I Was a Boy Martyr!


During my fourth grade year, my buddy Rory and I became obsessed with constructing tiny villages out of twigs under schoolyard trees. One particular miniature hamlet garnered rave reviews from multiple cute girls (mission accomplished!). In fact, our little village, now populated with disoriented ants and roly-polies, was dubbed “Adoraville” by none other than Belynda, the world’s most beautiful nine-year-old.

Unfortunately, it also attracted a nemesis: the formerly benign Mrs. Gibbons. I’d been in her class the year before and had been one of her favorites. So, what changed? I’ll never know.

On an unusually warm day, she’d decided to punish her misbehaving third graders by making them stay inside and eat their lunches in torturous silence. Before long, outsiders began to whisper in ghostly voices through the cracked-open doorway, make squeaky noises with their lips, and engage in other sophisticated criminal activities. Mrs. Gibbons raced out the door, but the five delinquents ran in six different directions, and she missed them all. So she sturm-und-dranged her way into Principal Booker’s office, grabbed him by the lapels, and dragged him out onto the campus.

Here’s the mysterious part: she headed straight for the idyllic little village Rory and I had built and stomped on it, instantly reducing it to an archeological site. Then she pointed at me and said, “He’s the ringleader!”

I don’t think Principal Booker believed her. But she was one of his teachers and he had to stand behind her (safer there). Even after several of the real perps came forward, confessing their crimes and swearing I hadn’t been one of them, Mrs. Gibbons stuck to her claim that I had, in fact, been the chief wise guy, the Don himself!

So I spent the next month in recess purgatory, sitting on the sidewalk, disallowed even the most basic freedoms that great Americans like Thomas Jefferson and Mahatma Gandhi fought and died for.

I sat there day after day, stewing in my righteousness, slowly evolving into Mitch the Martyr. And then I had an epiphany: I liked being a martyr! Kids walked by, nodding in
admiration, covertly raising their fists in solidarity. And best of all, whenever Belynda passed (am I just imagining this?), her eyes moistened in adoring empathy!images

But I didn’t just like being a martyr, I liked standing for something that mattered. Now, don’t get me wrong, I did plenty of dopey things as a kid, but one thing I’m proud of is that I stood for what I believed in (sometimes). Seriously. I put myself in harm’s way more than once by placing myself between a bully and some poor cootie-bug-du-jour, shouting, “Leave him alone!” Surprisingly, I never got punched in the face. But even if I had it would have been worth it.

Especially if Belynda had been watching.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Humor, Memoir and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to I Was a Boy Martyr!

  1. “…disallowed even the most basic freedoms that great Americans like Thomas Jefferson and Mahatma Gandhi fought and died for.”

    I laughed out loud then had to surpress a compelling urge to homeschool you…

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I love it! Amazing how seemingly random events in childhood shaped character! And you didn’t allow the injustice to destroy you! Bravo! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. JOY journal says:

    I suspect it was a tendency to smirk that did you in — but look where it got you as a writer!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Gary Fultz says:

    Time has a way of sharpening the important details in one’s mind. Good one Mitch

    Liked by 1 person

  5. revruss1220 says:

    Great story, well told. It makes me wonder… do you suppose teachers appreciate the impression they leave on the psyches of their young charges? Both for good and ill? Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • mitchteemley says:

      That’s what we called them. Some people call them sow bugs or armadillo bugs.


      • stolzyblog says:

        west coast? I don’t think we had them in NJ. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • mitchteemley says:

        They’re supposedly in every state, and go by a bajillion different nicknames, including potato bug, pill bug, etc., so you may have known them as something else, They’re more properly called woodlice, but they’re not lice, or even bugs for that matter; they’re crustaceans. They have armored shells and roll up in little balls to protect themselves. I loved watching them do that when I was a kid.


  6. I suspect the teacher was one of those who couldn’t stand the idea of admitting she was wrong – especially after doing irreparable damage to your masterpiece. Your first “martyrdom” seems to me purely accidental, but standing up to the bullies – Bravo!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. cricketmuse says:

    Cranky elementary school teachers are the stuff that make for bestsellers.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. nancyehead says:

    Love this account that so many kids have been through. Great piece. God bless!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Susie Ries says:

    They’re roly polies in Ohio! Love the story. You took martyrdom better than I did over my youngest child- too long a story here. I’ll just say I was proud to make the school
    Psychologist cry. Mama bear time…
    anyway, great story well told !

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Ann Coleman says:

    I sometimes think that we begin to show who we really are at a very young age, and I think this story kind of illustrates that!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Martyrdom should not be confused with Victimhood. Stand for what you feel is Right.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Bill Sweeney says:

    Hilarious, Mitch. I went to Catholic school until 4th grade so you won’t get any sympathy from me 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. You brought back memories of Mrs Halsted. My 3rd grade teacher who would draw a circle on the blackboard and make mischievous boys stand with their noses in the circle. She was…”creative”.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. carhicks says:

    Great story. As a retired elementary school principal, I understand what this man was going through. You were a good sport and made the most of your martyrdom. Isn’t amazing how those love interests from younger years always look so golden as we grow older. I enjoyed reading this anecdote Mitch.

    Liked by 1 person

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