In my first year at secondary school, during a maths lesson, I wet myself. The teacher barked an order at me, I didn’t understand her and was too scared to ask for clarification. When inevitably I carried out her order incorrectly, the forces of hell were unleashed upon me. She screeched and screamed and spittle was propelled from her anger on to my face. I had never felt such fear before, nor such humiliation.
Now I am all grown up I can see that she was a milicious child-hater who should not have been working anywhere near children. Back then we used what little power we had by calling her Davros behind her back and whispering ‘resistance is futile’ whenever she came near. Davros for those not familiar with Doctor Who of the 1970s was the emperor dalek. He had a dalek bottom half with a grotesque human head, arms and torso perched on the top. The maths teacher was a close match both in looks and temperament.
It was my son Jamie’s first day at secondary school yesterday. Many aspects of his transition into the next stage of education have been managed well and I wish that my secondary school had been half as good as his appears to be. But Jamie has found school very difficult, so when he came home yesterday smiling and reporting on a good day, I was relieved. At bedtime though, traditionally the confessional time in our house, he said he had felt humiliated by the maths teacher. For a child who has struggled with education I was immediately impressed at the use of such a long word and then saw the tears in his eyes. Children with early trauma can see humiliation and put down where none was intended and Jamie is no exception. But a public mocking can also inflict a painful wound on a child with deep insecurities. So not knowing the whole truth of the matter and aware that secondary schools expect some distance from pesty mothers, I will bide my time and see how things go. I decided instead to recount my Davros story to him and he listened wide-eyed. At breakfast this morning he told his sister that mummy wet herself at school and they both choked with laughter. Jamie went to school looking happy. There’s no maths today.