by, Melissa R. Mendelson
In previous writings, I have expressed hatred toward my time in school. I despised those that bullied me until I broke down. I regret being the welcome mat that easily rolled under the feet of those that did not respect me. I hate myself for allowing the wrong men into my life, who led me to my downfall. I was such a stupid, stupid little girl, but I’m stronger now because of it. But I wouldn’t be who I am today, if not for my teachers.
My memory goes back to Birch Lane. I remember staying after school with this one woman. She struck my hand with a ruler every time I attempted to write with my left hand, forcing me to write with my right. My memory goes back further before her to my first grade teacher, who found me playing by myself because my peers refused to play with me, and I still remember the strange look on her face. My memory returns to third grade, where Mrs. Martin was my teacher, and I smiled at the memory. She was a good woman, who might have been stern with me at times, but she also looked out for me. And I needed a guardian angel back then because I was fighting every day with Eric and the bullies, and I thought moving away from Long Island would change all that. But new bullies waited to descend and tear me apart.
My sixth grade teacher nearly ended my life. She thought I was crazy and needed special attention. I held no hatred for teachers back then except for the one with the ruler, but this woman had earned my hate. And I hate her still today, and I stopped trusting teachers. It was a lie that they were looking out for us, trying to keep us from harm’s way, but they were ruled by their own agendas. And they did not care or trust us, so I returned the favor.
Now, it’s the seventh grade. I survived elementary, but I was barely ready for the middle school. It was the same damn kids, the same bullies, and I was living the war-torn life. My teachers did not provide any protection, and I did not ask them for it. I just bore through it, shut down, and hoping to return to my bedroom, where I would slam closed the door to the world. But it was two women that struggled to open that door and show me what waited within.
Mrs. Zucker and Miss. Masonson were the creative writing teachers back then, and I apologize, if I’m saying their names wrong. They know who they are, and I’ve reached out to them before, thanking them for keeping me strong. I didn’t take creative writing seriously. I only wrote a few pieces to keep them at bay, but they saw something in my writing. And they urged me to keep at it, giving me my first journal to fill, and I filled every page with thoughts that I had locked inside, emotions denied from being felt, and every dream my father said was not realistic. Next to music and Stephen King books, my writing saved my life. These women saved my life.
After the seventh grade, teachers came and went. None were not as memorable as the creative writing ladies or as profound. There was a college professor at Nassau County Community College, who saw talent in my college film, and it was a thrill to run around Long Island, filming crazy, dramatic scenes, scenes that now rest underneath a bed of dust. But he was ready to help me move on to a four-year college that would give me the education and training necessary to continue with that newfound dream, but my father denied me from going to Purchase. He wanted me to pursue a more realistic career path, and I gave in. That was my mistake, but after all these years, I’m circling back with screenplays in hand.
My father is a good man. He wants nothing but the best for us children, but our problem is that we’re lazy, stubborn, or just chasing dreams. We’re nothing like him, and we’ve disappointed him time and time again. Only my older brother gave up his dreams of being an artist and followed my father’s footsteps in becoming a teacher for the inner city school system. The rest of us are still chasing dreams.
I believe my father is a hero. He spent many years in the Bronx, teaching inner city kids, tough kids, and if they didn’t like you, you would know it. You would hope that you weren’t tossed out of your second floor window, but if you earned their respect, they were yours to teach. Their hearts and minds were ready to be molded from something hard to something beautiful, and their futures would not wait on the streets outside. They would have a chance, a choice, and become something so much more, and my father changed many lives. He even changed the lives of the teachers around him, inspiring them to become more than they were, and they were all focused on the most important thing, the students, who met them every day with hope gleaming in their eye. Yes, my father is a hero, more to those kids than his own, but I believe that he saved their lives, their future.
A war is raging now, a war on teachers. Yes, there are teachers that I will always hate, but there are also teachers that I will always cherish. This world is uncertain, and without them, we would be lost in the dark with no future in hand. We wouldn’t have a chance. Privatization? Is that really the answer, and what about the kids from the streets? What about those, who would be heroes to them? How could we just clip their wings, watching them fall? We need public schools, we need education not to be cut, and we need teachers. This war is a fool’s war, and it has raged on for far too long. And who pays the price? Your children, and it will be their futures that will be lost. Need I say more?