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Fifteen Minutes of Shame

March 4, 2010

I like to spend my time looking for the laugh and trying to be funny. This may come as a surprise to my readers, but it’s true.  Shallow? Irresponsible? Yes, of course. But some of us need to escape. That’s why we read stories about Kelly Osbourne’s hair colour, rather than darker tales about the Chinese stock market.

Today though, my attention was arrested. Although I wanted to lark about with the news that voice recognition software finds men harder to understand – something along the lines of ‘isn’t that stating the obvious’ –  I feel compelled instead to strike a more serious note.

Here it is. I was shocked to my bones by the story in the Daily Mail about the four year old child being mocked on Facebook.

Even apart from the act of ridicule after the event, I think the practise of sitting children “under the thinking tree” is archaic and unhelpful. It’s not much different to being stood on a chair wearing a dunce’s cap. I remember being sent to stand in a corner with my face to the wall. But that was in the 1960s. Has education not moved on since then? What’s the point of all this offsted-ing if teachers are still getting away with that?

Another thing that struck me about the story was that the little girl said she hadn’t done anything wrong but the teacher wouldn’t listen. Huh. I remember that well.

Look here, I could be a champion knitter now if it hadn’t been for an experience I had at the tender age of six.

The teacher sent us home with the task of knitting six inches for teddy’s scarf. I knitted furiously all weekend. I loved it.

When the time came to stop and measure, though, I panicked because I had much more than six inches. I unravelled the extra back to six, measuring it carefully against my little ruler, pulling it as tight as I could along the ruler’s length…

I was looking forward to at least a silver star in my notebook for this. So it was a shock when the teacher held my scarf up with a scornful sneer on her face and asked me what had happened.

“Six inches,” I said.

“One,” she said, holding poor teddy’s scarf against a ruler. But I had stretched and stretched the scarf against my ruler to make the six inches and the teacher didn’t do that. She just held it there.

She didn’t stretch it even when I asked her to. She held it aloft in front of the whole class and said that I hadn’t done any knitting at all because I was a lazy girl. I tried to explain and said I’d done lots of knitting but had unwound it. She said I was a little liar. She said no-one could be that stupid. The whole class giggled at me.

I was shamed. I cried. I never knitted again.

That’s how damaging these experiences can be.

And just think, if that teacher had been more understanding, I might even have grown up to win Harry Hill’s Knitted Character competition…

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