Yesterday, I read a post at All Access Pass about how teachers leave impressions on their students. I can’t tell you how much I agree with the post. Each adult, especially those in positions of authority leave lasting impressions: some good and some not so good. I’d like to relate a story of a first grade teacher who left a lasting impression on my youngest daughter. The impression was such a strong one that my daughter can vividly recall it to this day; twenty one years later.
One day in early February, my daughter jumped off the bus at the end of our driveway, ran past me and quickly took something out of her book bag and threw it away. Thinking she was acting rather strangely, I went to the trash can and picked out of the trash a paper “groundhog” that she had cut out and colored at school. I turned and held up the ground hog to her and asked her why she wanted to throw it away. “It’s ugly,” she said. “I hate it.”
“Well, I absolutely love it. I’m hanging it up on the refrigerator,” I replied as I cut a piece of tape and hung it to the refrigerator.
“No you’re not. You hate it. I hate it. It’s ugly. Throw it away.”
“Absolutely not!” I replied firmly.
The conversation was over and she went off to her bedroom to change clothes. She never mentioned the ground hog again until her friend since birth, Heath, and his mother came over for a visit later that evening. Since Heath’s mother and I were close friends, the children saw each other frequently.
Heath’s mother and I settled into tea and conversation when my daughter’s young friend ran into the kitchen to tell his mother some exciting news and stopped dead in his tracks when he saw the groundhog taped up on my white refrigerator door. “Ohhhhh…we weren’t suppose to bring our ground hogs home, you’re going to get into trouble” he said to my daughter in a sing-song fashion as he turned around to see if she was following him into the kitchen. Suddenly his demeanor changed as he said, “Oh, that’s right, you were allowed to bring yours home.”
I stopped talking to Heath’s mother so I could ease drop more clearly on the children. “What in the heck was the deal with this darn groundhog? Was it going to come to life and eat us all while we were asleep?” I stood up and un-taped the groundhog and called both of the children to my side. “Which one of you is going to tell me the story behind this groundhog?” I asked both of them. Both of these innocent six year old children stood silently for what seemed to be a long time before until Heath spoke up. “She was allowed to bring hers home, none of the rest of us were allowed.” Still confused by the whole situation I asked him why my daughter was allowed to bring her groundhog home and the rest of the class was not. Waiting for an answer that I thought would involve my daughter acting out at school or doing something terrible with her groundhog that would make her teacher want to send her home with her groundhog in tow, I was heartbroken with the next words I heard Heath speak.
“Our teacher said her groundhog is too ugly to hang up with the rest of our groundhogs so she let her bring it home.” My daughter eyes filled with tears. I looked at her then at Heath and then at her again.
“Is that true?”
She just nodded her head and began to weep a little bit harder. I froze. I hugged her but didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t take back somebody else’s words. I couldn’t make right what a teacher had made wrong.
When I regained my voice and the anger and resentment started to build in me I asked Heath to tell me exactly what had happened. He was reluctant at first to spill his guts about his teacher but the friendship he and my daughter shared won out. He explained to me that each child was given a picture of a ground hog that they were to color and then cut so that the teacher could hang it on the wall for when the parents came to meet the teachers. He said that my daughter was having a hard time cutting her ground hog because the scissors she had didn’t work. (She was using right handed scissors and she is left handed.) He said the teacher got real mad and grabbed her ground hog and held it up so we could all see how ugly her ground hog was. He said she kept saying, “Isn’t this the ugliest ground hog?” Then he said the teacher told her she could take hers home because it was just too ugly to look at.
My hands curled into fists as I listened. My lips tightened. I could feel my whole body tense. I had made my plans. The next morning, the teacher and I were going to have a little face to face and she was going to see things from a whole new perspective. My husband, being the voice of reason after I explained to him what had transpired, asked me to wait until the end of the week when I had a pre-arranged parent teacher conference scheduled and I would be a little less angry. (He was hoping I’d be a little less angry.) Much to my chagrin I complied with his wishes.
That Friday couldn’t arrive soon enough. I was not less angry. I was, however; more in control of my emotions. I walked into my conference with confidence and a smile. I sat and nodded my head so sweetly as this “teacher” told me how wonderful my child was. She went on and on about how much of a joy it was to have her in her class room. Her words ran out of her mouth like Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup over a stack of hot cakes. It was incredible.
I stood up and walked the short distance to all the beautiful groundhogs that were hanging on the locker doors. “Did the chidren do these groundhogs?” I asked just as sweetly as I could.
“Why yes, aren’t they adorable?” the teacher replied.
I nodded my head looking at each and every one until I came to the last groundhog. I turned to her and said, “I don’t see my daughter’s groundhog. Where is hers?”
“Oh, she was sick the day we did those. She wasn’t in class.”
“Really?” I replied. “I don’t recall her missing any school this nine weeks.”
