Childhood is a challenge.

Many of us struggled, had serious problems at home and lived with daily bullying at school. With the attention these issues get in the press today, things have not changed much. Bullying is as much — or more — of a problem as it was when I was a kid. Teachers ignore it. Parents dismiss it. Kids won’t talk about their problems because they (rightly) believe it might make everything worse.

These days, it’s all about awareness, as if somehow, knowing that there is a problem is the same as solving it. Awareness is not a cure. Publicity does not change what happens at home or in the schoolyard.

elementary school

I was a precocious child with limited social skills. Inept at sports, lost in math. Among outcasts, I was an outcast. I was bored in class, terrified in the schoolyard. In third grade, I hid in the cloak room in the hopes no one would miss me. I found a stack of books and read them in the semi-dark by the light of one dim bulb.

My teacher was furious. I had finished the readers for my grade and through sixth. I would have read more but they found my hiding place and made me come out. The principal called my mother to complain I had read the readers. My mother pointed out I might benefit from a more challenging curriculum. She reasoned if I could read all the readers in an hour, the work was too easy. The principal and teachers missed the point. Entirely.

They wanted my mother to punish me for reading too much. She didn’t stop laughing for days. She thought it was hilarious and retold the story at every family gathering. I didn’t think it was nearly as funny, because that teacher hated me from that day forward. It made third grade a special kind of Hell.

I started high school at thirteen. Blessed by a few teachers who made learning exciting and fun, the rest of the lot thought reading the textbook in a monotone was the way to go. I chipped a tooth one morning when I fell asleep and hit my head on the desk.

I was off the charts in English and history while falling further behind in math and hard science. I was in my thirties — reading Horatio Hornblower before I realized trigonometry had a purpose. It was used to calculate trajectories and navigation! A revelation! Pity I didn’t know that when I was supposed to be learning it …

I survived school and had a life. It’s a bit late to wonder what might have been …


  1. I was one of those kids picked on for being a bit different and I hated the school years -now I would never take any shit- but it shaped me and formed me to be a good person ….if it had not been that way in school then maybe I would be bad today…so perhaps everything is like the ripples of a stone thrown in a pond…yes I do believe that. 🙂


      1. No I was kind of bad at first but when I took side of the weak I became the weak somehow in school….but I would never change that now……So in your opinion I would have been good from start then …mmm-well I do not know…it kind of just happened that way in my opinion 🙂 I know though that I would never had made poems if I picked another path of those years 🙂


  2. I think bullying is worse now than it has been when we were kids. We got at least a break when we went home. Today’s kids don’t get this break, the bullying continues online and via text. I can’t believe they wanted to punish you for reading too much. How insane. You had really bad teachers, if I may say so.


  3. A lot of the bad bullying here comes from the families surrounding the kids. If the father is a tyrant then the kids will have to prove their value by tyrannising the weaker of their school mates (speaking from experience). Otherwise I had a problem with my youngest, perhaps similar to yours. The teacher found he should be put back in a class as he was not going with the class. Having already a handicapped son (austistic) I knew the channels and told the teacher that in that case I want my youngest to be seen by the school psychiatrist. Long story cut short, the school psychiatrist said that my son was unchallenged in his class. The eventual result was that he was put in the special class for gifted children and today is a media lawyer. The teacher was surprised to say the least. The school psychiatrist loved my kid and told him if he ever felt bored he should come and see her.


    1. I think boredom ruins more academic careers than anything else. Such a waste. Glad your got your son into more challenging classes. It makes a huge difference. Education should be fun, an adventure in learning. Not boredom, bullying, and fear.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I was like you. Loved reading – I could read before I went to school and history. Maths was a mystery but I took the sciences at high school for nursing. No choice really. I still love books.


    1. I was okay in any science that didn’t require math as its basis. The problem was not that I couldn’t understand them, but that most of the teachers stood in front of the class and read from the textbook. To call them uninspired is a huge understatement. It was like they were anti-inspired, trying to kill any natural interest anyone had in the subject.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Imagine being told off for reading too much! You would think they would have been impressed that you could understand sixth grade readers! What they really wanted of course is kids that conformed because it was easier if they could teach everyone the same things at the same time. I don’t know about in the US but I got the impression growing up that teachers college was where students who could not get into university went and that a lot of them didn’t care for teaching or even kids very much. My sister had an awful third grade teacher who was very nasty to kids who didn’t understand her teaching style. Most of them didn’t learn a thing for half the school year. If they didn’t know something she hit them. When this woman left to have a baby another teacher came in and got them all caught up by the end of the last term. I was luckier and had several teachers over the years who taught more than what was in the books. I was bad at sports and tried to avoid them but instead of bullying the other kids were supportive and understanding. Unfortunately I can’t say the same for the teachers.


    1. It would seem things are not all that different between our two nations. I had a few good ones, but most of my teachers were “dinosaurs.” Some had been teaching since just after WWI. They were old. If they ever liked teaching or kids, they were long past it by the time they were teaching me. I had a few good teachers in high school. Most were drones.

      Usually, curiosity was not rewarded. Conformity, doing what you were told when you were told to do it … that got you high grades. Rote memorization was the way to go and how ironic — and sad — that we’ve come all the way around to where we were when I was a child. I would have hoped for progress, but it appears we are going backwards.


  6. Put down that textbook and get out here and join the rest of the class in a good, physical game of dodgeball! I never realized how fucked up school really was until I looked back on it as I got older… and I’m sure it’s even worse now that THE TEST is THE THING…


    1. I didn’t think it could get worse, but standardized testing from elementary school onwards has made school a special hell, especially for creative kids. It’s awful. Whatever little joy there was, it’s gone now.


  7. Bullies are generally insecure, cowards really. They pick on the weak or perceived weak. I was physically huge in all my school days. I topped 200 pounds and 5’10” by the age of 10. Nobody picked on me and for good reason. By the time I graduated high school I weighed in at 265 and could deadlift a Mack truck. No problems with bullying in high school either. Lucky me!


    1. Seeing how many smart kids have opted out of school to take the GED, I’d advise that if your kid is abused at school, take him/her out of school, hire a tutor or homeschool, get the kid a card to the local library, and have him/her study to pass the GED. Public school in the US is a floundering failure.


      1. I almost agree with you. But some parents are not capable of home schooling. There needs to be a structured solution because not only are not all parents capable of doing home tutoring, some kids need a classroom and/or need to be somewhere other than home.


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