I was a bad kid. I started out merely average on the obedience scale, but a couple things tipped me over the scale in grade six. I’d just started to write, and I had a first year teacher who was a horrible teacher. (In my memories, I make her a first year teacher after going through my own educational steps out of a kindness to her. If she really was that bad at classroom management and she wasn’t a first year teacher, I take all my kindness back.)
There were other factors, I had a horrible temper, I had learned that if I set my mind against an adult’s in a one-on-one setting I was probably going to lose but if there were other kids about, there was a very strong chance I’d just get turfed then yelled at. And boy, was the hallway such a better place to write. You didn’t even have to pretend to pay attention to the drivel coming out of the teacher’s mouth, there were no interruptions, and I could get as deep into the world I was trying to build without having to worry about “class”.
I was also very smart, and very bored in class. I’m not saying I was the smartest child, but I was up there. I also noticed things and I never forgot anything. She asked me what my trouble was, one day after class and I told her she was long before it was cool or hip to talk back to your teacher. So off I went into the hall again, for more positive reinforcement that all you need to do is meet someone’s lowest expectations and you never have to do anything else. I think I passed the grade merely because they wanted me out and I kept passing their stupid tests even though I hadn’t been in the class to learn the lesson it was supposed to be on.
It was a nose dive into the wrong crowd in the wrong grade in junior high, and then to wrong choices that go from ambiguous to A-OK with each successive choice. My temper hardened to the point where I broke a clarinet over a classmate’s head for saying the wrong thing to me. I escalated it, but I didn’t start it. I was just so angry all the time and I couldn’t even say at what.
Writing helped fill that anger. It wrapped it up and it put it aside so I could use it as a tool but not have it ruin my life. Writing engages all the parts of my brain, even the self-destructive ones. My best kids when I was teaching were those kids. The smart bad ones. The ones who were not naturally gifted with an overabundance of intelligent bad kids practically caught themselves. I loved my sneaky kids, and within a few months and a few roller coaster rides later, they loved me, too. Or at least they tolerated me, you know, as a teacher, which is bad-kid!speak for love.