Reasons to quit school: Why I quit 4th grade

Reasons to quit school: Why I quit 4th grade

Hello everyone!

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 boyroll 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.

kid in hallway

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

A boy alone in a classroom

A boy alone in a classroom

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!

quote teaching-Michael J. Fox

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?

All my Relations


25 thoughts on “Reasons to quit school: Why I quit 4th grade

  1. Darren

    Great site I really like the in-depth story narrative. I have to say the story series was really a tear jerker and many of us have some form of experience with child abuse. It really is a disgrace against humanity to have people out there that pray on the WEAK or young

    1. Emily Post author

      hi Darren
      thanks for taking the time to read the series. We all have our own past experiences that affect our life today. And for sure this experience is still affecting the Red man today.

  2. Douglas

    Hi Emily
    This is a wonderful story. If you are a child, you are in a world of your own. It is up to the people we look up to to set the right example for us to follow. If they in turn frustrate, humiliate and makes us so vulnerable, then our future becomes so uncertain. But there are few, who are able to stay strong no matter the situation they find themselves.

    Even though I don’t agree with the red man’s reason to quit school, at the time he thinks that was the right move and you couldn’t blame him. But I expected more from the mother! You can understand children in a situation like this, but they are not old enough to make a decision to quit school like the way Red man did.

    I agree that our past should not define us, but it should help us make informed decisions about the present, which will propel us into a better future.

    I like this story very much Keep up the good work.

    1. Emily Post author

      hi Douglas
      The adults are supposed to be role models. The problem becomes when the adult has also been through a lot of trauma and the cycle continues as healing needs to take place. And that is what we are seeing with the Red man’s grandmother.

  3. Chris

    Hey Emily,
    from reading this three part story I can see why Red Man quit school. He had no respite from the fear. A kokum that beat him at home and a racist teacher at school.
    But maybe the real change happened after he stood up to his kokum. Maybe that was a turning point. Had he not done this he more than likely would have got a thrashing when he arrived home after quitting school.
    Did he ever get beaten by his kokum again after he stood up to her ? Maybe standing up to his kokum was just what he needed to gain a self confidence to stand up to Mr Queer as well.
    This is just an opinion. But maybe standing up to his kokum was one of the best things he ever did.
    Again this is just an opinion and I hope I haven’t offended anyone,

    1. Emily Post author

      hi Chris
      You are right the change happened when he stood up to his kokum. However, this was not the time. That time happened much later when he was 16 years old. He then decided that he had had enough of the abuse and realized that he was bigger than her. The problem is that he then made a pledge to himself that he would not take crap from anyone. Leading him to many problem situations and fights…

  4. Bluegum

    So very interesting. The sadness is I’m an Australian and I know more about the American natives than I know about my own. Lovely story, thank you. It’s sites like yours that change the world.

    1. Emily Post author

      hi Bluegum!
      I think that the story of the Indigenous people of the land across the world is similar. Including in Australia. The land that they had was also taken away from them. Do come back any time!

  5. Robert

    That was a very interesting story and one that I think many of us to a degree may have experienced at some level in our youth when growing up and going to school in a classroom with a teacher we didn’t like. Though I never would have had quit school, my parents would have had a spanking fest on me, I can certainly understand why some kids would feel that way.

    Sometimes the reasons are because of class bullies and other times because of the teacher. When a student fears a teacher for reasons such as Mr. Queer or even if they have a teaching style that just isn’t engaging, students will learn less. I reminds me of a physics class I took in high school. The teacher I had was an old-school kind of teacher. Put a formula on the board and expect you to learn it. Then he had to leave the school for some reason and we got a new teacher.

    This new teacher was younger and would teach by ways of visual examples, along with the formulas. My grades under the old-school teacher were a C- but my grades with the new teacher were a B+ because he took the time to actually teach us about physics and not just formulas. It is because of teachers like him that can help children to learn and make it fun to come to school instead of hating school.

    1. Emily Post author

      hi Robert
      I completely agree some teachers cannot teach for certain kids. Some are set in their ways, some have just one way of teaching and it is too bad if you cannot learn that way. And it seems like Mr. Queer was one of those. And sometimes, teacher and kid just do not like one another unfortunately. And it makes for one heck of a long school year! But there are also those great teachers who make coming to school fun and make learning easy.

  6. Peter

    Yes I always wanted to quit school, I didn’t have the jam to do it until I turned 16 and never looked back. I can’t stand the public school system and their public sector union teachers who are in it for themselves. Oh sure there are good teachers but they are few and far between. I can feel by blood boiling and my blood pressure rising whenever this subject comes up.
    Both times I was strapped in school it was mistaken identity and then having to stand in front of the class explaining what I did wrong, when I didn’t do anything wrong.
    Good for the Redman, yes they are pricks!
    Great article, thanks

  7. Johnathan Tarter

    This is a very sad but uplifting story since you were able to stand up to a bully and quit school at such a young age! Such bravery and quitting public school is definitely a good idea for anyone since it is about obedience to authority and indoctrination. Thank you for sharing this and keep up the great work! 🙂

  8. Jared

    Hey Emily

    Thanks for this story. I was born in South Africa and am Indian. I was one of the first non-whites in white schools in 1995 after Mandela was released from prison. You could just feel that certain teachers felt it was not my place to be, at that time corporal punishment was acceptable 🙁 although there were teachers who you could feel were genuinely not racist. When I got to high school I had the balls to swear and middle finger an obviously racist teacher…this story brought back some good memories. Thanks again.


    1. Emily Post author

      hi Jared
      thanks for sharing your story. it was also a touching one. What an experience it must have been for you 20 years ago. The Indigenous people of the land across the world did suffer.

    1. Emily Post author

      Absolutely Clark. He stood up for himself in a situation where he felt uncomfortable. And every child should be able to do that without fear of consequences.

  9. Nnamdi

    Hello Emily

    I had goose pimples all over me when I was reading this post. The poor boy could not stand another mean teacher at school after all the hell he is passing through at home. Let me ask, is this the type of life that awaits an average Red man? Because I can’t just see how this boy will be happy having been pressured back and front with no one to show some love.

    Forgive me, how come about all the bruises that is all him? Were they inflicted on him by his Kakum?

    This is a very sad story of a poor boy…

    Thanks for the write up Emily and you are such an artist with words.

    1. Emily Post author

      hi Nnamdi!
      It is a sad story and the Red Man did have a hard life. And still has a hard life. The bruises on his body were part of the second part of the story. They were inflicted by his kokum unfortunately….Abuse is quite present in native communities for a variety of reasons, including the presence of historical trauma.

  10. Shweta Roy

    I too had an imaginary lover who I thought would rescue me from the affection less childhood I had. I went looking for love in wrong people and places and ended up in a loveless marriage. Looking back, I feel I should have focused on my career and independence that would have made me happier. At least I know I will not pass on this trauma while raising my kids. Being aware has helped me. Much love,

    1. Emily Post author

      Hi Shweta
      Thank you for sharing your story. I am glad you had your imaginary friend as a child to help you through your life. So glad that you are aware of what you have been through and how it affected you. That awareness is important so that it can be passed on and discussed with the next generation.


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