This was the message that West Heritage ultimately carved into my very soul at the end of my stay. Between having misanthropic parents (well, it was mostly my mother) and being the nerdy, boring fat girl who played video games, I had accepted my fate of being alone, but my teachers just couldn’t deal with that.
Yes, the teachers were supposed to respect different personality types and learning styles. But in light of their “NO TALKING, EVER” rules and policies that hung over everything, at the same time they seemed to have issues dealing with those of us who just didn’t draw energy from socializing with the other kids. We were easy to deal with as far as classroom management went, but otherwise a nightmare– you couldn’t exactly slap us with “does not play well with others” penalties because we left well enough alone and weren’t mean to other kids, we just didn’t want much to do with them because it wore us out. These teachers just didn’t know how to deal with us. Our existence clashed with what they were taught was the ideal child– a noisy little thing that could be molded into an obedient (e.g. QUIET) student, except we were already quiet, but we had other needs that they weren’t prepared to handle. And they certainly weren’t equipped to deal with those of us who suffered from depression. (They tried to put me in the district’s drug prevention program, for lack of a better possible course of action. WTF? Granted, my mother refused to give consent for me to be examined by the school psychologist, so I guess the other possibility the teachers could fish out was that I was at-risk for becoming a drug user…)
For instance, a lot of us didn’t enjoy group work at all and tried to solo the assignments. Sometimes this was allowed, other times we were quickly shunted into a low-population group and told to chin up and make do. In my case, this rarely had a good ending– the reason I preferred to solo group work in the first place was because many of my peers were just little leeches who would happily shove the burden onto me and chatter away, which would get the group (including me) penalized. (Happily, in many cases the teacher was aware of this and would exempt me from punishment, but you don’t forget the first sting…)
The other time where it really didn’t pay to be an introvert was in the Computer Lab. There were only so many computers, so of course it was necessary to pair us off. BUT, you couldn’t keep friends together or else they would chatter… and then there was Yoshi over here; Yoshi, who is otherwise such a pleasant little girl even though she isn’t really interested in being around others so we’ll just give her the most obnoxious kid (almost always a boy), and surely she could put up with it.
For the record? No, actually. I didn’t appreciate being stuck with the king douchebag. They would either glitch D-Paint to make the puke brush (which, while funny, was useless and couldn’t be reset short of a system reboot), or would make fun of my short hair by forcing a boy’s avatar on me in Mixed-Up Mother Goose or randomly mash the keyboard to screw me up during my turn at Mavis Beacon. Petitioning the teacher or the Computer Lab moderator (a short, shouty Filipino woman who didn’t really know a whole lot about computers, now that I think about it) didn’t help as I was just handwaved off and told to deal with it– oddly enough, I was also always assigned to the very back of the room.
Things came to a head in second grade, when my lab partner was determined to get me to react in such a way that would get us both in trouble (he was always getting yelled at for talking and I was always getting exempt from punishment because I was in the clear and making some attempt to stay on task), so out of the blue he decides he’ll lay this extremely slobbery kiss on my cheek. Following my scream, that part of the lab fell DEAD silent, and when the teacher waded into the back to find out what happened… sure enough, my partner was the only one disciplined and I was assured I would be allowed my own slot for the rest of the year if I so chose. (Thankfully my best friend Lia in that class changed seats to become my lab partner.) Still, the social damage had been done: rumors were going around about my “making out” with the little punk and other such nonsense. Kids are so cruel. I’m just glad I passed this part of my life before homophobic bullying became commonplace, as I am sure I would have been branded a lesbian because of my short hair and boyish voice.
If I had the option to, I seriously would have done anything to be able to eat lunch in the classroom, especially in the years that Lia wasn’t in my class. Otherwise, it was either trying to inject myself into the already-established groups in the class partitions in the cafeteria (and being ignored) or trying to find enough of a gap where I could sit alone, only to have my space inpinged upon by the other smaller groups. Sadly, eating lunch in the classroom was not an option because the teacher had prep work to do or business to attend to in the lounge and office.