I must have mentioned at least several times that I hated school. I hated just about everything associated with it. At least part of many of the reasons why might be because of my first impression of it, which happened to be bad –not to mention that I entered into the school system when I was not yet even three years old.
When I think back on my early childhood school days, there is almost nothing positive I recall about going to school. When my friends in the neighborhood heard I was about to start school at the nursery only two blocks down from my house, they gave me a warning.
“Teachers there are scary,” a friend whose parents owned a convenient store next to the school told me.
“They like to spank children,” he added.
Back in those days, spanking was one way to discipline children with unacceptable behaviors. I told him that I’d probably be fine, because I was well-behaved in front of adults.
He quickly shook his head and continued, “Ask my mom: Every afternoon there’d be crying children stopping by for popsicles and snacks. Their parents told my mom that they were spanked from the school.”
“Watch out for the red lipstick teacher. She’s the most scary of all.” That was his last warning.
What do you know, I was spanked on the first day!
Later on, my grandmother said to my mother that the nursery teacher informed her that I was rebellious- that I didn’t obey my orders without questioning the authority. My side of the story, which I told my mother and grandmother, was that I felt none of the teachers spoke kindly with the children, and that they punished their students for no reason. I even added that I liked learning, but I didn’t like to be taught by mean teachers; and I liked my friends, but I wished that we would be in happier surroundings. Obviously, I didn’t put my feelings in these exact words, but something similar. (This story was recounted to me when I was in fifth grade.)
I remember about drafting a letter to my parents –as best as someone with a nursery education could- explaining why I should not go to school.
They took me for an interview at another school after I grew too big for the nursery. This school was to be the school that nurtured me until I reached ninth grade -before I came to America to continue in high school.
I started my kindergarten year and decided I really liked my kindergarten teacher. Unlike my nursery school teacher, my kindergarten teacher smiled and laughed a lot. She spoke with kind words, and she wore almost no make up. Still, I felt restricted by the school rules: rules that could not be broken or bent, ones that even my nice teacher had to obey. Who would think that simple rules such as those regarding nap time could become something that tormented me daily for a year. What about making children eat their vegetables? Those were such horrible things being forced on young children. Then, there was the story about not having enough chocolate milk for the afternoon snack, and I was stuck drinking strawberry-flavored milk which gave me a tummy ache every day. (The reason for that was we had to line up for snacks -from short to tall- according to our heights -and I was the tallest.)
Again, my grandmother told me years later that my teacher expressed the concern that, although I did what I was asked, I wasn’t happy doing it, and that I would ask a lot of questions about why things were the way they were.
Every night before bed, I would still explain to my parents why school wasn’t the place for me, and how I could learn better outside the school walls, in the hope that I wouldn’t have to get up to go to school in the morning. Yet, every morning I was awakened, dressed, fed, and put in the car to go back to the place where I had to refrain myself from wanting to break out from those rules.
One evening, my mother introduced me to the giant who lived on a branch of the satol tree just outside my bedroom window.
I didn’t exactly meet him, but my mother said he would only show up when a child did something very wrong, such as breaking rules, or not going to school.
She showed me a picture of him, while telling me that he and any giant guarding the gates at the temples were related. This giant on the satol branch had a special job, however, because he was to guard only me.
From that evening on, my parents neither had to listen to my reasons why I shouldn’t have to return to school the next day, nor read my kindergarten-level educated letter of a list of my reasons.
Instead, they listened every night to my one way conversation with the giant on the satol branch. As I tried to convince the giant why I thought education could be obtained outside a school’s classrooms, or asked him to trust -and not visit- me, should the day come when I decided not to go to school anymore; my parents were trying to hold back their laughter at me and my four-year-old logic.
I survived the giant. He never came from down the tree. However, I dreamed about him through the years, even now.