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Black American Creative Nonfiction

I'm a Big Girl now!

Every school year ends on my birthday or the day after…June 5th or the 6th.

Tomorrow morning, I finally have to change buses to get to my new school. I also got to pick all my outfits for the semester, even my footwear choices—no more baby clothes, uniforms, and penny loafers. I get to carry a backpack and gym bag instead of a lunch box and a book bag.

I have decided that quick-change outfits are appropriate on gym days, so bib overall or one-piece dresses and tennis shoes. There should be nothing that I will need extra time for changing before and after gym class. I can have my emergency supplies in my gym bag for personal upkeep. My body decided I was old enough for female changes over the summer after a bicycle accident.

I look forward to the school year and this middle school. My last teacher thought it was her duty to hold me back and found out she couldn't justify the failing grade she gave me in Language Arts and Math. How does a straight-A student fail two stem classes? Well, your mom threatened to beat the hell out of the oldest teacher alive; that's how.

We went to the open house thirteen days ago and met Mr. Harold, a new teacher at Zion Elementary School who didn't believe in the partial pass/fail thing. He vowed that at the year's end, I would be moving on to the sixth grade. He said, "I will figure out how to help Kimberly to live up to her potential and surpass it." At the end of the first quarter, he said, "I apologize to you, Kimberly," as he handed me my report card, a letter for my parents, and a few books on creative writing. To a ten-year-old girl who didn't open the books for each subject, a creative writing book was an insult…. ha! I was full of ideas, tall tales, and a vivid imagination, but I was not too fond of anything related to school.

If I had the stories I wrote between that grade and my first published book, I would have a wonderful collection of short stories and a great-sized book ready for publication. A children's collection that analyzes the world through the eyes of a preteen, that tender age before attitudes. You know that period where you still respected adults and your parents knew best. That tiny window from seven to twelve. Also, there would have been a collection of the teenage years when the world made no sense to the changing philosophy of thirteen to seventeen. Then, of course, the tween space was eighteen to twenty because the government changed the legal age from eighteen to twenty-one just before my eighteenth birthday.

It didn't matter much to me; I wasn't a drinker. All the things I enjoyed were still activities I could do with a valid U.S. government-issued identification. Most clubs I frequented in the latter '70s and early '80s were restaurants daily until nine p.m. After that, you would be fine if you were having dinner before they started carding at the entrance at 8:30 p.m.

(blaring alarm…)

Ahh….

Wow, that dream never disappoints. I like it when I am upset at bedtime and wake refreshed and clear-minded. Looking back now, I realize Mr. Harold saw something in me that I didn't want to embrace. I only wrote enough to pass the required assignments. I remember that most of the teacher's comment sections said the same thing throughout the years:

"Kimberly is a bright, articulate, and underperforming student. Although it is apparent that she understands the assignments. She spends too much time:

1.       Wasting time           2.            Talking or                3.            Daydreaming. "

In my defense:

I only spoke during two inappropriate times:

1.            To say no, I don't know. I refused to help someone cheat during test times and wouldn't rat on those seeking answers.    

2.            If I was so bored that I needed a break, the assignments were easy, so after completing them, I would ask to go to the restroom, and if allowed, I would sometimes go to my hiding place in the library or if not, I would put my head down; it was not my fault if I fell asleep, talked in my sleep or snored.

Mr. Harold was the only teacher who figured out I wasn't being challenged enough, hence the apology, the letter to my parents, and the creative writing books. So, by way of trickery, he would challenge the whole class to do different things to earn a field trip. Some were interesting or lucrative. Some were to make us think outside the box. The interesting ones that we did that didn't get us away from the school for the day would earn a movie day or a party during the 5th and 6th periods.

I was in Mr. Donald Harold's class in 1977, and my oldest son was in his fifth-grade class almost two decades later. You know you left an impression when your child keeps saying, "My teacher says I remind him of someone, and we figured it out today. It was you, Mom. I found a photo of you in the art closet and asked him if I had reminded him of this person after class. He chuckled and said Y-E-S. She was my brightest star and my sharpest thorn." Then, without a pause, he turned his head in bewilderment and said, "Sharpest thorn?" Then, I saw the light bulb moment happen. He laughed and connected the references between his father, other family members, and the teacher's comments: that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree is valid. Once he stopped laughing, he said Mr. Harold was curious about what I was doing and where I lived.

Only three teachers left positive impressions on my mind, and I have now written about them all. So, this story is dedicated to all the teachers who make a lasting impression!

September 08, 2023 16:22

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5 comments

Andrea Corwin
20:33 Nov 01, 2023

I loved this!!

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Kimberly Walker
22:31 Nov 01, 2023

Thank You

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Delbert Griffith
11:45 Sep 15, 2023

As a former math teacher in high school, this really resonates with me. I always told my students that their worth to me had nothing to do with their math abilities or math grades in my class. My job was to connect with my students and make learning safe. In the end, I was richly rewarded with a lot of "thorns." I loved the thorns. Great tale, Kimberly. The honesty and the genuine emotions come through quite well. I'm sad that you had only three teachers that affected you in a positive way. That's a real tragedy, and says a lot about our ed...

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Kimberly Walker
17:50 Sep 15, 2023

So true! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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Mary Bendickson
20:46 Sep 09, 2023

Nice memories. Thanks for sharing.

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