This week, we’re asking you to write a memoir. The way in which you choose to share your memoir — be it a story, poem, flash non-fiction, or a song — is entirely up to you.
It seems I was always fair game for Kerry-Anne, the school bully.
She was two years older than me, a remnant from two previous 6th grade classes who had failed to pass her exams to proceed to high school. She was now in her repeat year of grade 6. In our education system, you were given two chances to succeed in the final elementary school year, otherwise you ended up in the rejection pile of the Secondary School system.
Part of me felt a little sorry for her.
Another part of me wanted to kick her.
She had started bothering me when I was in the fourth grade and she was in the sixth. She had already repeated one grade prior to sitting the school-leaving exams. Kerry-Anne would steal my lunch, call me names, and make my life miserable on the playground. For 8 to 10 year old me, that was a horrifying experience.
My torment increased when I’d skipped the fifth grade and landed in the same 6th grade classroom as my tormentor. Kerry-anne was not known for her academic prowess, and between me skipping a grade and her repeating a grade, we spent two long years together in the same classroom.
No one was ever sure of her home life. We knew that she was being raised by her grandmother and that her mother had migrated to the US several years before.
Perhaps she was being ill-treated by her grandma? Or maybe she had separation issues from the time her mother left her to take advantage of a better opportunity at life? We never asked her. Who cared about the personal life of a 12 year old bully?
Our homeroom teacher also teased her quite a bit too. I remember Mrs. Simpson would call her “grandma” because she was the oldest female student in the school. I never liked Mrs. Simpson either, by the way. A woman like that should never be allowed around children.
My desire to free myself of Kerry-anne fueled me to succeed. And so I did. At my first chance, I passed my school-leaving exams for the high school of my choice.
Kerry-Anne was not successful. She blew her second chance and would join the tens of thousands of other unsuccessful children in a Secondary School, not of her choosing, which, unfortunately would be overcrowded and underfunded. The distinction was always clear: children who attended High Schools were far better expected to continue on to university and have a higher income earning potential than their Secondary School counterparts. These High Schools had better paid teachers, larger budgets, smaller class size, and a proper working curriculum. Conversely, rare was the child who graduated from Secondary School who would continue on to university and hope to have any possibility of career success.
It wasn’t entirely these children’s fault. I could go on a tirade of politics, government, funding schools, and poverty, but that’s not what this story is about.
I have often wondered over the years what became of Kerry-anne. She didn’t have any friends in our final year so no one really kept up with her after the sixth grade. I’m not sure if she was ever reunited with her mother and migrated to the US either.
Somewhere deep inside me, although I have no desire to befriend her, I hope she finally did settle down and focused and found her way out of the system that she had fallen prey to. Any other alternative is too morbid to imagine.