I was always an eager child.
I loved learning and was always the first to raise my hand in class.
I wasn’t afraid to speak up, I loved having the correct answer or my best hypothesis out there.
Perhaps this enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge at a young age fortified me against the many deterrents that made efforts to steer me away from the well.
These prejudiced and narcissistic deterrents that walked the earth as teachers.
Why they had become teachers I couldn’t fathom, as they didn’t seem to like children, or perhaps it was just me.
Within my 6 years at Brethren, I was often the scape goat of many faculty and staff members. And with the knowledge of a woke 32-year-old, my pain associated memories constrict at the thought of intersectionality.
I have always been strong-willed and strong-minded. Because I knew myself and confidently supported my beliefs and thoughts with the stubbornness of a proud mule, adults within the education system perceived me as disrespectful of authority, failing to realize their lack of respect for me as a child resulted in their inefficiency to recognize I simply knew myself early on.
When the southern raised Black women faculty members chastised me I hated it and would roll my eyes. They were hard on me. I have a tender heart and a mother who recognized and respected that. So tough love never worked on me. In fact, I would obstinately oppose or disregard whatever direction was spoken to me, just to show how much I disapproved of their method of communication. Why would I listen to the advice of someone whom speaks to me without respect?
Looking back however, at least the intentions of my unasked for aunties was to mold me for the adult world where I’d have to walk around as a Black female. “Don’t let people touch your hair.” They were trying to prepare me.
I didn’t realize—
Because the message wasn’t tailored to me.
I didn’t yet understand the Southern way that was full of love but in a clipped manner.
I hadn’t yet discovered Zora Neale Hurston, Maya Angelou, Audre Lorde.
If I had I wouldn’t better understood my school aunties’ messages despite my disagreement with the presentation,
Because I would’ve recognized their tone and manner was a shade of my Gramie.
She was strict, but she loved me without bounds.
Their words were her words. But I didn’t recognize their love.
—because they weren’t willing to use my language.
When the OC dwelling White faculty members chastised me I was the same little girl inside with a louder voice and bigger frame.
“Please don’t shout at me.”
And I was sent to the Vice Principal’s office.
We became friends.
Because they yelled at me often.
Because they belittled and taunted me often.
Because they did this in front of the whole class.
Because they couldn’t handle a young Black woman speaking up for herself—
Speaking up for herself even before she had learned the term microaggressions and studied intersectionality.
Three teachers and one faculty member annually chose to renew their subscription to the belief that I was a troublemaker.
Two White men and two White women.
He was an insecure narcissist who proudly spoke of his Alabamian roots often. I didn’t get along with him or his bully of a daughter.
She was an English teacher. She was nerdy, awkward and short-tempered. She always had to be right and loved to deny me things, whether permission to the bathroom or ignoring my raised hand. I took yearbook which she supervised (downside of a small school). For an article I wrote a pun into my headline. She didn’t get it. I was confused she didn’t understand a pun given her occupation. She argued with me dramatically and refused to keep my original spelling of the text which enabled the pun. So I look the fool, for she changed the essential word to the pun, forever cementing “Do the Right Thing,” in our 2004 yearbook, instead of “Do the Write Thing,” when my piece was about a writing club.
He was arrogant and insecure. Maybe possessing a lisp made his younger life hard, so the bullied became the bully. He thought his mind was superior to us all and lacked any semblance of patience. He would halt me, belittle me or criticize me whenever I asked a question. He gave me a D+, so I just failed his class. I’m a diligent student. I’d never received a D in my life. I knew it was farewell bait to find a last reason for attack, but I couldn’t avoid it, as my GPA was suffering. He was as expected, and enjoyed telling me my failings before denying any form of negotiation to make up the 3 point difference.
She was…evil. I can’t even remember all of her antagonistic traits because the attributed descriptor is an accurate presentation of her person. Petty, she was thoroughly unhappy, controlling, and a bodyshamer that hid behind the Cross.
She gave me body dysmorphia.
Even now, I have to shut out her voice, “you look provocative,” when I pull something snug over my shapely body. Petty; she always had to have the last word.
While more than a handful of other faculty members also delighted in their attempts to segregate me and diminish me mentally and emotionally, there were 4 who actually saw me.
Three White guys and a Latino woman.
He knew me well and knew me personally. I was his pride and joy on the field. I was his bright pupil in the classroom. I was his encourager and team leader. He helped me achieve proud moments that still swell my chest with pride. But in the end he abandoned me in his own frustration brought on by being burnt out. It hurt.
Teacher #2 (Unsure of preferred pronoun)
They were young and relatable. They liked their job and were generally easy-going. They really listened to me when I spoke in class. They valued my words. They are now a principal at a public school, happy and married to their female mate. I would love to speak with them about their own experiences of trauma at a school that openly taught homosexuality was a sin.
He wasn’t fully sure of himself and misspelled words. He taught English, so the combination made him a target to the one’s you’d call “cool kids” if our school was a television show.
I loved English. I respected that he had our 10th grade class read “The Narrative of Frederick Douglass,” even if it meant everyone stared at me when we discussed a particularly gruesome part. It’s the only book by or about a Black person I can recall. Attending a school of 500 persons, with 99% of them being White, what a disservice that was. So I raised my hand often. I didn’t care that just he and I would be the only ones interacting the entire class, and I tried to put him at ease. He was kind.
He was a jokester. A silly, easy-going senior, that instantly made you want to address him as grandpa. He and I had fun. He allowed me to be my full self in class. Eager, chatty, silly and engaging. He would brighten my day.
She was witty; the perfect character to be an English teacher. Self-assured and comedic, she challenged us with academia and rewarded us with play reenactments. She knew I loved to read the plays and often chose me to play a character. English was my favorite subject and her wisdom is still with me. “‘Separate.’ “‘Sep-a-rat.’” I always wanted to spell it “Sep-e-rat.”
Well friends, we live and we hopefully learn.
A Woke Woman