On Wednesday, during the afternoon homeroom period, a couple of my boys were walking with girls’ shoes in their hands. I didn’t understand why until I saw one of my girls walking into my classroom with her socks on. I put on my teacher face and pulled the three boys out of the classroom who I suspected. Little did I know that there was a fourth boy involved with this ordeal, and he placed them under a desk. Then, when I asked what was going on, they pointed to the desk and she immediately got her shoes. Another boy, not involved with the situation, said in his glorious candor, “Watch! If she keeps messing around with them, she’s gonna get raped!” I didn’t hear this, but the girl’s best friend told me this.
After letting go of the kids, I realized how, in some ways, there’s truth to that statement. The kid, who’s the rancorous and candid type, struck a chord with me. I didn’t know what to say at first. Rather, I did, but I didn’t know how to say it in a way that the girl could understand. After all, how does one go about telling a little girl that her own classmates’ assessment of the situation with her and the boys was squarely accurate?
After some serious thinking, I sat her own when I gave the rest of the class free time. I asked her, “What was going on there on Tuesday, when you walked in barefoot?” In her hyper-with-a-dash-of-Dominican accent, she tells me, “What had happened was, one boy told me something I didn’t like, and I told him to stop, and then he kept talking shit, so I hit him, and he didn’t stop, so I hit him again. Then he said, ‘Let’s take her shoes’ and so they grabbed me and took my shoes, and ran with them, and yeah, that’s what happened.”
I said, “So wait, what you’re saying is that after you told him to stop, he still didn’t?”
“Well, the reason I’m asking this is because I’m concerned. I really am,” I said as I took a small pause to gather my thoughts. “It concerns me because, you remember those workshops that we had upstairs about relationship abuse? Well, it might be your shoes now, but, if they don’t stop, it could lead to something you don’t want to have happen to you. Understand?”
“But Mr. V*****! What can I do if they won’t stop?!”
“Sop hanging out with them. When you grow up, you’ll see how important it is to be a strong woman. You can’t have that happen, you understand?”
“Thank you …”
Later on, another guy made an unrelated but joking remark about her, and she smacked him. He then said, “What just happened?” She smacked him in the arm again. I looked at her with the teacher face, and asked, “NOW why are you hitting him?”
“Because it’s fun, and I know he won’t hit me back! He doesn’t hit girls, ha ha ha.”
“OK, but remember what we were talking about earlier?”
“Yes, Mr. V. Sorry, dude.”
These situations often remind me of my role not just as teacher, but parent and counselor. The process of abuse is often cyclical, where the guy touches the girl in an inappropriate way, and she learns to treat other men the way she was abused. Then she comes across a much nicer guy, but abuses him because that’s what she knows. He learns that the only way to attract girls is through abuse, because she hangs out with abusive guys and the only way he got to talk to this girl is if she abused him.
Obviously, human nature convolutes these situations more often than not, but it’s important to recognize, on Mother’s Day, the importance of strong women capable of teaching their children about true strength and character. While these young girls’ only role models include the likes of Paris Hilton, the Cosmo models, the Flavor of Love girls, and the the plethora of starving girls in the music vids and album covers we’re bombarded with, the true mother stands as figure we hold the highest expectations for.
Here’s hoping, if she becomes a mother, her child will learn the lessons she has …
jose, saluting the past, present, and future moms out there …