The leader of the children of the damned

Through most of my teen years, I was a fairly quiet, bullied kid.

Except for the time I bullied someone myself.

And, because I have always been a go-big-or-go-home person, I didn’t choose a kid to bully. Oh, no, not me.

I chose a TEACHER.

Mr. P was fresh out of teachers’ college when he showed up in our seventh grade classroom. He looked like a J. Crew model. He was all preppy cashmere sweaters and perfectly blowdried blonde hair and way too many very-white teeth. He laughed heartily. He had pink cheeks and sparkly eyes.

Immediately, my class decided they must destroy him.

Why we came to this decision, I’m not sure. We were a small school in a farm town. Did he represent the other, and we feared that? Was he too gung-ho? Was he trying too hard? Was he just TOO DAMN BLONDE?

I’m not sure why the rest of the class didn’t like him, but my dislike of him was twofold.

First, historically, teachers had been my only safe place. Especially English teachers. They praised my writing and they called on me when no one else would answer their questions because they knew I’d done the reading (hell, I’d probably finished the book on the first day) and they were kind when the kids weren’t.

Mr. P. wasn’t. For whatever reason, he had no time to be kind to the quiet, bullied kid. He graded me more harshly than I thought I deserved (whether or not I was right, I’m not sure – I was twelve, what the hell did I know) and snapped at me quite often in class. He also forced me to participate in things that other teachers would let slide – things where I had to talk in front of the class. Which was my biggest fear. And when I asked him, as I always did, if there was a way I could get around such a thing, he SNEERED at me.

This didn’t fly with the shy, but snotty about her intelligence, kid that I was.

The second reason was a lot more selfish.

All of the other kids were doing it. Dammit, I wanted to be cool. I wanted to be cool SO BADLY. Even though I knew, on some level, I never would be, this seemed like a way to be cool.

It was hard to be cool when you were the school's Napoleon Dynamite, yo.

It was hard to be cool when you were the school’s Napoleon Dynamite, yo.

So I led the class in a campaign of terror against Mr. P.

See, I was quiet, and I was shy…but I was smart as hell. And I read. A lot. I had ideas about how to be cruel to people that the other kids hadn’t even THOUGHT of. (Mostly because they’d taught them to me by being cruel to me all those years.)

Things we did to Mr. P. over the two years we tormented him, that I can remember:

  • all brought apples back from lunch and, one at a time, loudly rolled them up the aisles at his desk when his back was turned and pretended we didn’t know where they came from
  • he brought in an “heirloom mug” to teach us the meaning of the word heirloom (I’m pretty sure seventh graders don’t need an object lesson for such a thing) and one of my classmates broke it (this was NOT on me, I’d just like to make that clear, but I did laugh along with everyone else)
  • we refused to answer any questions in class, raise our hands, etc., until he instituted “participation points” and we were FORCED to, but then we’d answer briefly and in snotty tones
  • we had a class spelling bee, and he was SO EXCITED, and I knew I could win, but just didn’t give a shit, so when it was down to me and another kid I refused to continue spelling and he was all “BUT THE PRIZE IS A CANDY BAR!” all sad-eyed and I laughed like he’d offered me a mudpie and said “you can’t do better than that?” and sat down
  • and, our coup de grace, another student and I took the musical thingy out of a musical birthday card and hid it under his desk, so there was this tinny “happy birthday” music playing all day, and he was all “WHAT IS THAT MUSIC” and everyone pretended they couldn’t hear it and we walked past on a free period and saw that he’d torn all the drawers out of his desk and was sitting in his chair and he was CRYING.

After that, it wasn’t as much fun anymore. I mean, seriously, we made this guy CRY. We BROKE an ADULT.

The worst part, though (I KNOW, there’s a WORSE THING) was that he’d started a junior-high drama club. He actually got me into acting. I should be thanking the poor guy for this, you know? So in seventh grade, we did Heidi. I was Heidi’s bitchy aunt. I sprained my ankle so badly the day before the show I couldn’t perform and my understudy had to go on for me and I was HEARTBROKEN.

