School Days by Jackie Villarreal Najera

I always had red hair. It was something I was born with, not something special. In the first-grade Mrs. Bailey would take me around to other classes and she’d say “Isn’t she cute with her red hair and her dress?”

Mother use to dress me in fancy dresses with a petticoat.  It was same in second and third and fourth grade. I was always embarrassed when teachers took me around showing me off. I was a very shy person.

In the fifth grade my teacher Mrs. Winebarger decided that I looked like a painting from an  art book she showed me. She decided that the entire class was to portray famous paintings. I was to be the main portrait. My instructions were not to move until the curtain closed.

 I did move and only my father noticed. He asked “Why did you move?” I really didn’t know. As always, I couldn’t do things right.

 The following year was the first time I had a man teacher. Mr. Colombo, on the first day of school said to me “You are not that cute”. I hated to tell him I never thought I was cute.  I was happy to have a man teacher for the first time.

 He ended up yelling me for not knowing estimation. He punished me for reading books during math class. I loved to read. He looked at me funny when other class mates would say I was cute. When he discovered that I was bad at estimating numbers. He said he would give me a failing grade if I did not learn estimation. I was reading books instead of studying Math. The teacher got angry.

 When I told my dad that I couldn’t estimate numbers he looked shocked. My dad was very good in math. Dad decided to take me shopping with him. He gave me directions, explaining how to estimate. He told me to estimate the cost of the groceries. I was off by three dollars. Dad was so proud of me.

 At school the following Monday, I was excited to show my new skill. Mr. Colombo was no longer doing estimation but now was doing pre-algebra. He did not know that I was pretty good at that. I thought that was fun.

 I knew that the teacher did not like me. He seemed to always be yelling at me. I had always loved school. He tried to make my life hard by giving me extra assignments that he didn’t give anyone else. My classmates were very sympathetic. If my dad had known about my treatment he would have changed my school.

 My dad was not a confrontational person, he was too polite. I think he might have beaten him up probably without talking to him. His attitude was “nobody hurts my child.” So, I never told my dad what was happening to me.

 Then one day someone stole a pencil bag from a student. Mr. Colombo said that there was someone that knows something about it. I certainly didn’t know. He said he would use a paddle board on everyone if someone didn’t confess. (The board was known as the Board of Education). Now I knew that getting paddled was never going to be an option. I had already formed my escape route. This time I would tell my dad that I really had a reason for running away from school.

 Running away from school would not have been the first time. In the first grade during recess I ran home. Dad had to explain to me that school would be not over until three o’clock.  It was only ten o’clock. He took me back and my class all laughed at me. From then on, my class took care of me. I ended up having a lot of best friends. They continued to be best friends throughout high school.





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