Skip to main content

View Diary: Teenaged Arrogance (9 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  When I was in grade school - an all white school, (8+ / 0-)

    not because of segregation, but demographics - a nice Mexican boy joined our class one day.   He was clean and neat and well-mannered and quiet - all the things that other kids size up fast so as to leap on the "not good enoughs" if they spot a difference.  He was a nice kid and we'd talk sometimes at recess.  Not much, but a little.

    "Those girls are sure pushy."
    "Yeah."

    "I'm hungry."
    "Me, too."

    "Hey, let's play catch."
    "Yeah, cool."

    One day, the teacher, who was nice, but sorta "country" and not really up to the task of multi-ethnicity, decided we all needed to know more about each other.  So we had a sort of "show and tell:" telling what our dads did (moms didn't work) and whether we had brothers and sisters and whatever else.

    Well, it came to this boy - Juan - and he was just too shy to speak. He spoke English, but was just very shy in front of a group.

    The teacher - to this day, I'm sure she was just trying to be "nice", but sadly misguided - decided she'd just draw it all out of him.  So, he stood there at the front of the room and she asked him questions.

    What does your father do?
    Has a taco stand.
    (I knew about it, because my family went there sometimes - it was a little trailer parked in an empty lot with an old 1950s pickup truck parked nearby, open every evening, with the whole family working inside making crispy shelled early 1960s tacos - the only "Mexican food" in town).

    And who works in the taco stand?
    Everybody.

    Who's everybody, Juan?
    My whole family.

    Do you help your father make the tacos?
    [deep blush] Yeah.
    (he was the only child in my grade school class who was working)

    And how do you help your dad with the tacos?
    [I had been growing angrier and angrier. I knew she wanted to "just help him" but couldn't she tell this was humiliating? Hell, I could!]

    no answer.

    Juan, how do you help your dad make tacos?
    Grate cheese. [a couple girls giggled - jesus christ, won't she stop?]

    But no, it didn't stop. He was up there 3 times as long as any of the rest of us. At one point, he seemed to get distant and just float off in his attention to what was going on.  "Uh. Yeah. No. Yeah. Yeah. No."

    At recess, I saw him standing by the edge of the school, near a tree, alone.  I don't know what got into me. I just walked over and hugged him.  We're talking about well over 40 years ago, and I still remember how he momentarily put his head on my shoulder, let out a sniffle and shudder, then stood up straight, turned, and walked away.

    What were we? About 9 years old, I guess.

    That weekend, dad loaded us all into the Rambler station wagon with the big fins and drove us over to the taco stand at the empty lot across from his friend's gas station.

    The taco trailer and old truck was gone. Dad's friend didn't know where they went.

    "Just left one morning," he said.

    Monday, Juan wasn't in school.  
    I never learned what happened to him.

    Somehow, in that awful "Show and Tell" day" in class, I learned deeper sympathy for other people. And, although otherwise unjustified, I had come to hate that teacher, as well-meaning as perhaps she meant to be.

    Juan's family probably decided to move to another city to try to earn more money. I hope he and his family came out OK. They were all good folks.

    Your story about the Vietnamese kid reminded me of Juan.

    I never really got over "Show and Tell day" after that. I got real mouthy with teachers afterwards, too. It was years and years later when I put two and two together and realized why.

    I don't know what this story has to do with anything at all.

    It's just that little things can really affect folks in grade school. And those things stick years and decades later. And you never know which thing will affect you more and others less.  As parents we cannot predict these things either. Just keep an open ear and give the kids time...

    Hugs! And another adult man hug to Juan, wherever he is.

    Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better. -- Harry S Truman

    by YucatanMan on Fri Jul 29, 2011 at 08:37:07 PM PDT

    [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site