January 15, 2012

What Mrs. J's class saw

I still dream about my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. J.  She loved me because I was quiet and got good grades and made 100% on all my spelling tests that year.  But I hated her.  She got mad and lost her temper easily, and when she did she said nasty, mocking things to her students.  This volatility was an anxious kid like me's worst nightmare.

One of the students that Mrs. J's wrath was regularly directed to was Robbie V.  Robbie was a naughty boy who was usually causing trouble, but even worse was the fast that he smelled like mothballs.  The rumor around school was that Robbie's parents were mean to him and made him put his clothes in mothballs as punishment.  I have no idea what the actual situation was, but I identified with Robbie because my home life was unhappy, too.  I tried to be nice to him, and I didn't complain if I had to sit next to him at lunch like everyone else did.

One day in class, Mrs. J. was fed up with Robbie, and she placed his desk in front of hers so she could keep an eye on him.  She was in an exceptionally bad mood that day, and I watched her warily as I tried to draw as little attention to myself as possible. 

At one point she got so irritated that she said, "Robbie, you smell.  I'm sick of smelling mothballs.  Stand up."  Robbie slowly did as he was told.  Mrs. J. grabbed her can of Lysol off the bookshelf behind her, directed him to hold his arms up and turn around slowly, and then proceeded to spray him up and down. 

The class was surprised and looked around at each other for cues on what to do.  Some stifled giggles behind their hands clamped over their mouths.  I was horrified and started to cry.  I can still remember the look of shame and humiliation on Robbie's face as he stood in front of the class with his arms out.  And I still dream about it to this day.