When I was in middle school– I don’t remember which year, but I would have been around 11 or 12 years old– someone at my school had a bright idea regarding the mandatory yearly parent-teacher meetings. Their bright idea was that these meetings should really be about the student, and that this would be better accomplished if the meetings were structured as if the student were in charge.
They executed this idea by printing out a bullet-pointed script, taping it to a table, and requiring each student to recite it to their parent/s and teachers. “Welcome, Mom and Dad, welcome, Mr./Ms. So-and-So, thank you for coming to my meeting,” etc.
Little 12-year-old me hated that. It was abundantly obvious that I was not in charge, I did not want to be there, I did not want to speak– but they used their authority not just to make me particpate, but to make me pretend I was in charge, pretend I liked it.
It was pointless. It was a joke. I felt like it made me a joke. No one could have thought I meant any of what I was saying, but they made me recite every word of the damn script anyway.
I actually don’t remember the details. I’m maybe 70% sure that I ended up reading the whole thing. I think I said I didn’t want to, and sat there silently for a bit, but they kept telling me to do it until I did it. I definitely read at least the first part of it.
What did my teachers think they were doing? I’m honestly not sure. They weren’t bad teachers overall. I don’t know how they could think this, but my impression was that even faced with little-me obviously hating every second, they still thought they were doing something good by making me go through with it. I didn’t get a cruel feeling from them.
Maybe they thought I was just being shy.
I was aware that it would have been better, it would have been overall a less awkward situation, if I could have done my “pretending I want to do this” more convincingly. I remember wishing they’d given me a copy of the script beforehand, so I could have tried to memorize it. I think I even went in there determined to put on a good act anyway– I could at least avoid being “the shy kid who mumbles and won’t talk,” which would have been a small positive for me– but it felt so disgustingly fake I couldn’t do it.
I don’t think I had words for why I hated it, at the time, beyond the above– it was fake. I probably couldn’t have analyzed what was so bad about it. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t feel it.