At New Germany Primary School, I was infamous. I held the school record for most visits to the headmaster’s office, 3 times in one day and 7 times in a week. It was absolutely futile to try to modify my behaviour. The teachers and my peers had decided that I was ‘bad’, they would never have seen beyond their preconceptions, no matter what I did.
I remember standing along in the school corridor, my heart aching to be back at Regina Pacis, where I spent 3 profoundly happy years. Most days I felt little aside from grief and isolation. Most peers had bonded over the previous 3 years. Many memory fragments still cut like broken glass. The Afrikaans teacher shouting with such red faced rage that I was petrified, fear turned me to stone, rendering me unable to write or turn a page which made him even more angry and me even more paralyzed. I spent break times picking up litter, the girls punishment. I asked the headmaster to cane me instead like the boys to have punishment over and done with, but he didn’t. I hummed in class, not even aware that I was doing it, the more the teacher reprimanded me, the more I hummed, she thought that I was winding her up, I was trying to hide in another zone. I day dreamed, imagining that I magically transformed into Cinderella, astounding my peers and shifting their view of me. A horrid girl Anita called me scar-face (I have a cleft lip). I slapped my closest friend Della across the face in our final year. She was head girl and bossing me around in a shitty tone (sorry Della RIP).
Bar some happy time in the school library, playing marbles and acting in school plays, I was an unhappy outcast.
Recently I went into our children’s school delivering Valentine cookies. A little girl walked toward me with Acacia (in Grade 1). My sweet little girl introduced her “This is Rita, the bad girl I told you about”. I was caught off guard, and did not correct her as I should have. I just smiled at Rita and greeted her. Since that day I’ve heard so many more Rita stories, Rita punching, biting and giving a child a black eye. I know that on one occasion that was because a child would not share her lunch or play with her. The mothers are upset and wanting to protect their children (the normal maternal response). One mother told me how “Absolutely VIVID” she was about Rita’s bad behaviour. Rita was almost suspended for a week and now has to spend break times with a teacher. My heart just aches for her. This is a 6 year old little girl! A little girl filled with awful feelings that she doesn’t have the life skills to control. A little girl who is being labeled a bully being and scarred for life. I’ve told Acacia that she must try to be be kind to Rita, that maybe if she is good and kind, she will “turn Rita good”.
I feel driven to invite Rita for a play date. Open the channels of friendship. On the other hand, what if she comes from a “bad home” with values opposed to mine? Then what am I opening my child up to? Do I have the right to force a friendship on my daughter? I don’t know. I’d love you to comment below and tell me what you would do.
I came from a ‘good loving home’, yet I was always in trouble. I was not bad. I didn’t know how to manage the pain, anger and rejection that I felt. At the end of primary school, I begged my parents to return to a private convent school again, I associated that environment with warmth and emotional safety. When accepted at Maris Stella, I vowed to myself that I would never be sent to the head for bad behaviour. I was given a clean slate, no one at Maris Stella knew me or had preconceptions about me. I never once was sent to the head during my high school years.