There was a kid in our class who wore an ankle bracelet to school. I don’t mean some douchey piece of jewelry, I mean a court ordered hunk of plastic that he treated like a douchey piece of jewelry. It was put on him after he broke into some kid’s house and just milled around there for a while. Whenever I think back on it I wonder if it was even real. I mean I saw the ankle bracelet, I knew full well he couldn’t get that thing off and saw the red light blinking, but… what the hell was he doing in our class? I mean this was a private school, why wasn’t he expelled after he got arrested? It’s just kind of surreal that he was never kicked out. He openly admitted to teachers that he smoked pot and constantly made jokes in class about Jesus smoking pot. Keep in mind that this was middle school. For our level these seemed like insanely crazy crimes that would ruin your future. Maybe the staff just never took him seriously.
For this story I’ll just refer to him as “the convict,” because when I used to tell this story to people I thought it made it sound cooler.
Well anyway, he was a big guy, huge for his age. He was always pulling stupid shit and always got in trouble. One time I witnessed him vandalizing the bathroom with another kid. I was the only witness, but the convict wasn’t exactly keeping quiet about it. Well eventually the faculty found out he did it and he got in pretty big trouble. Since I was the only witness that wasn’t an accomplice he assumed I must have been the one who ratted him out. I may have had social skills comparable to Milhouse from The Simpsons back then, but I wasn’t stupid, tattling was about the lowest you could get, but despite my protests, The Convict was convinced that I sold him out and he was gunning for me.
One day I must have said something that set him off because he wrapped his hands around my neck and picked me off the ground and just held me there for a few seconds. If you’ve ever had someone put a hand around your neck you know how terrifying this is. This guy could have easily crushed my windpipe if he wanted to, we were only kids and all, but kids have no real concept of the consequences of their actions.
He held me there for a few seconds, I couldn’t say anything or stop him, and then he just dropped me.
Then I looked around, and I realized that most of our classmates were there. They watched me get strangled, and that’s all that did. Watch.
As an extremely shy kid who very rarely spoke and spent a lot of time alone, I was prone to fits of violent rage. After being humiliated like that all I wanted to do was find out who had really ratted out The Convict and then get my hands around his throat. Eventually someone finally told me who it was. It probably comes as a surprise to none of you to learn that it was the accomplice in the vandalization that had gone to the teachers.
This was the same kid who had been convincing the convict that I must have been the one to rat him out. I was so furious when I found out that I confronted him about it and asked if he was even sorry, to which he told me to “shut the fuck up” … so I hit him in the face, right in front of everyone in the class.
This wasn’t the first time I hit a kid. I had been in a few fights in middle school. My anger got the best of me a lot back then. Of course since all the kids saw was me hitting this guy in the face that meant I was the bad guy.
Funny how no one thought that when I got strangled by The Convict.
Later that day, when I went to wait for my parents to pick me up from school, all the other kids were missing. I was sitting out there by myself like an idiot for about ten minutes before someone came and told me what happened.
Almost everyone in our class had gone to the guidance counselor and were telling her that I was crazy and that I would bring a gun to school and shoot everyone.
That… was a pretty devastating moment in my childhood. Everyone I knew hated me, thought I was crazy, wanted me gone, and now the teachers would be checking me for weapons. You might wonder why they didn’t have these same fears about The Convict after he strangled me, well the difference is that the kids liked him, they didn’t like me.
I had been in school with these people for years. They were the only kids I knew, the only kids I could make friends with, they represented the entire human race from my point of view, and all of them rejected me.
That began my “I hate everyone” phase.
I went through a lot of trouble after I hit that kid, and he walked out of it with no consequences because his mom was a teacher and he was related to the principal. That just made me hate everyone even more.
The truth of it is though there wasn’t a lot to like about me in those days. I was definitely a socially awkward kid and I probably grated on everyone’s nerves quite a bit. Not to mention I got angry a lot and said a lot of stupid things, but when you’re a kid it’s hard to look critically at yourself and easy to just blame everyone else.
This is one of the biggest problems of private school. You’re with the same small group of people for years and when one of them turns against you, chances are all of them will. You have no other people to be friends with, and even if you can’t stand all the other people in your class they’re the only people you can turn to for companionship.
Is the education better? I can’t really speak to that, but I don’t think so. One of my teachers was a fat ass son of a bitch who fell asleep during class and once even during a meeting with my parents and used to ogle all the girls in our class. There was an atrociously evil music teacher who told my sister she was glad she was leaving St John because she was holding the whole class back because she couldn’t carry a note. Our study hall was replaced by a bullshit class called Enrichment run by a kindergarten teacher who had been fired for incompetence who didn’t know what the fuck she was doing- it was purposely horrible and stupid as an attempt to get kids to sign up for Band which practiced during that time slot. I can also say with full confidence that I am far more intelligent than most of the teachers I had there.
When I started public high school I met a lot of kids way smarter than I who didn’t suffer through private school, but perhaps St John was just a particularly maliciously horrible place. My sister went to another private school after St John for high school, but I think she ran into a lot of the same problems there that we had in catholic school, so my opinion on private schools as a whole is to save your child the trauma.
I had planned on telling more stories, but frankly I could go on forever, and I don’t really enjoy telling them. Catholic school taught me a lot of lessons though: people can be horrible, you can be horrible, teachers can be horrible, and life can be horrible.
I came out of there angry, cynical, and thinking I’d never make any friends. I did have a one good friend from St John, but he moved away, and when you went nine years in school and only made one good friend you don’t hold out a lot of hope.
Even though St John beat me to the ground, it proved a valuable experience. I know what it feels like to be treated like garbage and that taught me empathy, I know that authority figures can be complete morons and that taught me to question what I had been told, I know that a lot of people can be stupid and horrible and that taught me to never bother hanging around people who rub me wrong- there are a lot more people out there than the ones near you at the moment, go find the ones that make you happy.
I do hold, however, that there are easier ways to learn these lessons. Parents, make sure your children are happy, don’t put them through years in a horrible environment hoping to give them a better education. I don’t think it’s worth it; intelligence won’t be stifled by public school. Mine wasn’t.