Back to School? Ah – Memories

Post by MIX co-editor

In August, I just took a quick break to contemplate the ending of a play I have been working on this week.  As I sat in my garage thinking, the eagerly anticipated rain began to fall. (We’ve been in a two week heat wave without any rain.  Of course “heat” here means any temperatures above 80 F degrees.)  As I heard the blessed sound of rain hitting the roof and hard ground, a memory surfaced.

I remembered my daughter’s wonderful story, “The Only Raindrop,” with a mixture of pleasure, sadness, and righteous indignation. And I remembered how amazed I was as I read her story for the first time when she asked me to let her know what I thought before she handed it in to her fifth grade teacher. It’s one of those treasures that were somehow lost in our many moves, and one of the very few that I truly regret losing. (Her original story was far better than the following reconstructed adult version.)

It was a story about a farmer in a drought-stricken prairie. Every day the farmer would check on his gardens and his corn field, and his heart ached as he saw the plants wilting and suffering. He tried his best to keep them watered but it just wasn’t enough. Finally, he couldn’t hold in his grief any longer. He stood in his field and wept as if his heart were breaking. And it was. His sobs were so loud that they attracted the attention of a lonely raindrop in the sky. The raindrop felt sorry for the farmer but wondered what possible difference it would make if it fell on the fields. But the farmer’s sobbing was more than the raindrop could bear, so it decided to fall anyway. It dropped right next to the farmer’s feet.

raindrop

Source: Microsoft Office Clip Art

The farmer was overjoyed. He laughed and jumped and shouted with glee. Other raindrops heard his joyous racket and decided to go down to see what all the commotion was about. And the farmer shouted louder with even greater joy. Other raindrops heard the noise and soon, raindrops were all falling all over his field and gardens. The Only Raindrop did what it could, and because of its sacrifice and the farmer’s joyous thanksgiving, life-saving rain came in time.

rain cloud

Source: Microsoft Office Clip Art

This was an essay worthy of a commendation from my perspective. So when I got the message that my daughter’s teacher wanted to talk to me, that’s the first thing that came to mind. Imagine my reaction when the teacher began by saying she was concerned about my daughter’s work. My daughter needed to learn how to write her own essays. No child could possibly write the kind of stories my daughter handed in without adults helping.

I don’t remember my exact words, but I do know that I let the teacher know that my daughter did indeed write her own stories. And I asked the teacher if her assessment of my daughter’s abilities was based on the fact that her complexion was darker than that of the other students in her class. I let her know that I found her response to my daughter’s creativity and talent insulting and of deep concern. I stood up and told her that I would be carefully watching how she treated my daughter.

How quickly a mother’s pride and joy can turn to anger and concern. Skill and creativity are especially threatening when they come from someone on the margins. But of course, that’s where these qualities are more likely to be found. Is it any wonder that these are also where the worst public schools are located, and the most devastating economic and social conditions? Who knows what the world would become if we eliminated structural oppression and the never-ending assault of macro and micro aggressions?

Well, I need to get back to the play. I did finish the first draft before I fired off this post (You Wouldn’t Want to Hear My Story). Sorry for the rant but this incident still makes me really angry almost forty years later. How could anyone accuse a delightful, talented ten-year old of lying and cheating simply because her skin tone was darker?

Remembering this incident makes me aware of how grateful I am for all of the teachers, bloggers, advocates, and activists who challenge oppression every day. Your actions are like the life-giving rain that finally comes because someone hears what you have to say and spreads the word… Thank you for what you all do!

This post appeared on Carol’s blog VOICES FROM THE MARGINS here

School Bus image: SOURCE

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