I can’t shake the thoughts of many of my elementary and middle school teachers who disliked, no, hated me. Many of them, I can still hear their voices; I even still feel defeated by their tones.
Some I know their names, and we’re also friends on Facebook. For 20 plus years, I thought I carried anger and distrust for them, but today I realize its disappointment and fear. I'm disappointed in how I showed up in their classrooms and how they manipulated my enthusiastic personality to make examples out of me. I'm disappointed in the low-level learning; I achieved before the 9th grade.
I'm fearful that many of them are still in classrooms today. I'm even more afraid that they'll receive a message like this as if they shared no responsibility in the outcomes. I remember a Monday in 7th grade, where I walked into a teacher's 1st-hour class, and she told me to get out because she refused to let my smile ruin her day. She literally put me out of her classroom before the bell rang because, of course, a child from a broken home like mine had no reason to be happy.
I remember an afternoon course with a teacher I adored (she was funny and a great teacher in my experience) decided to throw a book at me because she didn’t like my answer to her question. I recall a teacher's aide (I don’t even know if she had that title, but she was a “helper”) threatening to throw me into a locker in 8th grade because I asked her if she responded to my brother's message about my 8th-grade dues.
I also remember all the times I was disrespectful in the classroom. All the fear I carried from having to have my own back. The talks my mom gave me before I left home about school being a safe space for learning, and the place that teachers had my best interest at heart didn't add up.
I remember hating educators so much that I worked hard to gain the highest achievements and accolades. Not because I wanted them. But because I wanted them to be upset that their least favorite pupil was the one they had to crown, pin, and celebrate as a scholar, class president, and high achiever. Earning some of the top spots they wanted so badly for others fueled me.
As I continue to reflect on these years throughout today, I reflect on how these same years provided me the setup for my future. They’re the years that I lean on when I’m having a bad day, and they’re the years I reflect on when I interact with children and recognize that everything I do and say to them matters.
Am I grateful for these years, NO! Do I understand they built me in many ways, YES! Do I forgive myself and my teachers for a lackluster experience, ABSOLUTELY! But, most of all, I pray for these individuals, that they've found the pupils they desire to educate, they've hugged enough children to know that the learning is continuous and children need to feel loved in all spaces. I pray that children who are like I was, sitting in classrooms today can find their purpose despite the things and people they are up against.
As I am older and wiser, I understand a classroom is a sacred place. As an educator, I know it's not always easy to manage a class and align protocols effectively. One thing I know for sure is I will continue to work toward impacting children positively because one day, they won't need to tell a story like this one so that they can walk into work and be productive!