“Yes, she missed this day. I asked her if she wanted to do one but she said no.”
“Really?” I once again replied. “Hmm, funny.” I turned and looked her square in the eye. “Wait, I know where her ground hog is. It’s on my refrigerator at home.”
“Oh, that’s right. She brought it home but she wasn’t suppose to,” explained the teacher.
I shook my head. “No, that isn’t what happened. She was allowed to bring it home because you told her it was too ugly to hang up with the groundhogs the other children did.”
“She’s not telling you the truth. She’s lying.”
I smirked at the teacher and said, “You know, I might have believed that but she wasn’t the one who told me about her ugly groundhog.” I had her. Busted! Get out of this one you fine specimen of a teacher.
The teacher, in all her babbling glory, attempted every explanation to ease her discomfort. I looked at her and didn’t say a word as she babbled on and on. She knew I wasn’t buying a thing she said, and I didn’t have to tell her. The truth was out there in the form of an innocent boy’s words.
After her attempt at explanations I folded my arms across my chest and said to her, “Care to try again because I’m afraid I just don’t find you credible at this point.”
Was this teacher done? No. She went on to tell me how many times my daughter did NOT wear a dress to school. She told me that my daughter lets her friend Heath carry her books for her; and what is worse, SHE carries HIS books at times too. She went on to tell me how she gets Heath’s coat for him if he is running behind at the end of the day and he does the same for her. She explained that she’s a tom-boy and likes boy things. She hinted that her playing basketball, baseball, football, and tag with the boys would probably lead her down the road to (gasp) homosexuality.
She was in deep. The more she rambled the more I couldn’t believe that she was molding young minds. The thought sickened me. It still does.
Years later how does this affect my daughter? Every time I asked her to cut things using a scissors she tells me she can’t because she has “cutting” issues. We smile at each other because we both know what that means but the reality is…after 21 years she really does avoid cutting things out with scissors.
So, what kind of grade do I give this teacher?
I have often wondered what beauty looks like to a person who is blind. When a blind person says something or someone is beautiful, what exactly do they mean? Can they have the same point of reference as a seeing person has?
If I were to ask a hundred people what beauty is to them, I’d venture to say that most (not all) of them would describe some physical attribute that they find attractive. Not many describe inner beauty as something they find attractive. In fact, like the above picture implies, only fat (or ugly) people talk about inner beauty.
I guess Sophia Loren must have been pretty darn ugly since she believed that beauty generated from the inside and reflected to the outside. I wonder how a blind person would have seen Sophia Loren since he could neither experience her physical beauty or the beauty that shone through her eyes.
Almost all of us, except for the blind I suppose, are visual beings. Generally, sight is the first sense we use when we take in something or someone. For me, what makes someone attractive or unattractive is what I see after I take my first look. I have seen some physically beautiful people become more and more unattractive to me once they showed who they were inside. The same can be said about the unattractive person who became more and more beautiful the more I learned about them.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind looking at man and growling at their exquisite form but truthfully the staying power is what is between their ears and in their heart. I don’t find too much attractive in anyone trying to conform to what I want them to do or be. I like when a person is his own man or woman. To me, being comfortable in your own skin is pure beauty.
Recently I had the opportunity to people watch at a few different agendas. While each agenda had its own different theme, all of them had one thing in common: people trying to attract other people by being beautiful. I saw women (young girls) walking in stilettos on uneven black top surfaces making their poor ankles bend and wobble while trying to keep them upright. I saw shirts that were tighter than any corsette. I saw shorts that were so short that a camel toe would have been a welcome sight. So many views of people trying to be beautiful and the saddest thing to see is the shows being presented was mostly by women trying to attract men. In the animal kingdom, it is the male who flashes the female with all his beauty, in the homosapien world, it is the female that is made to paint her face and dance.
Maybe my views have changed because I’m older. Perhaps my views have been tainted by working so many years in an Emergency Department where I have witnessed the self-destructive actions of young women because they did not seem to fit into the beauty ideal of society. Sex sells, and having indiscriminate sex sells the soul.
I like this warning. I wish that all people could see the truth in it. Allowing others to tell us what beauty is and is not is detrimental to our well-being and our self-esteem. It is allowing others to define us. I don’t want someone who doesn’t know me have a say in who I am.
View beauty like the blind man. He can only see with his heart.
A non-renewable commodity.
I wasted time today.
I wasted the whole day doing absolutely nothing. What a shame.
Considering I have lived more of my life than I have left, I feel that I shouldn’t really waste any time. Every minute of my day should be filled with living life. Today, I feel I have failed in the accomplishment of that goal. I was lazy. Not just mildly lazy but extremely lazy. The hardest thing I did today was make several cups of tea. I didn’t eat breakfast, or lunch and I’m contemplating not eating dinner since the effort would be to great.
Thank goodness I don’t have many of these kinds of days.
