School was not something this girl was very good at doing. She really seemed to have a hard time with her grades and keeping up with her assignments that the teachers gave her. She always had some excuse and seemed to barely stay out of trouble by the skin on her teeth.
I noticed that girl back when she was in elementary school. I was a substitute teacher and frequently had to sub in that girl’s classes. I always dreaded having to ask her for her homework or for the assignment she was supposed to finish. She always peered up at me from the corners of her eyes. Never ever making full eye contact, I just assumed she was shy or embarrassed.
At recess she would pretty much try to find a niche to fit in. Never really had a certain one she fit in. She did not have the best clothes, a lot of the time they had holes in them or were too small. Her shoes were always ready to fall apart and she never wore anything with a brand name. In the winter time I felt bad for her because she did not have a winter jacket or coat to wear. She was often sent to school with a windbreaker type of jacket on. I again assumed her family did not have enough money or what have you.
Each year that I subbed I noticed she never had paper, or pencils, you know all the list of school supplies the school system expects you to pay for. It was a good thing that the teachers usually made a big tote of the supplies that were brought and they would allow any student to pick from that pile of stuff, if need be. I think that was brilliant because not every child could afford all those school supplies and in the way they let the child do, no one had to be embarrassed. That girl, was never one who had those supplies.
Often times I wanted to reach out to that girl. I watched her sometimes because I felt pity for her, and sometimes because I was heartfelt worried about how she really was, what her home life was and what was she enduring each day. Often she was hungry, and asking other students for their left over or discarded food on their school lunch trays. This told me two things, she must have not had money to buy a school lunch, or she was always hungry. I assumed a little of both at times.
That girl haunted me in that I was always someone who liked to stay in trouble. I saw her often sitting at the principal’s office, waiting to be seen by the principal. Usually it was for fights or arguing, sometimes even stealing things or taking what was not hers. She seemed to love confrontation. I often wondered why she was so mean or mad or sad. As a teacher or teacher’s sub, you are to keep children’s information confidential, but often times I overheard teachers basically saying that girl’s name and stating that they wished she would be moved to another school.
I thought about those conversations and as a mother, that really bothered me, It bothered me that none of those complaining tried to get to know this child, that girl. I thought that was part of being a teacher, to love your students for the good in them and trying to help them if they seemed to fall by the wayside. I have to admit, she was a handful but she was somebody’s child. Somewhere, underneath that stay away from me exterior, she wanted to be loved and accepted. She wanted to have nice things to, and be able to buy her something to eat like everyone else did. I felt so sorry for her.
One morning I was watching kids that were arriving from off the bus and going to their classrooms, when I heard a fuss going on. I thought it was kids, but when I stopped at the corner of the hall I saw a mother, slapping her kid in the back of the head, she was fussing profusely at that girl, the one this story is about. That girl’s mother stood a good 6 foot and was hitting her and fussing at her, stating that she was making her late for work and everything. I heard that girl tell her mother that she forgot her book bag and that is what she was trying to do and going to get it. That girl’s mother was berating her even more for being slow and lazy and when that girl said she needed lunch money, the mother said, “hell no!” She told that girl who maybe next time she would pull her %^&* together and do what she is told, so she wasn’t giving her any money she did not earn.
I knew immediately why this girl did what she did. I felt every much a part of her embarrassing and humiliating morning. I sympathized with this very misunderstood girl, that girl. There was so much anger at her mother, I wanted to scream at her. I wanted to say look at your daughter, she won’t have a good day, won’t get to eat and go hungry, get bad marks for no homework or having her books. That girl want have any school supplies or things she needs. She looks like her hair was not comb and has dirty clothes on. She will be made fun of and laughed or teased because of you, failing as a mother.
I thought to myself that bad morning, of how many other children would feel like that girl and how many we as adults fail to see, for what they really have to go through at their own homes. I went up to those gossiping teachers and explained what I saw that had happened. I hope I made them feel really bad for how they had thought of that girl. I hope they started looking at things differently than before.
The sadness and treatment of a child feels can change them into adults we do not recognize. Our society should help and nurture our children of tomorrow, today and in the future. Those kids, the ones mistreated, hurt, neglected, shamed, ostracized, and tortured or the ones who will be our future. They will grow up and be the same on the inside as they were then, but taking it and living it out in an adult way.