Stuttering affects lots of different people in lots of different ways. One of the main factors to think of when it comes to stuttering is how people react to you. Teachers in school are there to support and mentor you so how do you react when one of them makes fun of your stutter? This is something that I have gone through and I will discuss it further in this blog.
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Today’s blog is going to be the fourth blog in my Stuttering in Mainstream Media series and is going to focus on when I was picked on by a teacher in school for stuttering. I loved school and learning when I was younger and even though I encourage everyone to look at the positives all the time there are times when you need to look at the negatives to learn and develop from them. This blog is going to look at how a teacher picked on my stutter, how I reacted at the time and what we can learn from it.
The incident itself happened when I was in year 8 back in Secondary School. Me and my classmates in 8f were in a History lesson at the time. F was one of the top sets in the year. The class was close to the start of the year and our teacher asked us what we think we should learn about this year. Most of the class asked if we would learn about World War 2 or about Slavery and I would just sit and listen. I used to feel quite scared about speaking up in class due to my stutter but I finally thought I would give speaking a go.
I had been a big fan of reading encyclopaedias and history books at the time and had starting learning a lot about Oliver Cromwell. I had read all the books I had on him and didn’t understand the formal articles that were published online. I was really interested in his story however so decided to try and ask our teacher if we would be learning about him. Before I go further into the story I am not going to be mentioning the teachers name in theis blog as that is not the point of the blog, the point of the blog is to learn from my experience and how it affected me, it is not meant as an attack to the teacher in question.
I raised my hand and the teacher said my name. I started off asking the question, “Miss, do we get the chance to learn” when I just couldn’t get anymore words out. When I finally got the confidence to carry on every word I said was full of stutters, “abbbooout Oliver Cccrrrom Cromwell this year?” The question itself was easy to understand even though I stuttered a number of times. Instead of answering the question though the teacher decided to stop, make everyone quiet and then turned to speak to me.
She looked at me and said ” Jjjjames ssspeak prop-er-ly.” I just sat there staring at her in pure shock. I didn’t know how to react or what to do at the time. School was a place where I felt safe growing up and it is somewhere that I really enjoyed to be in. I couldn’t understand why someone in her position would make fun of me in front of the whole class. The rest of the class went completely silent too, no one knowing what to say or how to react.
This lesson was the very first lesson of the day. I didn’t speak again until lunchtime that day, around 4 hours after the lesson happened. No one really noticed that I wasn’t speaking until we all went out to get lunch. I was with my mates on the yard when a boy from my class comes over and starts telling everyone about what happened in History. I didn’t say a word when he was telling the story, I just listened and stared in the distance. When he finished the story everyone just turned and looked at me.
I did not know what to do when the boy was telling the story. I did not know how I should have felt, what I should have done, who I should have spoken to, etc. it is why I just stared into the distance, I was lost. After the boy finished telling the story all of my friends looked the same. Some spoke to me like they felt sorry for me, one or two seemed like they had genuine empathy for me and then the rest just didn’t react, they just stood there thinking.
It was when two of my good friends, Zac and Dylan, found out that action was taken. Zac and Dylan had been my friends all the way through Primary and Secondary school. They understood the affect that my stutter had on me and that making fun of it or joking about it was not okay. As soon as they found out what happened they came over to see if I was alright and if there was anything they could do.
Aftr speaking to me they went to see our Head of Year to make a complaint against the teacher, something I didn’t know they were going to do at the time. If Zac and Dylan take action there and then then I do not think that anything would have been done about it and I feel like I wouldn’t have gotten over this incident. In their own rights they can be classed as stutterspirations as they took action to help me, a person with a stutter out, when no one asked them too, they simply did it off their own backs. Even though they may not know it but they did a great thing that went a long way to helping me control my stutter.
As lunchtime break ended on that day everyone went back inside ready for afternoon registration. As I was walking back towards my class my Head of Year called me into her office. She informed me that Zac and Dylan came to her with a complaint against my history teacher and they told her what happened. She sat me down and asked me to go through my side of the story.