In eighth grade, we did The Diary of Anne Frank (I know, this guy was really optimistic about our talent – well, until we got through with him) and I was Anne’s mother. (Yes, I always got cast in the parent roles, or the bitchy roles. I apparently have always looked old and always read bitchy.) In news of ZOMG, my crush was in the play, too (but I didn’t know at the time he was only in the show because HIS crush was playing his wife. Sigh.) At this point, we had bullied Mr. P. to a point of constant nerves. He was no longer cashmere sweaters and perfect hair; he was more often greasy and sweaty, he’d grown a weird, patchy beard, and he had this constant thousand-yard stare.

I’m not sure what, exactly, happened, the night he had the nervous breakdown. We were acting jerky, I’m sure…but keep in mind we were 13- and 14-year-olds. That’s how those kids act, usually. They’re bundles of hormones and jackassery.

I just remember him screaming “THIS PLAY IS CANCELLED!” and it was an hour before the afterschool bus was coming, and he stormed out of the auditorium, and we kind of whispered and then crept out into the lobby to use the pay phone to call our parents to see if they could pick us up early and he was sitting in the lobby, looking furiously through a phone book and rocking.

“What are you doing, Mr. P.?” one of the kids asked him.

“I AM LOOKING FOR BICYCLE STORES,” he said. “I’m going to RIDE a BIKE across the COUNTRY and eat nothing but BEANS for the rest of my LIFE.”

The kids we were thought this was HYSTERICAL. The woman I am now is HORRIFIED. (Seriously, though, we were kids. The word “beans” made us think of “farts” and “farts” was SO FUNNY. Come on, it still kind of is.)

This was near the end of the school year. He did finish out the school year, but the play didn’t happen, and he didn’t come back the following year (his tormentors – us – had moved onto high school at that point, so he’d have probably been safe, but I can’t blame him that he wanted nothing more to do with my school.)

I seriously think back on this time and cringe.

I was TERRIBLE. I wasn’t the only one – we were all little sharks who had scented blood – but a lot of these things wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t said “hey, why don’t we try…” because THOSE KIDS WOULD NOT HAVE THOUGHT OF THEM. I had no empathy for this poor man, who was new in town, new to his job, and probably trying really hard. And who knows why he was (what I perceived to be) dickish to me? Maybe he was trying to get me to work harder; maybe he wanted me to be able to talk in front of people, and thought this was the best way to go about it. Who knows.

I know. I was twelve, and I was a lonely bullied kid. I did a lot of things that were, in retrospect, not good choices. (I also made some brave choices, but the bad ones probably equaled those out.) But this poor guy, sincerely. And he talked me into acting! Which changed the whole course of my life! And my actions (well, mine and others, but I totally egged those other kids on) MADE THE MAN QUIT TEACHING!

I still feel terrible about this. I’ve totally tried to find him on Facebook and on Google and I cannot. I sadly imagine he is still riding solo across the country on his bike, subsisting on nothing but legumes, like a Forrest Gump without a Jenny to come home to. He’s probably about 50 now. Still pedaling. Trying to escape the mean kids and the tinkling “happy birthday” that won’t leave him alone and just…won’t…stop.

Mr. P., it’s too late, and it won’t fix anything now, but I am very, very sorry for the time I decided the best way to deal with an adult was to bully him into a nervous breakdown and to make him quit his job. As an adult now, I know how mean children can be, and I sincerely cringe at that child I used to be. You have no reason to forgive me (and I am quite sure you’re probably never going to read this – what are the odds, right?) but I do hope you’re well, and you found your happiness somewhere, and you were able to forget about those two terrible years in the late 80s when the children of the damned of upstate New York used you as a punching bag.

(I promise I’m doing penance for this on the regular, now. I’m nice to old people AND animals AND children and one time I found a lost kid in the Target and totally brought him up to the customer service desk so he wasn’t stolen by a pervert and his dad tried to give me money and cried. I REALLY AM TRYING TO MAKE UP FOR MY PAST TRANSGRESSIONS.)

