"Don't call me teacher! My name's Mr. Kay!" boomed the P.E. substitute.
His demanding this of six/seven year olds resembles attempting to train them to stand at attention for fifteen seconds: you might eventually accomplish it, but was it worth the cost? The potential destructiveness of his words wouldn't occur to me until it was too late.
After five consecutive days of teaching first grade mexicanitos in my first teaching year, my mental faculties had become dulled. I need to be more attentive.
Mr. Kay--the size of an NFL linebacker--apparently didn't know enough Spanish to manage my class of native speakers; and apparently didn't have much experience with six/seven year olds, or he would have known shouting in a not-understood tongue works as well as baying at the moon to stop its shining.
Towering over them in the gym, he possibly forgot U.S. history--that he acted as a representative of the gov't that stole half of Mexico from my class's ancestors, and that his behavior ("mal," as the entire class later evaluated him) perpetuated stereotypes about "los pinche gringos."
Mr. Kay might never have studied child psychology to know that even inadvertent brutality from someone in a position-in-trust can scar the mind of a six year old as permanently as his skin stays white.
As a newcomer, he never knew the child he screamed at the loudest--when she failed to understand his English instructions--was one of the highest readers, strongest mathematicians, most prolific writers, and a model student.
This snow-covered mountain of a man couldn't have predicted that his futile scolding of a girl at 2:30 would grate on her immature mind for at least two more hours, such that she wouldn't want to participate in our after-school program.
This guy-unknown-to-me might not have guessed that his onerous scathing had torn the child's self-confidence enough for her to plead to be pulled from that after-school program. (I worried she wouldn't come the next day.)
And he probably would have been surprised that this little girl would finally agree to stay in the program, only because if she didn't, her mother would have to quit work and her family would "stay poor", i.e., she would show tons more responsibility with her small act than he had with his spontaneous blaring.
No matter what was or wasn't true, when I discovered what he'd done, I clenched my fists, nearly broke down, felt 150 years of abuse of my own ancestors; I wanted to stomp into the gym and beat the fokk out of the idiot. I wanted to hit him until he sobbed like she had; I wanted to kick him until he pleaded as she had; I wished him to loose as much blood as she had lost self-esteem.
But I didn't. Not because it's uncivilized or unprofessional or inappropriate to do so. He just outweighed me in general, I was sapped by one of those colds the kids had gifted me and exhausted from five straight days of trying to reach kids' minds, to find the paths to touch their learning souls, where I could offer them the wonders of knowledge. Something Mr. Kay made more difficult that day.
So instead, I reported Mr. Big to the administration.
I don't know if/how he was reprimanded, since in America, even an Anglo child's anguish is not as valued as an adult's "integrity" (though behavior like this would have not have gone unpunished in Denver's posh Cherry Creek district). I know he can't be required to attend professional, sensitivity training, since Colorado education systems don't hold the nurturing of a mexicanita to be a cost-effective priority, like new roads. And I assume it would be considered outlandish for him to apologize to her, since that might insult his adult "professional standing."
The mission statement of our school describes it as "a bilingual community." One would wish that meant treasuring the Spanish speaker as equal to the English speaker, that no child would be badgered into submission because she had yet to learn the dominant language.
Some Americans continue the ignobility of 1845, even if out of ignorance. For instance you can got to go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/08/AR2005120802122.html?referrer=emailarticle to see how Manifest Destiny still sprouts on the Kansas prairie.
When the U.S. gov't and citizenry invaded and conquered the Southwest, they swore they advanced civilization in expropriating that land from an inferior people who spoke an inferior language.
Today's consensus is that Spanish is something immigrants should discard, get past, leave behind as soon as possible. As Americans, they should instead covet the English language, only. Spanish literacy should only serve the ASAP learning of English. It's unAmerican to speak too well with a two-forked tongue, and a waste of tax money. We don't know how to act, feel comfortable in a world that's not all-English.
However, a valued bilingualism would mean encouraging mexicano children to aspire to one day write great literature in two languages. To become great debaters in two languages. To argue cases in international courts, in two languages. (One would wish our school's mission statement wouldn't have to be modified to read: "a respected bilingual community, by order of the Court.")
Anyway, I avoided getting fired or beat up by writing this instead. And this also gave me reason to teach my class a new, survival phrase: "I don't understand enough English yet; it's futile to pontificate or yell at me." Unfortunately, even if Mr. Kay never shows his face around again, they may need to rely on it too often.
Rudy Ch. Garcia
N.B.: (I found out later Mr. Kay had also made an older girl break down when he joked that her short haircut made her look "like a boy," so his lack of "social tact" might one day also reward him a gender-issue lawsuit in a wealthier Denver neighborhood. Not that I'm wishing any bad on him.)