a very curious person that wants to know everything about everything, I hated going to school. This was not a place of learning. It was a place of conforming and that was very painful for me as a child that was so very different then my peers.
Because of the way that my teachers treated me, I almost failed high school. Being successful in school was more about pretending to be something I wasn’t then it was about mastering the material that was being taught to me. When I am learning best, I am moving. Knowing things makes me excited and that makes me wiggle and rock my body or wave my hands. Being excited about learning in school meant that I was punished for being disruptive in class. It seemed impossible to learn.
My options for going to college were really limited because of how poorly I performed in high school. I was given a chance, which I am grateful for. That chance came because I took and passed several exams to test out of level 100 courses. The essay I wrote for my college application was incredibly well written. These things gave me the chance that I needed. But I was also accepted with the understanding that I would still have to take all those courses that I tested out of because I didn’t have the grades to support being exempt from the material.
My experience in college wasn’t much better. The system there is not that different than the public school system. There are rules that have nothing to do with learning and everything to do with power, control and ensuring that young people come out shaped in a desirable fashion. This meant that I struggled there too. Often hearing verbal abuse from my college instructors, but presented in a more cloaked manner. I was still often accused of being lazy.
When most people look back at their childhoods and think about their teachers they can usually think of one that was their favorite. For me, I never had a favorite. There were those that hurt me and those that generally didn’t. There were never any of them that I ever believed were on my side or interested in helping me be successful. Most of the time, I really wasn’t sure what it was that they were expecting from me.
It didn’t matter that I was tested as a child and found to have a really high IQ. I was still treated like I was stupid. Everyone just assumed that if I wasn’t doing the homework it must be because I wasn’t able to understand. Most of the time, I didn’t see the point of the home work and wasn’t equipped with the skills to make myself perform tasks that I considered to be pointless. Why should I do homework for material that we had covered in class that I already understood? There was no benefit in that.
I spent most of school skipping class because I was too bored to tolerate being there and hated how I was treated by everyone. I ended up causing trouble largely because I was so angry about everything in my life. All the time that I was a child in school I was functioning with just knives. There was no way that I understood any of this then and because of that I wasn’t able to explain what was happening to me to other people. Every spoon I had went into masking, leaving me nothing by knives when it came time to deal with everything else.
Being abused injured me in ways that I couldn’t express. The injustice of all of it caused me to rage about everything and nothing all of the time. There was no way to explain everything that I was feeling and that made it impossible for me to give these emotions the space that they needed for me to process them properly. I lashed out. Getting into fights was a regular state of affairs for me.
Who was my most influential teacher? I dunno. But the one that I recall the most clearly was Mrs. Green. I had her when I was in 3rd grade. She decided that she was going to teach me a lesson for some behavior that I had committed. After all these years, I have no idea what sin I committed to earn her wrath. But I can recall the punishment. She had a wooden paddle that she smacked me across the butt with twice. When I gave no response to being hit on the butt, she used that paddle to hit me across the back of my hands.
She did in fact teach me a lesson that day, but I am sure it is not the lesson that she was aiming for. I learned that might is right. I learned that violence was how you made people submit to your will. I learned that adults cannot be trusted; they are the enemies. I learned that there is no justice in this world. I learned rage. I learned hate. And she wasn’t the only teacher to provide me with these lessons. Yet, the adults in my life were surprised when I responded to challenges in my life with violence and aggression.
Despite having been treated this way, I continued to act out in her class. No one had bothered to teach me how to control my impulsivity or how to manage my executive dysfunction so I didn’t have a choice at that point in my life but to continue to behave the way that I was. My parents were outraged when I came home and they saw my swollen hands with the knuckle that the skin had split open on. My dad spoke with people in the school, which resulted in Mrs. Green never hitting me again. But it didn’t stop her from trying to teach me lessons.
Because of the way that I was treated as a child, I was a bully. I treated my peers very poorly. What I understood was that being the weakest meant that you were hurt the most and that you proved that you were strong by hurting other people. I came very close to growing up to become a person that abuses those around me. All because I was taught these terrible lessons as a child about power and personal safety.
What I have never understood, even as a child, is why children are treated this way. Now I am able to express my outrage and the sense of injustice that I felt as a child. And it comes down to this: Why do adults treat children in ways that would be considered unacceptable to treat adults? When I was a child, I was still a human being with all the same emotions and needs as an adult. Yet, I was punished for having them.
When adults interact with children, they should always ask themselves: “Would I behave this way with an adult?” Consider for a moment that you were at work and it was a coworker who had behaved how ever it was that your child has just behaved. Would it be considered acceptable for you to respond to that coworker in the manner that you are responding to your child? If not, then you really should reconsider the way that you are engaging with your child. Why would you ever direct behavior at a child that is considered to be hostile or inappropriate if directed at an adult?
Also, don’t tell me that you were treated this way as a child and that you turned out just fine as a justification for continuing to treat children badly. If you are comfortable with abusing children then you are not fine. You did not turn out ok. Being abused is the number one cause of people abusing other people. This is because it changes our brains FOREVER. It creates an illusion that makes us believe that this behavior is ok when it isn’t.
We need to remove this kind of abuse from our public school systems. As of 2023, corporal punishment is banned in state schools (known as public schools in the U.S.) in 31 states and the District of Columbia. This means that it isn’t banned on a federal level and that there are still states that allow it. Additionally, the usage of corporal punishment in private schools is legally permitted in nearly every state. This kind of treatment is not acceptable. We do not consider it acceptable to treat a poorly performing adult worker this way. Why are we treating our children this way?
Well, that’s about it for my rambling today. Thanks for coming and spending some time with me. If you like what you read, click on that like button. It really does help! Until we talk again, you take care of yourselves!