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About lucysfootball

I'm not the girl with the most cake. Someday. SOMEDAY. View all posts by lucysfootball

54 responses to “The leader of the children of the damned

  • emmawolf

    Oh wow. That’s pretty terrible.

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      Yeah, I know. It’s not something I’m at all proud of.

      Like

      • emmawolf

        Meh. Maybe this sounds cold, but it doesn’t sound like he was cut out to be a teacher. If he was, he would have been able to stop it long before it got bad.

        Like

        • cynthiaw

          Being a first year teacher is tough – especially if you don’t have good mentors and it sounds like the other teachers at that school weren’t much good either. Handling one or two bad kids is one thing, dealing with an entire class that has decided, as a group, to be non-compliant is a whole other thing – especially for a new teacher, with no backup.

          I agree that there are things that he could have done to get the kids on his side, but I also say that as a veteran teacher and as a veteran teacher who has always had the support of my colleagues and administration. Even the year that I was stalked and sexually-harassed by a 19 year old sophomore, my administration and district police department did their best to protect me and remove the student from the school. Not everyone has the luxury of experience and support. Or maybe he really wasn’t cut out to be a teacher – who knows?

          Like

          • emmawolf

            I don’t mean to sound cold. I know nothing about teaching other than that it’s hard. Yes, he should have had the support of his colleagues.

            Like

            • lucysfootball

              I don’t think you sounded cold.

              I think this post is more polarizing than I planned.

              I PROMISE, everyone, that I love teachers; I know plenty, I know how hard they work, and I support them whenever I can. This was something crappy I did as a kid, and nothing against teachers as a whole. Sincerely. *hides under desk*

              Like

        • lucysfootball

          It might have been for the best that he didn’t continue. I mean, I’ve known a lot of people over the years that SHOULDN’T have been teachers. People that were pure meanness, you know? Or bad at it, or lackadaisical…so maybe him leaving opened it up for someone wonderful?

          Like

  • Andreas Heinakroon

    Children are pretty horrible. I believe it’s to do with having underdeveloped mirror neurons and that they only appear at a later stage. But that’s only a guess and not even particularly educated one, I’m afraid.

    I remember having some kind of mind-battle with one of my teachers in 4th or 5th grade. I must have been around 10 or so, and it sort of developed into a flame war of comments in my homework. He would remark on something, I would write something back and he would reply in turn. Thinking back on it now it was all pretty childish, but then again I was just a child. One would have thought he as a grown man would have stood above these things. But people are stupid, I guess. I know I was.

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      I think some teachers react badly to things. I had good ones, and I had terrible ones. (I promise I never had one I treated this badly again. Well, I had the one I threw a calculator at, but he was sexually harrassing me and talking about my breasts IN FRONT OF THE CLASS and I’d really had enough of that nonsense. And I had the one I staged a walkout of her class, but she was being ridiculous over something that I’ve forgotten and it was all very civil-disobedience of me. I was totally going to be a little political activist when I grew up. Huh. That didn’t happen, did it?)

      Like

  • The Waiting

    Poor Mr. P. When I was teaching, I had a class of eight-year-olds who drove me to near madness as well. I remember one time in particular, I almost started crying because they were being so horrible and I couldn’t keep them under control. Fortunately, this was in Korea and I couldn’t really have left to ride across the country on a bike.

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      I know. I feel awful for him. I wish I could go back and smack young-me (and young-other-kids as well.) I also would like to sit him down (I’m totally older now than he was then) and say, “THIS IS NOT HOW YOU HANDLE THESE THINGS, DUDE!” and all-caps a little sense into him, sincerely. But it’s all too late now, sadly.

      You taught in Korea? To Korean kids? You’ve lived a life of wonder and mystery, you know!

