Random Art and Ideas

Humiliation at the hands of the art teacher in elementary school

August 3, 2022

I am 9 years old in the spring of 1971. A new boy at St George’s school for boys in Vancouver, in what is called the Junior school. Most people would understand it as grade 4 in elementary school. It’s a private school that at the time was based on a British model of schooling. Soccer, Cricket, Rugby were the sports. I am a day boy, as opposed to a boarder. I am also enrolled in hot lunch, which takes place in the cafeteria.

It’s spring outside I think. Bells ring. We go to lunch, there’s some kind of order to how we enter. We sit down. There’s grace to be said. Anthony Bartell, my art teacher, is the head of our table. I think there are 10-12 students at each table. There are metal bowls of salad on the table in front of us. In front of me. There are a few shreds of lettuce on the table. As far as I can tell, nobody has started serving anything yet. All of a sudden, Mr Bartell stands up, turns bright red and tells the whole cafeteria to be quiet. He grabs me and pulls me on to the table, making me stand there on the table and starts shouting. He screams to the seated student body, “This student is a pig, spilling food all over the place. He will have to wear a bib for the rest of the term.” I am mortified, I feel like throwing up. Mr. Ashton helps me get down. His hair smells of Brillcream and soap. He asks if I am all right. I probably said yes, I don’t remember, but I am not all right.

It was the beginning of the end. When I get home, the damage expanded as my parents do not seem to comprehend what happened. There is no follow up, and no action or support of any kind. I am sick. I stay home from school for a day or two. After that,  I have to keep going to school, have to stay in Mr. Bartell’s class and pretend everything is OK. I go from being a keener to a slacker. I was close to the top of the class, but after this, nothing mattered. Trying to live like it matters is a work in progress.