AfriGeneas Writers Forum
Re: First Day of School
In Response To: First Day of School ()
I loved your story because it was opposite from mine. I always wondered why kids in my class cried on the first day of school. Your speculation is probably correct. Going to a newly integrated school must have been difficult. You may have heard through friends, family, the television or radio about troubling integration stories. Or perhaps another kid's tears set you off. But in spite of your tears you had a lot to say about your first day of school!
I wrote that your experience was different from mine. I had many "first days of school" since my father's job took us to Europe and to a few American cities. I don't remember crying, but I did feel an uncertainty when I walked into a new classroom the each time. (7 elementary schools) From nursery school on, I went to integrated schools, except for one, which was a Catholic elementary school.
My parents transferred me to the 6th grade at a nearby Catholic school because my fifth grade public school teacher Mrs. Case had assigned me to a 6th grade class for slow learners. I had always been one of the top students in every grade (for bright kids) including Mrs. Case's class.
My parents never discussed the reason for their decision with me. They just told me that I was transferring to a Catholic school to get a better education. I remember my new teacher, Sister Thomas Owen telling over and over how intelligent I was. I still remember the surprise in her voice. It was probably because she'd read Mrs. Case's assessment.
I didn't realize it then, but many years later, out of the blue, I remember Mrs. Case's slightly nervous and high-pitched voice. "You're not so smart. You think that you're better than everyone...even your teacher." I repeated this to my parents, but they never commented but later reacted by sending me to Catholic school.
Poor thing. Poor Mrs. Case. I guess it was hard for her to teach a black child whose parents were teachers. I must have frustrated her to no end. She tried to ignore me when I raised my hand once too often...probably with the correct answer.
So when I see a freckled nervous older woman sporting brown-thinned-out-frizzed-out-hair-because-of-a-bad-permanent, decked out in a blue flowered dress, hankie stuffed in her sleeve I think of Mrs. Case.
Sometimes I wish I could tell her that this colored kid didn't need her patronizing brand of education. But that's living in the past. My parents and many of my teachers encouraged me to learn more than what was in a textbook. They were my advocates. Thank god their concern erased most of my fifth grade memories.
Thanks Regina for sharing your experience and inspiring me to share mine.