      Like

  • itsMaha

    Omg i can relate to this. Just seems like yesterday I pulled off a stunt similar with my class. On my path to set things right too.
    Oh an btw, you have amazing writing skills! :) xx

    Like

  • cynthiaw

    I don’t even know about this one – I mean, you were a kid and a junior high one at that, so your neural cortex wasn’t even fully-formed yet and PUBERTY and a bunch of other stuff was going on, so…. yeah.

    I’ve taught for about 15 years now and I’ve had a few bad days, but nothing like that. I did have an 8th grade class that was horrible enough that I cried after they left that day and then took a mental health day the next day – and then my teaching partner let them have it for being so awful while I was absent, so they were quite contrite when I came back the following day. And they were usually pretty good (other than the fact that they never SHUT UP, seriously – ever), so it was just the one day of general asshattery.

    I will tell you that some people just aren’t cut out to be teachers – but I can’t believe that none of the other teachers stepped in to help him. He should have had a mentor and someone should have helped him hold a class meeting and straighten things out. One of the last few years that I was teaching middle school (I teach elementary now – much less snark), we had a class who was bullying the 8th grade English teacher and the other 8th grade homeroom teacher and I straightened that crap out right away.

    So… while what you guys did was crappy – you were kids and I presume that this wasn’t like the Lord of the Flies and there were other adults around who should have down something. Plus, maybe the guy found something that he was better at or a school that restored his faith in humanity.

    Heck, I taught in an urban high school and had a gangbanger threaten to kick my butt after school one day and I didn’t quit to ride my bicycle across the country and eat beans. I did, however, have the campus police officer have a little chat with him.

    Anyway, not saying that it was Mr. P’s fault that you guys were little hellions, but there were ways that the adults at the school could have helped him, so I’d go easy on myself, if I were you.

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      The other teachers weren’t great, either. I won’t go into how terrible my school was here, but it was bad news. I mean, I was bullied to the point of physical violence almost daily for years, and everyone (teachers included) knew…and saw it…and no one said a word. That school was hell for everyone. I suppose it made some of us tougher? Maybe? And made some of us…drive around eating beans. I don’t even know.

      Like

  • handflapper

    Jeez, what a pussy. He did the right thing getting out of teaching. I’ve had books, chairs and desks thrown at me. I’ve been called a “fucking bitch” more times than I can count (my response: “Probably so. Now let’s get back to class). I’ve been threatened and shoved and accidentally punched. NEVER have I let any student bully me, though many have tried (comes from my choice of educating the most at-risk, delinquent kids). Quit feeling bad about this. He sounds like a total asshole.

    Like

    • aliceatwonderland

      Wow, that’s – insensitive. Just because you can withstand that much abuse doesn’t make it right.

      Like

      • lucysfootball

        I don’t think she was being insensitive; just saying her take on it. She is awesome, and I love her. Really. She’s one of my favorite internettians.

        Like

        • handflapper

          Aw, I loves you so. I guess that did sound pretty insensitive, but I know too many people who got into teaching because they thought it was going to be an easy gig–off at 3 every day, three months summer, two weeks at Christmas, you know–and then found out it was hardass WORK. I know more who don’t have the time for any student who doesn’t fit their vision of what a student should look like. Yes, y’all were a bunch of rotten kids, but he was the ADULT.

          Like

          • cynthiaw

            That reminds of the math and science teacher we had a few years back who didn’t even make it to Thanksgiving – she had been a pharmaceutical rep before deciding to try her hand at teaching. The last thing that she said to us before quitting was “I didn’t realize that this was going to be so much WORK!” and then she stormed out.

            I’m really not sure what she thought we did all day.

            Like

          • lucysfootball

            I still know people who think it’s easy, and that say things like, “how hard can a job be when you have THREE MONTHS OFF EVERY YEAR” and it takes all the energy I have not to throttle them with my hands in public.

            Teaching is HARD. And you’re onstage. Every day. Not only onstage, but onstage, being HECKLED. And onstage, being heckled, while TEACHING CHILDREN THINGS. I’d like some of these people to have to teach, just for a day or two, and I want to be positioned by a door to watch them run out weeping at the end of the day.

