Oct 7, 2005

The S in Headmistress

She is a lengthy woman, everything as though pulled nearly out of their sockets. In black usually. Owl eyes, thin lips. She is the headmistress of the school, a New Yorker, and for the last 3 years in Casa. Her husband is in the picture, but we can't see him. She adopted children along the way. Something happened, what is not clear. Her own son was a prodigy but then went flat. The best and brightest faded at the moment when success was most needed by others.

She is known as a keen disciplinarian. She runs her music class like Billy Budd's frigate: Miss a step up to the foretop and you'll get the cat O nine.

She called me in to say that some parents wanted me to give more homework. Fine, I said. But there's something else she went on, and nervously. Something else. "I know it's difficult to teach middle school kids at the same time you are teaching college kids, and I know you are a nice person," she said, leaning toward me, as though we know this about me in confidence, and she won't tell anyone so long as I obey. She went on to gently scold me, with her fuck me pump, and urged me to be more strict. This when I throw out at least two students a period. One never lasts more than five minutes.

How should I address them, I asked. How should I speak to them?

She looked at me like a seabass at a morsel, reared back, because this is something she knows all about. "Like scum," she said and nodded to emphasize the ummm. And then she said, "I used to be a nice person, when I first came here, and if the plumber came and diddled around and didn't fix the thing he was supposed to fix, I said, well it's no matter. Another day. But now, I just say, listen you scum, get out. They understand. It's the one thing they understand."

I was never a nice person so I never had this arc.

But she's right. Whether in the French schools or public schools, discipline is relentless and tough. And if you are a woman, the teacher may come to you and say, "why are you studying, you should be learning to cook and stay at home." Or, if they don't like you, they'll come and lick your ears with venom. "You're nothing," they might say. "Nothing, and you'll never come to anything. So look ahead, at nothing."

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