Dear Vivett: “Schools Never Monitored Children Like Me Anyway”

Thank you to all New York School Talk readers who have responded so enthusiastically to my post yesterday. In that post I quoted a section of a letter from my husband John. Below is the complete letter. One explanatory note: towards the end of the letter, John refers to me as “Belle,” which is his endearment for me and is a reference to the modernized mini-series “Roots” about one family’s experience with chattel slavery in America. Toby (formerly known as Kunta Kinte), once in America and after experiencing a treacherous ordeal of attempting to run away, being caught, and having his toes cut off as a punishment,  fell in love with Belle, the woman who nursed him back to health, physically and emotionally. According to John, I am his Belle.

Sept. 14, 2016

 Time: 8:10 AM

Temp 71 degrees

Dear Vivett,

When I think about school, nothing good comes to mind concerning education. School was given to me (a command), not explained to me. And going to a predominantly white school didn’t help, while living in a completely different neighborhood. A place most minorities call “the hood” instead of neighborhood.

I viewed school as punishment or a daycare for parents. And, I never really felt a part of the education given by staff. (It didn’t apply to me, so I thought.)

For example, my teachers were of no resemblance to me or people I was accustomed to being with. This difference was an obstacle within itself for a black child. Questions like“what do you want to be when you grow up?” left me speechless at times.

For me, it wasn’t what I wanted to be, it was what I believe I could become in life. I wanted to be president at the time of questioning, but I realize president wasn’t realistic for me. That’s when I found myself lying. I don’t remember what I wrote down on paper in class that day. I do remember my truth: “I want to be president.”

Looking back on this day as an adult now I believe power and respect is what I naturally yearned for. I guess that’s why most children like superheroes. Perhaps, fame played a part in my decision as well. Coupled with low self-esteem.

School basically was or became a social club. I was more into my appearance than learning how to enhance my gifts. A pathway to a career. Low self-esteem caused doubt in me and my decision-making. I never believed people that told me: “he’s so smart, he just doesn’t want to do the work.”

Translation in my head: “we need to encourage this child, because we all know he’s not smart.” Honestly, I don’t know where these hopeless thoughts developed from.

Then school never monitored children like me anyway. I only received special attention when I misbehaved or acted out on other students.


Your Husband

P.S. That’s just elementary school, Belle. I’ve been to numerous schools. Even eating out of brown paper bags made me uncomfortable, while watching white children having a lunch box.
(I have to go mail this out.)

What do you think?

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