Mr. Bruhn

Todays assignment: Write about a child that makes a decision that – wittingly or unwittingly – alters the course of his or her future.

Back in my time the Danish private school in our town had ten grades.

The first four or five grades were common for all pupils. After that we were divided into those of whom it wasn’t expected that they were able to take a higher education and continued at our school and those who went to middle school in another town.

How exactly it was decided who continued in which school I don’t know, but of my 3 older siblings it was only my sister, who went to middle school and for her it turned out to be a disaster.

She liked the school and her classmates and even most of the teachers, but there was one teacher, who was a real piece of work. I think that he was the kind, who really regretted it that he wasn’t allowed to hit the children, because he invented a wide range of punishments for all sorts of things, and the things he punished his pupils for was a grey area, which means that even so the children were prepared for his lessons, he could ask them things that had nothing to do with what they were supposed to know, and if they didn’t know the answer, he would let them stand up, facing a corner for an hour or two or stand up for the rest of the lesson.

To the more nervous children like my older sister he only had to do that a few times before they were so nervous before and during each of his lessons that they weren’t able to answer any of his questions, whether they knew the answer or not.

So when it was my turn to decide where to go for the last five or six years of primary school, my sister said: “Don’t do it. Stay where you are.”

And that was what I did. I actually don’t remember taking the decision, but my mom always claimed that I had refused to go, and so I stayed as the only pupil that was left in my grade.

For the next years I shared a classroom with others who were one or two or even three years older than I, but before summer vacation the year I had to start in 9th grade the headmaster of the school came to our home one day and talked to my parents.

Now he had watched me walk around all alone for years, he said, being an outsider, because I was younger than all the others who were not nearly as intelligent as I was (his words), but now he felt that he had to speak up. I didn’t have to go to that school where my sister had been.  Actually another possibility had come up. It would be possible for me to go to a different school, where there were pupils my age, and I didn’t have to go to middle school, I could just change schools and continue in 9th grade.

And that’s how I started in another school in another city that fall. Ninth grade wasn’t a success though. I don’t remember how many we were and if there were any boys at all, but the girls in that class didn’t like me and I thought that they were superficial and stupid.

In this schools middle school on the other hand I found a girl, whom I had been in kindergarten with, and, long story short, I went to my new headmaster one day and told him that I wanted to change from primary school to middle school. He said okay and so I became the fifth pupil of my new middle school class.

When I told my parents about the shift after I came home that day, they just said “Okay”, and that was it.

It was great being part of a group my own age and I could have been deliriously happy, hadn’t it been for one thing: Mr. Bruhn, the terrible teacher my sister and her whole school had feared, had become so unpopular that the school board for the whole area had had no other possibility than to move him, and of all the schools they could have moved him to, they had chosen my new school.

In the beginning he behaved well though, but it didn’t take long before we heard from others that he had started using his random punishments again.

We had him too. He was our geography teacher and with us it took him several months before he couldn’t help himself and had to be mean.

We learned about Spain at the time and we had gotten assignments, each about a different area of farming and mining and the monetary system.

My area was Common crops in Spain, and I was prepared and started my speech, when Mr. Bruhn asked me a question that had nothing to do with my assignment. I think it was something about sheep.

I had no clue and told him that I didn’t know.

His reaction was totally unexpected. He took out a note book and scribbled something in it while he said something like: “You’re not prepared and you failed. That means you will not continue to next grade.” And then he said something about my sister and about my family in general. He was really slick and behaved like an a**hole.

What happened next came as much as a surprise for me as for anybody else. I, who am a bit of a push over most of the time, got extremely angry, and I told him that his question had nothing to do with my assignment and that he knew nothing about my sister nor my family and that he would not succeed in ruining the school for me.

He got all I had in me and I continued telling him the truth seen from my perspective for a while, and then I told him that if he wanted war, he could have it, and that I was going to leave the classroom and stay away from his classes until he apologized to me, and then I left.

For the next week or so I stayed outside the classroom during his classes, and when a teacher came by and asked me why I wasn’t in class, I told them. I got the impression that none of them were unhappy about what I had done, not even the headmaster.

Finally one day Mr. Bruhn approached me before class. He said something like: “Hi, how are you. and how is your family. Don’t you want to come back to class, we miss you.”

I guessed that it was the only excuse I would get, and so I returned to his class.

I continued getting good grades in geography and for the rest of my 3 years at that school Mr. Bruhn never misbehaved in our classes again and from what I heard he behaved well in all other classes as well.

He was nothing but a bully who had become a teacher and who only learned to behave after someone stood up to him. It was just a shame that nobody had done that many years earlier.

2 thoughts on “Mr. Bruhn

  1. Sad and yet uplifting powerful story, My son also had a teacher like Mr. Bruhn: Mr. Wright was the headmaster and taught primary through 7th grade. He had been a sergeant in the army and bullied the kids as if they were his recruits. (In one instance punishing a boy for not finding a partner when there was an uneven number of children). This was in a village in New Zealand and he was allowed to use a strap. When I wanted to protest my son sobbed that if I did Mr. W. would take it out on him. Fortunately he only had to endure a year. One little boy developed a stutter.
    Bullying is a terrible thing among children, but even more intolerable from an adult they are supposed to respect. They are small petty people.

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