From bad to worse

I could sense things were not improving with my teacher nor with my classmates. You could clearly see who was my teacher’s favourite pupils. He never hidden that fact. He would give his favourites pupils nicknames. I was nonexistent, well only to humiliate me it seems which happened often. Despite my efforts, I was still struggling. Worse still, when I asked for help, he’d simply dismiss me by saying I should have paid more attention or that I don’t try hard enough. I sensed the pattern I faced while at St Marie, if your grades weren’t good, you are a target of ridicule for the teacher and classmates. Once again, my classmates distanced themselves of me. My only friend really was the new girl, well we were both new.

Weekends are too short. However, I would often go to my beloved godparent’s house. Also, recently, my mum introduced me to a friend of hers who is black British. Somehow, she always asked for me to spend time with her. I was gob smacked because usually, people would prefer to have my sister over me because she was such a goodie two shoes compared to me. I was aware I was quickly becoming the black sheep of the family, a title previously given to a cousin of mine who was getting himself in many troubles. What I liked to do with my mum’s newest friend is to bake muffins and sing to clip videos we’d watch. Our favourite song to sing to was Sinead O’Connor ‘Nothing compares 2u’. We sang off key and loud, but she didn’t care and she allowed me to be myself with no judgements. The clip video marked my childhood for so many reason, the poignant lyrics and video to accompany the song. I loved the fact Sinead is alone in the video and zooming on statues reflected that she was alone or felt lonely. I didn’t understand English then, but I understood that the song was about a broken heart or a break up. Sinead O’Connor even cried at the end of the video which made it extra emotional. We also used to enjoy 80s songs and we’d dance around the house. I had so much fun and I was so glad to let it all out.

Then, Sundays loomed too quickly for me. I knew it would be a long week. I could see how strict my teacher was in every aspect of what we did, felt and expressed. Some aspects, such as our work presentation I get that, but other aspects I just didn’t understand the severity such as the fact that not everyone was at the same level. I was way behind and the teacher doesn’t help at all. Sometimes, when I didn’t get to finish my work on time, I would have to stay in class during break time. As I looked at the window I could see my classmates having fun. As I approached the window and poked my head outside, I saw a bottle of what seemed whiskey in a rubber bag. Shocked and shaking like a leaf, I quickly went back to finish off my work. When the teacher returned, I showed him what I did. I didn’t receive any well done or any encouragements. All I received was a telling off for not finishing my work when I should have. Also, I remembered he set homework for us to do for the next day. I couldn’t find any glue to stick the work sheet on. I used honey instead as I knew if I didn’t stick the sheet in, I would be punished and be deprived of break time (I was often deprived of break time for various reason).

In class, I rarely put my hand up to answer a question because when I am wrong, I am told off for not paying attention. One day, in class, the teacher asked us all if we understood. We said in unison that we did. He said, if anyone had a question to raise their hands. As no one did, he picked a person at random to answer his questions as a retrieval practice he did often. I was the unfortunate one. As predicted, I didn’t know the answer. He berated me for pretending I knew when in fact I didn’t. That split second of humiliation was enough for me to put my head down in shame. He asked someone else who didn’t know either but no berating him. He simply explained the topic again. I was so used to this unfair treatment and frankly, to whom can I complain? Another person used to get the same treatment although not as harsh. He was mixed raced like me, although lighter than me. When he forgot something, the teacher would make him leave the class and retrieve it at home. We both lived in the same block of flats. He was also the subject of ridicule like me. His mum, a single mum of three boys, and my mum befriended as they were in the same boat in term of our treatment. However, my classmate’s mum was battling depression as she was often at home all day, on social welfare and was on so many medications. Unfortunately, for that fact, the teacher still treated him with no mercy and even more harshly. His mum was such a weak person which made her an easy prey for our teacher who was such a ferocious predator.

