Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Teacher's Daughter

Currently, I am participating in a local group of the National Writing Project. We have intense classes that meet for the entire month of June. One of the class requirements was to write a "memoir" about something that happened to you in your life. For whatever reason, this was the story I pulled from my rear. I really would like some honest feedback on what needs to be edited, changed, deleted, etc.

I hope you are all having a great summer!

Being the child of an educator hasn’t always been easy. In fact, at times, it has downright stunk. The opportunity to tell my side of the story was rarely given and once my teacher contacted my mother to tell her of my shortcomings, I was in for some serious punishments. For instance, my mother was not humored when I made my first F in Science, though I had a fabulous plan to make that F so that I could get out of the gifted class and escape the teacher who had no patience with me and my energy level. My mother was not amused and shut me in my room as I desperately tried to get her to see my way of thinking.

Basically, my version of the events never mattered when I got into trouble with a teacher. Except for one time.

When I started the eighth grade at the Junior High as an unconfident and awkward thirteen year old dealing with braces and random acne outbreaks who had recently lost her father to cancer, I didn’t have the skills or emotional maturity yet under my belt to deal with the likes of Mrs. B. Mrs. B was a mammoth of a lady who was quick with a frown and slow to move across the room to help a floundering student. From the moment I walked in the door of her math class, I was suddenly aware of being on her radar, much like a duck in a hunter’s sight. I had heard the stories of poor souls who would wither under her tutelage in that last class on the left at the end of the hall.

Within days, I would learn that I could do nothing right. When called upon, she would interrupt me and tell me that I “had better start paying attention” because she was sick of students like me who didn’t take school seriously. The more these comments were made, the more I retreated and the less my mind focused on what she was teaching. Suddenly, I found myself feeling lost and helpless as to what to do to make the situation better. At the same time, I was falling hopelessly behind in the math material being shoved our way.

Talking to my mother was out of the question. The loss of my father combined with her old-school support of ALL teachers made it a rough emotional time. Add in my teenage angst and it was a recipe for disaster. It probably didn’t help that I had a history of being a bit of a challenge in the classroom.

Then came that fateful Wednesday afternoon. Math was the last class of the day and I dreaded it from the moment I awoke each day. On that particular day, Mrs. B called me to the board to work out a problem that seemed particularly vexing. When I couldn’t do it, she chastised me and had me continue to stand there for the remainder of the period. Fighting tears, I resolved to not cry. I simply faced the board with my hands in fists blinking back the tears that promised to betray me.

As the bell rang, I was told to stay there at the board because she was keeping me after school for detention. She muttered something about talking with my mother about my attitude, work ethic and how I “didn’t need to be smoking ‘mary-jew-anna’.” The panic of the impending consequences from my mother made me feel nauseous as I felt my face turning red. Wanting to say something... anything... but feeling frozen in time, I stood there waiting for something to happen.

Time passed slowly as Mrs. B sat at her table grading papers. Her flabby flesh spilled over the sides of her chair, as I listened to the scratch of pen on the paper as she vehemently attacked student work with a red pen in her paw. I worried what my mother would think when I wasn’t standing in front of the school with my sister for her to pick us up. After what felt like a life time of standing at the board, I heard my mother’s voice and I shrank even further into myself ashamed of the situation I was in. The teacher sent me to the hall so that she could talk to my mother about my issues.

While I couldn’t hear what the teacher had to say to my mother, I could hear my mother. And she was on my team! I don’t know how she knew that I was so beaten down. Maybe it was a mother’s intuition or maybe she’d heard some of the same rumors I’d heard before gracing the doors of Mrs. B’s classroom. She was furious and the mama bear in her came out with a vengeance. “As a teacher, you should know better than to falsely accuse a child” along with “you have no business teaching not only my child but any children” were harshly spat at Mrs. B. My heart raced as this verbal exchange escalated to a stormy frenzy.

Suddenly, the door slung open as my mother grabbed my arm and began marching to the office, feet clomping loudly on the tile floor. Her eyes were blazing as she demanded that I be removed from Mrs. B’s class. The relief that overcame me caused those tears to come flowing out. As I stood there hiccuping back my sobs and listening to my mother tell the principal that he could just un-enroll me from school because I wouldn’t be back, I never loved my mother more than I did at that moment. It would be the instant when I knew my mother would stand up for me when it mattered most. I was, after all, her daughter.


ChiTown Girl said...

Wow, do NOT mess with the Mama Bear!!

I wouldn't change a thing, this story is great!

Brian Miller said...

yay mom...this is a great story amy...i am jealous of the writing class, that is awesome...would love to take one...

Anonymous said...

I was going to participate in the same project last year, but I didn't want to give up my precious summer time. What an awesome exercise.

Now I'm jealous.

Oh, and the writing is fine. You were digging deep. :-)

And, look at you in my Google reader!!

Liz said...

Fantastic! It's fine the way it is!

I'm so glad you're back, your blog is one of my absolute favorites and I've missed it!

Carma Sez said...

your writing is excellent!! Brings me back in time though to my fourth grade math class where I would cry and cry when I got confused. The teacher was one of those old serious teachers and I felt incredibly uncomfortable. A few years ago I was looking over my old report cards and came across a note from her saying that "an interesting thing happened today, you didn't get the problem right away but you didn't cry" and how great that was. I stung from embarrassment reading it and threw out all my report cards.

Anyway, this is not all about me

See, your writing is so good it brought back old childhood memories for your readers too :D Glad to see you blogging again!!

leslie (crookedstamper) said...

Oh, what a great story! Yay, Mom!