Back when I was at Napier’s Nelson Park School, a large-ish amount of time ago, I was always picked on by the teachers for writing with the wrong hand. The problem assumed crisis proportions in Standard 3, where kids had to write with fountain pens. Such pens were, of course, essential to a Proper Education and the school demanded that all kids used them. It was The Rules.
What this meant for me was that everything sputtered, smudged, or I had to write with the pen crooked around. But that wasn’t allowed either – it had to be done the Proper Way with the pen held at the Proper Angle, or swift punishment would follow. Finally the teacher figured out the problem. It was simple. Left-handers need ballpoints with quick-drying ink – which, of course, were available. So the answer was obvious. That’s right – if the school bashed me enough, I’d choose to just flip hands and start using my right hand like normal people, so I could use a fountain pen.
I tried to make it work – the alternative was a world of endless punishment. But I no matter what I did, I couldn’t control the pen with the Good Hand, and all that the effort did was make things worse. Now, this might have been because I was heavily left-hand dominant and it was physically impossible – all it did was induce loss of motor co-ordination. But the school knew best. Anybody could write with their right hand, they just had to choose. It was all my fault, and I richly deserved the endless punishments, call-outs, humiliation, sarcasm and abuse. Why wasn’t I choosing to obey the teacher and just flip hands despite every punishment they could muster? Why? Why? I had no idea, but not knowing was merely the road to further punishment.
The abuse came to an end when I left Nelson Park School. The next school allowed ballpoints and the problem went away.
I was far from alone. A couple of other kids in my class were smashed so hard for being left-handers that they ended up stuttering. None of the teachers, to my knowledge, were ever held to account. And I never did learn how to write with my right hand. But the school did manage to damage my ability to write with the left. Still, I’m pretty sure I could still write down what the teachers were back then – let’s see if I can make a legible ‘c’, then the ‘u’… and an ‘n’… With apologies to Mr Shakespeare and that hilarious dialogue from Twelfth Night, of course.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2021