            Like

    • lucysfootball

      I think he was so gung-ho, just out of teachers’ college, all “I WILL CHANGE THESE COW-TOWN KIDS FOR THE BETTER!” and then we were just…not having it. And he reacted badly. And WE reacted badly. It was bad all around.

      I love you. I’ve been missing from Twitter. I should go Twitter-stalk you. How are you, lady?

      Like

      • handflapper

        I am ok. I just killed a dog. That wasn’t so fun. I am slowly getting my life back and priorities rearranged, so of course first thing I came here.

        Like

        • lucysfootball

          On purpose? By accident? Because it was sick? Was it your dog? SO MANY QUESTIONS! (If it was your dog, I’m sorry, and please pretend I wasn’t being flippant.)

          I understand about the priorities and the life. I’m doing the same thing. Someday I’ll be back as well, I’d think. Maybe. Probably. Probably definitely maybe.

          Like

  • emuse

    I actually think it’s okay to have certain things we will feel badly about for the rest of our lives. One of the things Mr. P taught you was why it’s not good to be on the other side of bullying either. That the whole scenario sucks.

    Also, people’s brains aren’t fully developed as far as the judgment centers until early to mid-twenties. (Personally, I think that’s why we make that age group soldiers. But that’s another discussion.) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443713704577601532208760746.html

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      That actually makes a TON of sense, because that’s when I started to come around as a human. Sincerely. Mid-to-late-twenties. (I was a late bloomer, I think.) And yes, I suppose there were lessons to be learned from this. There are always lessons, even if they hurt to learn them, and I hate that I had to do this to someone to learn them.

      Like

  • Samantha

    Not that it excuses it (and we all have those things we did we wish we hadn’t), but it seems like first-year teachers tend to be more harsh because they have to assert their dominance, but it sounds like he was a bit of a jerk and then got upset because he got pwned. Like I said, doesn’t make it right, but there’s other factors, I guess. Either way, you are wonderful now and I can understand the motivations.

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      Aw, thank you. And yes, we do all have these things. I’ll always feel badly about this one. I think he came in ready to change the world and then we were terrible and it was all a very bad situation for everyone, honestly.

      Like

  • aliceatwonderland

    I can understand. I was bullied a lot and I had a lot of rage and I was smart and I read and I had IDEAS so when I found another kid who was vulnerable another girl and I used my ideas. It was horrible. We made her cry. I feel awful for that now, and really I did then too. It didn’t make up for the cruelty I experienced to be cruel to someone else.

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      I think it might be how our brains work, though. Like, “I can get rid of some of this hurt by offloading it onto someone else!” and what a terrible way to go about things. But we’re young, and we don’t know any better. (Although, some people STILL do this – like people who are having a shitty day who lash out at others, you know?)

      Like

  • Heather

    I was a bullied bullier at that age, too. Nothing so horrible as this, heh, but I did it. And I feel terrible about it. And I’m not quite brave enough to try to contact the couple people I was a dick to.

    Regardless of who was the bigger asshole in this situation–you kids or the teacher–I’m sure it took bravery to write this and put it out there. I’m proud of you. You HAVE grown up to be a wonderful adult. :)

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      I think it might be a way we deal with being bullied – obviously the bullies feel good about themselves; we want to feel good about themselves; so therefore, we bully. It doesn’t work, but we’re young, and we don’t know until we try.

      Aw, YOU are wonderful, as well. I have fallen in with the most fantastic group of people. I couldn’t be more pleased about that!

      Like

  • lahikmajoe

    Haven’t even read the post (boy, they’re still long, aren’t they?) and just barely read through a handful of the comments (still think it’s cool that you answer yours), but that’s only because I haven’t yet gone and gotten a tasty, refreshing beverage to accompany me during the ‘reading of today’s offerings by that Lucy’s Football’.

    Just wanted to let your loyal readers that I’ve been lurking for a while now, but haven’t gotten round to announcing myself…well, as the most reasonable character in The Shining film notably exclaims, ‘I’m baaaack…’

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      Oh, if I started writing short posts, someone would think I’d had a traumatic brain injury, now wouldn’t they?

