Monday, June 1, 2015

A letter to my Math teacher: Letting it Out

Dear Mr. Waldron: It's been about 45 years since I was that stupid little girl in your math class. You must remember me, I was also the girl who spoke English with an accent.

I was a bit intimidated and afraid to speak in your class because of your caustic teaching style. If someone didn't have the correct answer, you'd scoff or say something cruel. This was not setting a good example to young, impressionable minds as a teacher or adult. However, if it was a pretty, young female student, then you'd say something sweet or cute. Your students were 12 to 14 years old, we were all coming of age, some of us came from poor homes, some of us had alcoholic parents and some of us were abused. We needed adults in our lives who set good examples, were good leaders and gave us guidance, but you must have skipped class were out sick the day you were taught civility and leadership in college.

I remember watching you walk through the school, you were a young man back then. You wore a Marine haircut, had the body of a football offensive lineman; you scuffed your feet as you walked through the hallways, sometimes the sound of your shoes clicking on the hardwood floors echoed throughout the school. I never understood why you walked with a constant angry scowl on your face; and I remember the rancid smell of underarm odor that followed wherever you walked. You scared me, but being a young, innocent and naive child, I thought if I was quiet, did as I was told and stayed under the proverbial radar that I would be okay. I remember how much you enjoyed those girls at school who wore short skirts or dresses and make up. I watched you as you flirted with them; your scowl turned to a smarmy smile and as they turned to walk away, your eyes fixated on their backsides. I didn't know then what you were thinking, but I know now.

That's not the only way I remember you as a teacher.

I know you didn't like me. That was apparent from day one. I wasn't the prettiest girl in school or your class, my hair wasn't straight, I wasn't allowed to wear make up or short skirts. I didn't have the nicest clothes, and I was a little overweight. Whenever you called on me in class and I didn't have the right answer, you'd say something in retaliation. You told me several times in front of the class that I was stupid. I trembled every time you looked my way and my stomach turned to knots when ever you asked me a question.

I remember the day books were being offered for sale at school. I loved books. I spent a lot of time in the library reading. These books were special, and I really wanted them. I asked my mother for $2.00 so I could buy some. She gave me $1.50 instead because it was all she could afford. I bought 3 paperbacks and proudly carried them to math class anticipating reading them when I got home from school. I was so happy! That day in class, you had your back turned to the blackboard, one of my books slipped off the desk and fell to the floor. You turned around to see where the noise came from and saw me picking up the book. I remember how red your face got as you marched towards me, I remember the nasty smell from your body as you stood before me. You said the reason why I was so stupid is because I didn't pay attention. I tried to explain that the book fell, but you wouldn't hear of it, you picked up the books and tore them into pieces in front of me, then tossed them in the wastebasket. I could not buy those books again. Those books were paid for with my mother's hard earned money. I wonder if you thought about the actions your anger caused you to do. Did you ever feel any regret or remorse?

I wanted to cry, I wanted to run home but I couldn't. I sat there shellshocked, while feeling the eyes of the entire class on me; burning into my skin. I kept my head down for the duration of the class, unable to concentrate on what you were teaching. I dreaded coming back again.

You see Mr. Waldron, my parents were immigrants, and unlike the other students, I was different. I interpreted English for my parents, I wrote out the rent checks and did other things that required an interpreter. I taught my father English so he could get his driver's license. Both of my parents worked 2 jobs. I was a latch key kid. After school I picked up my brother from another school and walked to a neighbor's house to pick up my 3 year old sister. I would make us an after school snack, clean up a bit, wash laundry by hand and do whatever chores were left to me until one of my parents came home, then I'd do my homework. My parents were not rich and struggled to pay bills. This is why I wore the same outfit several times a week and brownbagged my lunch; every day I ate peanut butter on bread with an apple and a cup of water, when most kids bought lunch in the cafeteria.

Mr. Waldron, you got away with what you did. I did not tell my parents, nor did I go to the principal's office to complain about you. Math was difficult for me, as a teacher you should have picked up on that, but you didn't. I have kept the anger you displayed that day inside me for 45 years. I hope you know that what you did affected me mentally and emotionally throughout the rest of my school life, and even though I can live with it now, I do every so often remember your face and what you did. Yes, it was that traumatic.

Since then I've had many great teachers who have had a profound effect on my life; whose sage words still echo through my mind. I am not stupid, I never was. You took advantage of a child that needed help in Math and abused your role as a teacher. You took your anger to the classroom and used your students as proverbial punching bags.

I can't imagine what kind of horrible human being you were. I often wondered why you chose teaching as a profession when you were obviously unable to perform your duties. I hope you got the help you needed for your anger issues and I hope you've somehow learned from what you did to me, because I'm sure I wasn't the only one you humiliated and used to direct your anger. However, regardless of how much it satisfied you to hurt me as much as you did, I wish your children and grandchildren a better teacher than you were to me.

Much peace to you whether you're still on earth or have passed over to the other side.


The stupid girl in the second row, 5th desk

No comments:

Post a Comment