I took a set in her office and slowly explained everything that happened from the start of the day up to now and how it made me feel. She sat there listening making notes on a notepad. I stopped a few times when telling the story due to stuttering or when I would get a bit emotional going through it. It was at this point that the reality of what actually happened dawned on me.
After we finished discussing what happened she asked if I wanted to go home or if I wanted to stay in school. I said that I want to stay in school as there is only one lesson left in the day and do not want to fall behind on work. She then asked me if I want to make a complaint against the teacher or if I want to swap classes to be taught by a different history. I thanked her for both offers but refused them both. I would stay in the class, to prove to myself that I was strong enough and that I couldn’t be broken by one person.
It took me a while to get back to normal after that day. It took me around two to three days to start answering questions in class again and then around a week or so to start asking questions again. I was lucky that I was a fast learner at the time and that I understood the topics we were studying as I am the type of person that usually has a lot of questions about the work we are doing.
I decided against telling my parents what happened at first. I cannot remember exactly why i decided not to tell them but I think that I thought that if no one spoke about it then it would be forgotten about and then I could move on in some way. They eventually found out through a friend of mines mum at a football game on the following Saturday and then I filled them in on everything that had happened.
My mother decided to write a letter to the school voicing her concerns over the matter and then went in to have a meeting with the headmaster. During the following tutorial session on Monday morning I was called out of my class to go to the headmasters office. When I got there he asked me to sit down and tell him what happened from start to finish so I did. As I was talking through what happened he was just sitting there listening, nodding, trying to understand what happened and how to handle it.
After I had told him everything he got a fellow student to go and get the teacher from her class. When she came into his office, I started shaking, dreading what was going to happen next. He then asked me to repeat everything that I had just told him in front of the teacher. I started telling the story again, looking at her reaction every so often to she how she would react. As soon as I finished the story I closed my eyes for a few seconds to stop myself from breaking down and then turned to see what was going to happen.
Our headteacher made the teacher apologise to me and then he asked her to go back to her class. After she left the room he asked me if I was alright and if I wanted to go home. i said that I would stay in school thank you but I just need a few minutes to pick myself back up and then I would be find to go back to lessons. He nodded and agreed and told me that if I felt like I needed to leave any class for a few minutes then it would be more than fine and he would inform my other teachers on what had happened.
That is the story of how a teacher picked on me in front of the whole class back in Secondary school. I have never told the story to anyone since leaving school so it was quite nice to finally air it out and explain what actually happened. We can learn quite a lot from the story, even though it seems very negative and bleak there are a few interesting lessons we can take from it.
Firstly speaking out is very important. I was too scared to speak out about what happned at first but was very lucky that my good friends Zac and Dylan were there to do it for me. Speaking out takes a lot of courage but it is the only way that change will ever happen. We can’t just sit around and wait for change to happen, if we think something is wrong we have t speak up and try and make a change for the better. Speaking out seems like a very basic and easy thing but it can be one of the hardest things you can do. People usually don’t understand things unless you explain it to them.
Taking action is very important. Always try and take action yourself and if you see someone in trouble then try to help them out. Be the person that Zac and Dylan were for me. They saw that I was struggling and they stepped in. Always try your best to help people out, you never know they might return the favour in the future.
Secondly you can always pick yourself back up. After the teacher made fun of me I thought that I would never be able to speak in front of people again. It shook me to my core that someone in a position such as a teacher would pick on me in front of my whole class. It took me a while to understand that if I didn’t speak in class again then the only person it would impact on would be myself and I couldn’t let myself down because of someone else’s mistake.
That is all I want to talk about in today’s blog! I know today’s blog was a bit longer than what I usually do but I think it is important to go through the story and talk about how it affected me and how you can pick yourself back up again after someone knocks you down. What do you all think? Did you enjoy reading today’s blog? Have you got any stuttering stories you want to share? What do you think of what the teacher did? How would you react if it happened to you? Let me know your answers to the questions and any other thoughts you had on the blog in the comments or get in touch with me through the Sweeney’s Blogs Facebook page.
Thanks for reading and I hope you all enjoyed! Remember keep Highlighting the I in Difference!
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