I had a strange thought cross my mind this morning. It was a memory of my honors English teacher in my junior year of high school. She was a nun - one of those pre-Vatican II gargoyles with poured cement monoliths for hair and a face that looked like one of those figures etched in the sides of old churches - always frowning for some reason.
Anyway, what I remembered about her was how terribly she taught us. Now, I'm no genius by any stretch, but damned if I wasn't the second coming for some of my English teachers. I mean, a child, a teenager, actually interested in what Nathaniel Hawthorne had to say? You mean he actually ENJOYED the summer reading?
Ah, but all that changed in the summer before Junior year. I was assigned a John Grisham novel to read - that, and I believe The Bean Trees, by mumble mumble.
Fine books. Sure. Not my cup of tea, but I could see merit in them. And then... I met her.
I'm not really sure what the hitrecord demographics are, but I'm sure most of you can at least get where I'll be coming from. My teacher seemed to have some sort of... issue with ethnicity. Not in an openly cross-burning, pillowcase-wearing way, but in this strangely over-eager, "pick on the brown kid named Carlos to read aloud whenever Chango has something to say" way.
Picture, if you will, a teacher reading through a word bank, probably for some overhyped standardized test, and pausing uncomfortably upon reaching the word 'niggardly', staring down two girls, a boy, and three shades of brown sitting in the front row.
Now, the three of us 'people of color' in the room know there's nothing wrong with that word. Etymologically, it's in no way linked to the more reprehensible racial slur used to dehumanize some of my and my classmate's ancestors. Presumably, our seventy year old English teacher would know this, having taught the subject since Truman was President. And yet, she stops, breaking a sweat, makes eye contact with ALL THREE OF US individually, as if looking for PERMISSION, then mumbles the word like she was one mispronunciation away from a lynching.
Of course, there were less tense examples of this ridiculousness - like when she asked me, mid-lesson, to practically stand up and pronounce "flotilla" in the most stereotypical, cartoony Speedy Gonzalez way I possibly could, after which I proceeded to tell her what she could do with her silly vocab book. In Spanish, of course.
But this was only the beginning. To find out what the most horrendous thing this woman accomplished in her tenure as a teacher there, you're going to have to flip the tape to side B.
Created: Mar 05, 2010Document Media