      I debated not answering this, only because it would be ironic, and I do so love me some irony (it’s good for you, all that irony; makes a body strong, like bull) but then I decided that would be less ironic and more mean. And I’m a lot of things, but mean’s not one of them.

      Howdy, Lahikmajoe. Welcome back to the Overlook Hotel.

      Couldn’t be happier to see you.

      Like

  • lahikmajoe

    “I AM LOOKING FOR BICYCLE STORES,” he said. “I’m going to RIDE a BIKE across the COUNTRY and eat nothing but BEANS for the rest of my LIFE.”

    This seems like a most appropriate response to many, if not all, of life’s subtle inequities.

    Like

  • innyganker

    Wow, this totally brings me back to 7th grade. We went through about 5 teachers that year. We were really on a roll getting them out and it just spiraled from there. Each one was a new challenge. We were horrible rotten kids. I have worked in schools since and for a short time with high school kids that were asked to leave their district schools for discipline problems. I think dealing with those kids was my karmic return for that one year long ago.

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      I’ve gone through some pretty crappy things since those years…so I have to wonder if karma’s kicked my ass roundly for what happened back then. If so: I’ve paid my dues, karma! You can lay off now! I’m good now! Promise!

      Like

  • AreYouFinishedYet

    I had a similar experience with a seventh grade Math teacher. My class was so horrible to her. From the start, she couldn’t win…because her name was Mrs. Dickman and she taught middle schoolers. The boys in my class would go up to her and ask if she had a son named “Harry.” I was the kind of kid who would never dare pick on a teacher, but I did my fair share of laughing along. She quit halfway through the year. It’s terrible to think about now, especially since I ended up becoming a teacher myself.

    Like

    • cynthiaw

      Ha – I’ve taught 7th & 8th graders and high school kids – if my husband’s last name had been Dickman, you can be damn sure that I would have kept my maiden name!

      If I had been foolish enough to have that last name, I would have just looked at those boys and said “Really? That’s the best you’ve got?” and moved on.

      Like

    • lucysfootball

      Oh, I don’t know if I could have not laughed, either. I mean, Dickman? In seventh grade? That is comedy GOLD. That poor woman. I’m with Cynthia, I would have changed my name, too.

      Some people are able to handle that kind of treatment, and some aren’t…I guess the ones that are are the ones that are meant to teach (or are just braver than the rest.) I don’t know if I could handle it. Probably not.

      Like

  • lobestir

    Hey. I was also bullied, and given the opportunity to work the other side of the bullying equation, I took it as well. It all sucks. Do you suppose we will eventually forgive ourselves, or do these things haunt us for eternity to avoid a repeat performance? Not sure. Thanks for a great post and a great blog.

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      I know I’ll never forgive myself – for a LOT of things. But that’s just me. I can forgive other people almost anything, but when it comes to myself, I have a VERY long memory, and am very mean to myself about it, even though I tell myself most likely I was suffering from PTSD and I was just a kid.

      Thank you, and thank you for reading!

      Like

  • lobestir

    By the way, congratulations! I’ve nominated you for the Liebster Award! I’m a little worried that you’re out of my league, having been freshly pressed TWICE :), but I love your blog and wanted you to know. http://lobestir.com/2013/10/03/liebster-awards/

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      Oh, I’m not out of ANYONE’S league. I’m quite sure all the Freshly Pressed-ness is a mistake on someone’s part. Thank you so much! I’m terrible about awards, and usually either get around to them months later or forget about them altogether, but thank you so much for thinking of me – it’s so appreciated!

      Like

  • Sunday Reading: Funny stories and musings from bloggers I follow | Bad at cleaning

    […] The leader of the children of the damned by Lucy’s Football […]

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  • Anna Lea West

    Well! This is just downright terrible. But, um, on a lighter note, uhhhh fall is here and people sure like fall! ;)

    Like

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