School was dreadful. Talk of a total lack of appreciation. How did it come to this? I grew up in Austria, Europe, in the 80ties and 90ties, in a middle class family, and was given free, middle-class schooling. I was not sent to labour in sweat shops or factories. I was not sent to charity schools with educational overlords who use shouting, belts and sticks to help students focus. I was sent to good schools with properly trained and certified teachers. And yet it felt so bad I questioned the sanity of almost every teacher and hated almost every minute of it.
Hate is a strong word. Maybe the following would be a more mature expression: The first couple of years at school I was frozen and in shock. Then I was chronically displeased with schooling pedagogics and some of the teachers’s puppet-like self-submission to the broken system. Then I was disappointed. And then I was angry. And then I was broken.
In 14 years of compulsory schooling (plus 4 years of university) – if I think really long and hard – I could only think of very few teachers I liked and could relate to. One of them was a maths teacher of all subjects. A late, soothing experience at university. She brought me from barely passing math classes to being a straight A student. And that was not basic algebra. That was proper mathematics, with probability problems and integral wavelet transforms.
This stands in contrast to the old-school maths teacher I had in the prestigious federal high school I had to attend. I had absolutely no idea what that teacher was talking about when he tried to teach us elementary algebra. In fact, his teaching was so un-relatable that I failed to understand even one word he was uttering – while he was trying to talk me senseless. Like in all classes, I had to sit in his class for endless hours, in total silence, motionless, obedient. Like everyone else, I was only allowed to talk when addressed (and usually had nothing to say then) and only allowed to move when asked to demonstrate on the blackboard. I understood the „do not move” part, but I failed to give the right answers to his incomprehensible questions. As a result that teacher wanted to have me transferred to a school for children with special needs. A dead end road. Because to his mind I was too dumb to add up a couple of numbers.
At that time I didn’t know what any of that meant. I just tried to follow what I was told to do – as good as I was able to understand (because really I did not understand much of their world). It is only now, as an adult, that I can look back and express my helplessness I experienced back then, in anger. I feel lucky that I’m grown up now, and that I don’t have to go back to school.