By Melodee Leven Currier
I loved school and did well – until the third grade — when I was traumatized by my teacher. As she walked around the classroom she would stop at my desk and plink my head hard with her thumb and index finger. My hair was in braids, so it really hurt my scalp. After she did this a few times, I told my mother and she and my step-father, who was a teacher, had a talk with her.
The next day, the teacher announced to the class they could all go to recess except me. She then told me to follow her and she took me to the principal’s office. No one else was around when she showed me a large wooden paddle with eight holes and two rows of wire across the top. Then she screamed at me “If you go home and tell tales out of school again, I’ll beat the tar out of you!” I was completely terrified and couldn’t wait to get home and tell my mother, but this time she didn’t do anything about it. That was a turning point for me — I was no longer the fun loving, extroverted child entertaining the class with a song, a hula dance or memorizing poems. Trust in teachers and adults dissolved and my attitude and grades forever plummeted.
The next year in the fourth grade during “milk break,” a nickel was collected from each student who wanted to order white or chocolate milk. I was the only one who didn’t want milk, so my teacher made an announcement to the class “When Melodee grows up her bones are going to break because she doesn’t drink milk.” I was 23 years old when I got my first cavity. I wonder how many “milk drinkers” can say that. That same teacher scared the class by saying that when we grow up there won’t be any vacant land left. Some things you never forget.
In the seventh grade, out of the blue, my teacher announced to the class “Melodee is spoiled!” I don’t know what prompted her to say that. She had no idea what I was dealing with at home with a mother who didn’t want any children and a step-father who violently beat me with his belt every chance he got. I certainly was not spoiled. Some teachers don’t know the difference between a problem child and a child with a problem.
The only teacher I ever had that I really liked was my sixth grade teacher. She was so kind and gentle with everyone. When I was in my twenties, I saw her at the grocery and told her that she was my favorite teacher. I don’t believe she remembered me then, but it felt good to let her know.
When my son was in grade school, he had some mean-spirited teachers too. When I had him repeat the second grade, the first day of class his teacher asked if anyone wanted to get the flower vase for her. Then she said “John, you were here last year, you know where we keep the vase, would you get it?” That was embarrassing to him and decades later he still remembers how humiliated he felt when she said that.
I was a young single mother then, lacking the courage to speak up for my son when he told me just as my mother hadn’t spoken up for me when I was his age. We have a responsibility to our children to say or do something when they aren’t being treated respectfully. If we are not being heard, we need to go to the next level – or higher up if necessary. The School of Hard Knocks has taught me many lessons over the years. Speaking up for myself — and sometimes others — is one of them.
While it’s not possible to change history, the future is a clean slate. Make it one that years from now you can look back and be happy to have history repeat itself!
© Melodee Currier
Melodee Currier left corporate America in 2008 where she was an intellectual
property paralegal. Since then she has devoted her time to writing and has
had three eBooks (www.amazon.com/author/melodeecurrier) and numerous articles published on a wide variety of topics. Her articles can be read on her website www.melodeecurrier.com. Mel is an occasional contributor to True Stories Well Told.