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MCG, a Chicana feminist, for sure, teaches community college English

Monday, October 1, 2012

Middle School Malaise

middle school aged MCG with friend Stephanie Ballard

        You sure do move your arms a lot when you talk, Mr. Roudell said, interrupting. I was telling him that Missy Baker had been tripped by a group of boys on the black top. She did not fall.
Are you sure she didn't just fall? he asked looking down at me, his
head blanking out the sun. Missy falls a lot, he continued.
         No, I'm pretty sure she didn't, I said, pointing at the boys who Mr. Roundell had stopped but didn't bother talking to. She was running from the ball wall, and they were watching her, and he, I said, waving my arms and pointing again, Moved right in front of her and sort of put his foot out.
What are you Italian? he said laughing as he said it.
         I could feel my face flush red. I forced myself to speak.
         No, I'm not Italian; I'm Mexican, I said.
I regretted those words as soon as they came out of my mouth.
         Oh, yeah Mexican, he said, smiling as he turned away to scan the yard.
         Speechless, I stood and stared at the black top, which spread out all around me in all directions, hard, and rough, and hot.

Everyone got to know Mr. Roundell right away because he was a yard duty teacher, tall, and strict, and really mean to certain students, but all the middle school grade teachers were noticeably meaner: Mr Roundell and his propaganda laden social studies lessons, Ms. Martz who never smiled even when we discussed her favorite books in English, and Mrs. Casserly who talked as much about her husband, who later dumped her, as she did multiplying and dividing fractions. Housed on the elementary school campus, the middle school classes were taught on a block schedule by teachers who seemed to believe it was their job to toughen us up for high school.
I had Mr. Roundell for homeroom in seventh grade where I noticed that he excelled at being cruel with a smile on his face.  While he managed to humiliate me a couple of more times before I graduated from Summerville Elementary, his attitude toward certain students and the movies he showed in class about evil communists hardened me to his tactics. Mrs. Casserly was strict too, and she was moody, but always a tad nicer to those who were already good in math. I wasn’t one of those students.
         Mrs. Casserly wore skirts to cover her wide hips, except on Fridays when she wore jeans and was always in a rush, always trying to fit the long math lesson into the little time she had. Bit she was never in too much of a hurry to tell us a cute story about Mr. Casserly and how their initials were AC/DC, electricity, not the rock band. AC for Anna Casserly and DC for David Casserly. She must have been a newlywed even though she didn't look like one because she talked about her husband a lot.
Early in seventh grade alone at my desk with a pencil and paper, being slow at multiplication facts was discouraging, but I at least understood the concept of multiplication. I couldn't keep up at all when we got to multiplying and dividing fractions and decimals. I could almost feel my brain shutting down. I tried paying very close attention to everything that she wrote on the board and raising my hand and asking questions though probably not enough. I tried calling Mrs. Casserly for help when the others were working problems, and she'd answer my questions in a whisper, as quickly as she could, in a rush to get back to the board to see who had come up with the right answer. She'd scrunch up her face when I asked the same question more than once or when I asked her to repeat something that she had just said. By the end of September, I was totally lost.
I had always been stronger in reading and writing, but elementary school math had been fun too. My third grade teacher Mrs. Shnauble had taught math using blocks, and puzzles, and boards with nails and rubber bands. Mrs. Shnauble had a loft in her classroom, and we were allowed to take the puzzles and boards with nails, or books, to the loft where it was comfortable.
         Mrs. Casserly tried checking in with me when she could once she noticed that I was getting behind, but eventually she stopped checking on me at all. I would sometimes find the courage to ask a question because I knew that's what I was supposed to do, and because I wondered if she noticed I was still in the room, but usually I just faced the board while she lectured and pretended that I was following along. After a while of fearing her chalked hand on her hip and furrowed brow, I stopped asking questions, and Mrs. Casserly went on no longer helping me, and I began thinking that I deserved to be ignored, and like Mr. Roundell had pointed out, that being Mexican had something to with it.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, you know this one breaks my heart. I wonder how many of our students this has happened to, in all their classes and especially in math.