Monday, February 05, 2007


It's...ummm...I don't know what it is,'s just plain bizarre how memories sneak by all the blocks and walls you've patiently built up over the years to pop in and say, "HOWDY!" at all the most inconvenient of times.

As I was putting together my grocery list yestereve, and doodling around the edges I thought back to what had to be third or fourth gets fuzzy as I had the same teachers as subs and then full-on teachers the next year, at that time...It was definitely Ms. Gomez. Yes, her real name. Not Mrs. Gomez, but her sister. I'd out her completely, but I have no memories of the first name anymore...

Yes, I am still maybe a bit bitter and need to let lots of things go...but this one...urgh. You decide if I'm maybe overreacting.

Anyhow, she had us drawing maps of California. The assignment asked us to outline the map using toothpicks. Yes, 3rd/4th grade and we had to manipulate little toothpicks and glue and outline the state of California on an 8.5 x 11" piece of special construction paper she gave us. We also had to label a whole bunch of stuff on the map....major rivers, capitals, cities, you know.

It was one of those "start in class" assignments with atlases and compasses and rulers and lots of help from your friends that then had to be schlepped home and finished, from memory, cuz we didn't have anything near as fancy as an atlas at my house. I believe I borrowed a map of California from my baby-sitter to do this one. Stayed up pretty late with my mom kinda checking in on me.

By third grade I'd pretty much out-schooled both my parents and they encouraged me to to my homework...but help? Um, not so much.

I finished it though...even mounted it on a piece of yellow construction paper to make it more sturdy...the toothpicks were making the map kinda wobbly.

I was so proud. Took it right up to the teacher when she called for them. She lined us up and decided to grade them on the spot. All the A's were going up on the wall. I was shocked when one boy who never did very well walked away with an A and a pushpin. He put his map on the wall and my heart fell. Did she not notice it wasn't his handwriting? Then another A map, and wait, it wasn't on the paper she gave us and had what looked like an atlas map glued under that super thin typing paper you could buy at the drugstore. Another "A" went to a boy who looked like he'd used his older brother's work from the year before... One map barely had any labels on it! Then came my turn...

"Did you do this all by yourself?!? You must have, that's your messy writing all over it! Can't you be more neat? I'm going to give you an 'A' but this isn't nice enough to go up on the wall."

Yup...that's pretty much what she said. I really hadn't been paying attention to what she was telling the other kids, I was too busy admiring my accomplishment and wondering why those other maps had gotten on the wall. From that point on I listened to the "praises" and "scoldings" she was giving the rest of the class. Most everyone who even tried the assignment got an "A," but only those she felt deserved it got to go on the wall.

Last night, doodling on the grocery, all I could think of was what a bitch that woman was. The entire year was filled with comments like those and similar treatment to her favorites. She was teaching at a private parochial school and I highly doubt she had a teaching credential. I think she only got the job because her sister had some clout. I have to wonder if she even liked kids! I do know she did not last more than a few years there. Gods! YEARS! How many groups of kids did she mess up! Urgh. But at the time? Yep, all I wanted to be was one of those favorites...let's just say I never made the cut.

How do experiences like this add to the person I am today? That's the more reflective part of this whole thing. What would my life had been like without those particular scars? How would my story have been different?

I think I think too much sometimes.


Lola Lee Beno said...

Oh, that brings back memories from school. I remember back in elementary school (I was in the deaf ed program, with two sub-groups - oral and sign housed in the same school building). I was in the oral program, and one time I asked Ms. Hoffman why she didn't learn sign language. Her reply: Oh, it's so hard to learn!

You can imagine what this did to a child's ego. Sometimes teachers don't realize what they say may have everlasting consequences years later.

Bezzie said...

Isn't it funny how that shit sticks with you?

Mrs. Borg my kindergarden teacher tore up one of my coloring assignments because I printed my name in all caps. Now I knew how to print in lower case and knew the first letter of my name had to be in caps, but I wanted to see what she would do. Hm, yes tear up the picture and shame me in front of the whole class. Ah well, I ASKED for that.

You gotta wonder what little old Ms. Gomez is doing now?

Beth said...

So many things that happen to us when we're young stay with us for a long, long time. And I think you're right, those things do affect who we become.

I also think teaching is a big, big responsibility. By the way, I've elected not to teach next year.