Being a “selective mute” presented problems for the teachers, but they never chastised her for being so.
What made this child a selective mute, no one was
sure. Searching for clues about this condition, it appeared to be classified as a “specific form of social/performance anxiety”; whatever that might mean! Depending on the child’s (varying) situation at home, people attached
different reasoning to the phenomenon.
Fortunately, the child eventually broke free from the
A couple of years later, when aged about nine, and the
new school year of Grade Five arrived, she discovered, with horror, that the dreaded Miss Lamrock was to be her teacher. Tales of this teacher’s (mis) treatment of children unlucky enough to be snared in her class, were known to
all and the child trembled at the thought of a year spent in a room with this harridan. The teacher had a cruel streak and would creep up behind students and pull their hair if she saw an error in their work. She divided the class into ‘flowers’ and ‘weeds’. You can guess the reasoning behind this.
For this child, for this year, weekends were happy times.
But, weekdays were spent in Miss Lamrock’s classroom.
And one day this awful teacher announced that each of her pupils must write a story of an adventure or a recent incident in their lives.
Not too difficult a task. This child wrote about the day she was bitten by a dog.
Easy! Miss Lamrock even liked her story and awarded top marks.
But, there was more to come. The pupils then had to give a talk on the subject about which they had written.
Oh, inward groan!
One by one, class-mates stood at the front of the class and gave their talk, or at least read their story. The previously mute (but now ‘cured’) child knew that she wouldn’t be able to escape, and her turn eventually came.
She stood with her neatly written story in shaking hands; tried to speak, but nothing emerged. She waited and waited for the power of speech to come to her lips.
Minutes ticked by. Miss Lamrock waited. The other children waited. There was nothing she could do. As hard as she willed herself to speak, no sound emerged from her lips.
Eventually with a shove between the shoulder blades, Miss Lamrock dismissed the child, who staggered back to her desk, cheeks blazing and tears threatening, not only because of her failure to deliver, but because of the realization that the muteness she thought she had beaten had
Towards the end of her Grade Five year, the child vomited on the floor in front of the woman who had made her life a misery. She was far too frightened to ask if she could leave the room and, as she felt nausea rising, she began to walk slowly and nervously towards the door - throwing up just as Miss Lamrock looked inquiringly at her.
A fitting conclusion to that year.
Have to admit that the child in the story was me. It’s all true.