Although I am not very political by nature there are a few things that will make me stand up and shout out about man’s inhumanity to man. In my mind’s eye, there are a few things that shouldn’t even be on anybody’s political agenda because they are basic human rights. Just like the “black movement” shouldn’t have HAD to have been an issue back in the 60’s (and still exists), the “gay movement” shouldn’t HAVE to be an issue today. These things are just basic rights afforded to everyone: white, black, yellow, gay, straight, fat, skinny and all creeds.
Yesterday, I published the picture at the top of this post to my facebook account. Believe it or not, there was a person who was equally shocked by both pictures. I was shocked that she was shocked. I see a huge difference in children starving to death and two people expressing their love for one another. In a world filled with hate and inequality on all levels, I find it sad that anyone can find both pictures equally shocking. Even though her opinion differs from mine, it is still her basic right to express it.
In the not so distant past, it was considered a sin to marry someone outside of your religious faith. A Catholic marrying a Jew was about as controversial as one could get. People quoted the Bible by saying “God doesn’t want us to be unevenly yoked.” When the religious issue calmed down a little the marriage scene was scandalized once again. Oh my goodness, white people were marrying black people! How could we have gone so far down the social scale? Heaven forbid, God would never approve of this! It’s an abomination unto man! Whites cannot marry blacks, it says so in the Bible. “God doesn’t want us to be unevenly yoked.”
Once again, we have a marriage issue on the rise. Unlike the minor issues of murder, rape, hunger, war, child abuse, elderly abuse and the like, gay issues are of paramount importance and should be a major political agenda for everyone. Stopping gay people from holding hands in public, kissing in public, getting married in public and having sex in private is an issue all us of should be concerned with. World peace will follow once we eradicate the gays from having any rights. Hitler must have been right when he wanted to abolish the people that he found offensive and take away their rights. Is that not what we are doing on a smaller scale when we take away basic human rights from those whose ideals do not conform to ours, whose color is not the same as ours, whose religious belief is not the same as ours, or whose sexual preference is not the same as ours?
The Bible is being quoted once again. The “unevenly yoked” comment isn’t being spoken very loudly this time (I wonder if it’s because you can’t get to much more equal than the same sex), but Sodom and Gomorrah has reared it’s ugly head. What I remember from Sodom and Gomorrah is that Lot (a righteous man before God) offered up his daughters to the people of Sodom to have sex with (which was a sin because women were stoned to death for having sex out of marriage) so they would not rape (violently engage in sex with) the visitors that God had sent him. The men who wanted to have sex with Lot’s male visitors may have been homosexuals but above that they were rapist. To some, that is a small distinction; to me it is huge.
Don’t get confused now. I do not mean to imply that homosexuals are rapists, in fact more heterosexual males are rapist than homosexual males. I guess that fact could be a clear cut reason to abolish homosexual males which would then cut down on raping. Oh dear, the vicious cycle goes on and on.
Whenever I see inequality anywhere I hope I am strong enough to always speak out. May I never be the only one left standing. Pastor Martin Niemoller spoke these words for ALL mankind — those that conform to our ideas as well as those who do not.
First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me.
I’ve been told, “One of the things I like about you is that I always know where you are coming from, you don’t sugar coat much.” I like that about me. I like the fact that most people know if they ask me a question or want my opinion, they will get the truth from me as I see it at that moment. While I like that about myself, I also know that others may not. Some people are perfectly content to have superficial relationships with others who only tell them what they want to hear; these people collect other people who only want superficial relationships and the “friendships” they form are based upon what everyone want to hear. Everybody is happy in that kind of relationship but nobody is real. I like reality.
Most of the time, if not directly asked, I keep my opinions to myself but there are times when keeping my mouth shut would be worse than not saying what has swelled up inside of me. How can I keep my mouth shut when someone is spewing hatred with the words “faggot, nigger, kike” or one of the other many anti-people titles? I was standing in the midst of a conversation when the group was talking about “gay” people. I tried very hard to hold my tongue until one of the group said, “What could be worse than to find out your kid is gay?” I couldn’t stop myself. It blurted out. “Well, let me see. I think having a child who is a murderer, a rapist, a thief, a spouse abuser or hell, even a child who is a liar would be worse than having a gay child.” The conversation ended because I made them feel uncomfortable.
If you have to start your sentence in a whispered tone with, “let me see if there are any black people around…” it probably means you should shut up before your ignorance spills onto the floor. If your conversation can not be the same all the time without having to “watch what you say” perhaps you need to check inside yourself to see why your conversations have to be censored.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.” As adults, do we still believe this nursery rhyme? Did we ever really believe it? I have been physically hurt before but the pain I remember most are the things that others have said about when I was listening and when they thought I didn’t hear. The damage that endures through time is generally not the physical pain but the emotional pain brought on by words.
Once words are spoken, they can never be erased.