My mum possessed such a strong character like me. We were similar in many ways, we also had to learn quickly to suffer in silence. It was clear my teacher was racist. He didn’t physically attack me, however his treatment of treating me different to others was evident. In class, I was bullied by 2 boys who obviously had great grades. I used to get remarks and often stayed silent and tried hard to ignore them. Obviously, I wasn’t easy either. I wasn’t your typical girl either. As I made my way home, I was ambushed by them both and with no one in sight, they cowardly beat and kicked me. I tried to fight back, but I was outnumbered. Once they finished attacking me, I went home and tried hard to fight off the tears waiting to roll down my face. I knew no one would help and approaching the teacher was not an option because he would never back me or do anything. The next day, one of the bullies did a presentation to how far he rode his bike with his dad and impressing the teacher in the process. I couldn’t care less and looked away. During break time, one of the bullies who did a presentation to the whole class starting arguing with me. I decided I had enough and will no longer ignore it. He was insulting me with racial slurs and telling me to f off. I insulted him too. As we were arguing so loud, it caught the attention to our teacher who asked to see us. I though foolishly, finally justice will prevail. How wrong was I! We both told our version of our stories. To my shock, he just let the bully go without any consequences. I told the teacher how he told me to f off. The teacher said I took it out of context and that it’s not an insult or perhaps I misunderstood him. There was no point mentioning the racial slur I was forced to endure. Confused and shocked, I left the class to ponder to what exactly happened. What was clear, I could never get any kind of support.

I was so disappointed and shocked which knocked me down to 6. Then I thought to myself, I should be used to it by now, yet I wasn’t. One day, I was so reluctant to go to school. As we were running late, my sister bravely went to school. I knew if I went to school, I would be told off so harshly and I just couldn’t face another humiliation after being bullied and the teacher not even backing me at all. I did the unthinkable. I just didn’t go to school that day. After an hour, I was bored already. I did something crazy and returned to my former school Marcelly. I still couldn’t comprehend why I couldn’t stay there? I had friends, my teachers accepted me the way I was, I loved Marcelly. I would learn decades later that because we moved near Adrien-Jeandin and I was forced to leave Marcelly. It was so unfair as I was literally living like 5 minutes away from Marcelly. Anyway, after a short pause outside the class, I knocked on the door. I was received with opened arms. I asked to stay for the day and my wish was granted. I met the pupils who replaced me. I forgot all about Adrien-Jeandin and for a very brief moment I felt like I was part of Marcelly again. Eventually, I was asked why I wasn’t at school. I said something stupid like the window broke and it was unsafe to be in the class. I wish I told the truth that in fact I wasn’t coping and that I missed the class. I simply wished that I was still there and not in this horrible school that I hated so much. After lunch, I returned to Marcelly and everyone uncovered my lies. I just pretended that I didn’t hear. I was allowed to return to class anyway. I knew how deep in trouble I was in. Inevitably, I would have to face the consequences knowingly I was sinking deeper in trouble first with my teacher and then, with my mum.

I spent a fabulous day, however, I didn’t know how to cover it up. I just knew there was no lie I could say to cover the fact I skipped school that day. I resigned to the fact my mum would know eventually the truth. The very next day, my teacher asked me outright what happened and why wasn’t I in school that day when my sister was. I had no answer. He said he would talk to my mum. I knew what that meant; my mum would be absolutely livid. I could feel a beating coming my way. Somehow, I can’t recall what happened or whether I was punished at all. Skipping school is like an offence. I think I told my mum the truth as there was no point in lying. I told her how much I missed Marcelly and how miserable I was in my new school. Surprisingly, she perhaps felt my pain as I can’t recall any punishment. I didn’t feel relieved to have escaped a punishment, but more relieved that I set the truth free. Indeed, I missed my former classmates and my teacher. I missed all the trips we did, often with our teacher spoiling us using his own money to buy us treats, or sometimes he would take us by the lake usually in the afternoons, or allow us to have afternoons free of lessons. My former teacher really was so caring; with a moustache I obviously took him like a father figure. He was, above all, approachable. Clearly, I still missed my dad terribly. In this new school, days felt like weeks, weeks felt like months and months felt like years. In fact, it was just a few months I was in that new school and it felt like an eternity. Unfortunately, the bad times didn’t stop but they came thick and fast. Usually, there’s a say that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. But this tunnel was never ending and without no light in sight, it was just plain dark!

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