I found this article that I wrote for an e-zine last year, and was contemplating posting it here since the zine didn’t pick it up. The reason for it is because of the nature of the post–it goes deeper into what I experienced in school, which I have mentioned was no walk in the park. I don’t know how many will read it, but it is something that I feel should be addressed, as Rydia is going into school age. There may be triggers, so please be aware of this as you read. It still chills me some 20 years later.
When I was in the first grade, I had a teacher who was breaking the rules and I didn’t even know it. She was a Special Education teacher1, and she was very harsh to us 7 children in her care. She thought it would be a good idea to make us stand for the whole 8 hours that we’re there while writing “I will not…” spanned through 10 pages. This is the same woman who also thought that using physical means to “discipline” a child was okay.
This teacher used to attempt to choke me by stuffing paper towels and scarves in my mouth.
Let’s skip to the fourth grade. I had another teacher who was raised in the West Indies and as someone who is half-Jamaican, I know all too well of how rough West Indian parents can be. I’ve seen this teacher slam a student’s head into the chalkboard, deny another student bathroom privileges (which resulted in the student having an accident in class), and kicking someone else out of class because he talked too much (he was banned from coming back in our class for the rest of the year).
This teacher also threw me down on the floor, took my sneaker off, and beat me with it. In front of an already-brutal class of peers who bullied me. Not to mention, she even threw a few verbal remarks about my appearance, namely my hair.
Let’s skip to when I was just about to graduate high school. I was talking with my mother and looking through certificates that me and my sisters got through the years and we were excited to add my diploma to the mix. That’s when I told all. I told her about the teacher who could’ve killed me when I was 6, and I told her about the teacher who beat me in class with my sneaker. She was shocked and angry.
She wasn’t necessarily angry at me; she wanted to know why I waited so long to tell her this. If I had told her while it was happening, she would’ve been able to do more. She knew about my peers bullying me (and the schools did nothing in that instance, and transferring to another school wasn’t an option), but why didn’t I tell her about the teachers?
Simply put: I thought it was okay.
Especially when I was 6, I didn’t think that what this teacher was doing was a bad thing and it was because she wanted me to learn about consequences. Looking back, I learned that she could’ve potentially caused physical damage, along with the emotional damage. But at the time, I didn’t know this. I didn’t know it was not okay. I didn’t know it was not okay until I was practically an adult.
Now as a mom of a preschooler, I am wary. What if there are caregivers like the teachers I had? What if one day, my little girl comes home and says “Mommy, the teacher shoved me on the floor and beat me”? It’s earth-shattering, and now I understand it when some moms say that the person who did it would be dead. Not that I would kill them, but I would want to see them never being able to teach again one way or another.
One of the life lessons I’ve learned was that abuse is not okay. No kind of abuse, from anyone is okay. Sometimes just taking a deep breath and walking away is all that is needed to gain your bearings and deal with children. If all else fails, there’s caffeine. While I have never forgotten, I’ve learned from it and it’s gonna make me a better mom at the end of it all.
- I was in Special Ed for the first few years of my school life due to speech problems ↩