The old saying is that Anonymous was a woman. In these instances, Anonymous is a teacher. Here are some comments I have heard from anonymous teachers over the last few months:
1. “I used to buy into the philosophy that schools should be patterned after business, that we didn’t know what we were doing and we ought to adopt their model. Then I married a man in business – his company has undergone 4 re-organizations in 5 years. They don’t know what they are doing, who’s kidding whom?”
2. At a school that has adopted student uniforms, kids are required to wear dark pants, white shirts, oxford shoes and a belt. A 30 year veteran teacher, told me a story of one of her second grade students whose life is chaotic, being shuffled between homes and caregivers, and who appeared for school sans belt several times. The consequences of this behavior is that the student first receives demerits and then if it happens enough times, a pre-school 40 minute detention. If the child misses the detention (as may very well happen to a seven-year-old kid who lives in chaos and depends on undependable adults to get him to school), the child is to receive a full day, in-school suspension. On the day that this teacher’s student was slated to begin his in-school suspension, she told me that the child didn’t even understand why, or what a suspension was. She kept him in her room and when the young, officious principal called her and asked where the child was, reminding her to send him to his full day suspension, the teacher said (here’s the direct quote), “No.”
The principal argued, the teacher stood firm. Finally they compromised. The child would make up the missed detention and serve 40 minutes at the end of the day. The policy of full-day in-school suspension was subsequently modified.
3. “You should write a poem about a father messing with his daughter, you know, abusing her.” I told her that I’d had this request before and in fact there is a poem in Walking on the Boundaries of Change on this issue – or my best attempt to write on this issue, since such abuse is not part of my experience. “Well, it’s part of mine,” she said flatly. She is a woman over sixty with a smokey, 7&7s at the Moose Hall voice. I went to retrieve the book from the display and opened it to the poem “Hear It” and passed it to her. This is a poem that was written by assignment. It is by necessity somewhat vague, beginning “I don’t want to talk about it,” without ever defining what “it” is. I’ve always hoped that certain kids who read it will understand the meaning of “it.” I’ve discussed this with teachers and with guidance counselors (who gave me the assignment in the first place). The book has been in print 8 years, this was the first time I’d shared it with an abuse victim face to face.
When I passed her the book, she passed it back, couldn’t see without her glasses. I read the poem aloud to her and when I finished she looked deep in my eyes, tight lipped, restrained tears, turned and walked away. Before she went through the door, she turned and said, “That’s it.”
I will never forget her eyes.