Reasons to quit school: Why I quit 4th grade
I hope you are all having a good weekend. If you have been on my site this week, you might know what this article is. It is the conclusion of a 3 part series written by the Red man about a particular childhood experience. I encourage you to read part 1 about his new school clothes and part 2 about his grandmother’s (kokum) reaction. Today, we learn about his first day of Grade 4. We heard about his experience in Grade 1 before, and today we learn about Grade 4 taught by the husband of the the Red man’s first grade teacher. A thoughtful and entertaining story ahead addressing reasons to quit school (in the mind of a fourth grader).
Where were we?
When we left, we were the day before the first day of Grade 4 and the Red man was trying to sleep. However, the Red man had also received a very brutal beating from his kokum and was in pain.
“Waniskaaaaa, wake up” my kokum screamed. The Red man actually did not know what Waniska meant until I heard the Cree Sunrise song and told him it meant wake up a few days before I am posting this (see below for the song). “Get up, time don’t wait”. I put on some old clean clothes and got out of the house as quickly as I could. Oh and there was added pressure the night before believe it or not. My insomnia had different reasons to keep me awake until exhaustion. Sometimes in order to feel better you have to dream of a better life. I would get lost in my imagination, how my life would be one day. It was full of love and glamour. I was going to be happy one day and those fantasies kept me awake sometimes all night.
But, the night before the first day of school was different. It was filled with intense dread. The big question? Who would be my teacher for the whole school year (he was still a kid after all with his own kid preoccupations)? I prayed to God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and my imaginary dad to help me out with a good kind teacher. I had enough bullshit at home, a disciplinarian who had no respect for me or my shattered dignity. I had no dignity but I did not know how to describe my loss. I was a troubled kid living in a world that judged and condemned me.
And then there was Grade 4…
Mr. Queer (I think it was his actual name). The thought of sitting in Mr. Queer’s class all year was like a huge weight resting on my chest. I wore long sleeves to hide the bruises on my arms and back. The bruises on my legs and chest did not matter as much as they all hidden. I could not roll up my sleeves and keeping my head up was almost impossible. I felt as though people would see the truth and know that there were ugly painful welts and bruises under my clothes.
Dying was never an option, as my future, to me, almost seemed so bright. But crying was. But I had to play the cool detached fool in order to maintain my composure. I entered the school from the opposite end. I thought that if I started my door inspection of classroom lists of names it would make a difference. I told myself I then had a good chance of being in someone else’s classroom. Anyone but Mr. Queer. You see, Mr. Queer was the husband of my Grade 1 teacher, Mrs. Queer. Mrs. Queer was okay but her husband was a mean redheaded prick. He seemed to hate me even more than I hated him.
I could not contain my anxiety anymore!
My anxiety and stress level were overwhelming, One classroom after the next. I did not see my name! By the time Mr. Queer’s classroom was the only one left, I told myself that maybe I had missed my name on another door. I saw the looks of horror on the faces of my friends. I heard the whispers “he is in Mr. Queer’s classroom!” I could not believe it! I wouldn’t believe it. Until I saw it with my own eyes.
I wanted to run and hide, I wanted to scream and cry but instead I held my breath and entered the classroom. Mr. Queer was nowhere in sight. I took a desk at the back of the classroom and
held my breath. When the bell rang and all the kids filed in, Mr. Queer was the last person to enter. I sat still, so very still, trying to blend into the background. If I did not breathe or move then maybe, just maybe, he would not bother me. Or maybe I would wake up and this would be a bad dream.
Mr. Queer wrote his name on the board as if anyone did not know it already. “My name is Mr. Queer and this is my classroom. You will follow the rules that I have written on the blackboard” his nasal high pitched voice playing with my frayed nerves. He looked at me and said “Especially you. Come and sit at the front of the room, right beside me so I can keep an eye on you”.
And right then I decided I had had it!
“Fuck you you racist prick, I quit”. I laughed as I stuck out my middle finger and said “Fuck you” as I got out of my desk, packed my books and began to leave. “You can’t” he said, “watch me” I said. Cheers and laughter rang out as I walked out of the classroom.
And walk I did, straight home. It was a long and slow walk even though I lived 3 blocks away. Too late to turn back, I had to face the music. I had to face the beast. When I got home, she was still feeling sorry for herself. “What the hell did you do now? Are you trying to kill me?” I told her that Mr. Queer was a prick who hated Indians and that was good enough for her. “You are going to get a job now. Welfare will cut us off” All you do is learn piggy dirty things in school anyways”.
So I quit school in Grade 4 for 6 months. After a while I became lonely so I wanted to go back to school. But not the town school. So I went to school on the rez. The Rez!
And there you have it, the time the Red man quit Grade 4. I do believe that this story is one of the first story he ever told me. A long time ago. I can picture the Red man in a classroom as a child. Daydreaming at his desk, looking outside, getting up constantly as he needed to move around, adding his 2 cents here and there. I can see that abiding by the standards of the time, the expectations his teachers had, would not have been an easy feat. Because I have worked with hundreds of kids like the little kid he was. Those for whom teachers need to adapt their teaching. In order to capture the child’s strengths. As being a teacher is not just about teaching a curriculum but rather about being a role model for the little and not so little ones. I wish more teachers understood that so that more kids like the kid the Red man was would be respected and understood.
So ending this with the Cree Sunrise Song. What did you think of the ending of the 3 part series? What did you think of the Red man’s reasons to quit school? Ever felt like quitting school?
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