We read many words today that describe and categorize people. Some are positive, but many are negative and over used. "Retards", "deplorables" "nerds" and "white trash" and some words for other ethnic persons which cannot be printed here.
I sometimes wonder what ever happened to "born in the image of God" in our culture today?
Courtesy of a teacher's story in one of the "Chicken Soup series," sheds some light on one of those words. She writes on her first day as a teacher it was going so well and teaching would be a breeze. That is until the 7th period. As she walked to the room, she heard furniture crashing and found one boy pinning down another on the floor saying, "I don't give a _ _ _ _ about your sister". She was trying to quiet them down when another teacher stuck his head in and shouted at her students to sit down, shut up, and do what the teacher says.
She tried to teach the lesson, and when the students were leaving she stopped the kid who had started the fight. "Lady, don't waste your time," he said, "We're the 'retards'. Then he left the room. Her day was ruined and she reconsidered the teaching bit.
In talking to the other teacher she got a history on the class. There were 14 int he class and the other teacher said don't bother with them for they will never graduate anyway. They live in shacks, they are migratory labor, they come to school when they feel like it, just keep them busy and quiet, and if they cause any trouble, send them to me.
She could not get the word "retard" out of her mind. Next day she returned to the class room and wrote ECINAJ on the board. "That's my first name, can anyone tell me what it is?"
"Weird," they said. She went to the board again and wrote JANICE, that was her name, and she then told the class she was dyslexic and in school she could not write her name correctly. She was labeled "retarded" and could still hear the voices and feel the shame. One of the kids asked why she became a teacher. She told the kids she hated labels, was not stupid, and loved learning. She went on to say that this class was no longer about "retards". "If you want to remain, 'retard,' then change classes, but we will never hear the word in this class, for there not any retards in this class room". Janice was serious and worked with the kids and worked them hard.
The months flew by. The kids learned to read. They became concerned about how they talked and so began grammar as well.
Summer was coming and Janice was planning a marriage and a move, and the students were agitated about her leaving, and she wondered if they were angry at her leaving.
On the last day of school, the stern Principal greeted Janice and asked her to follow him, that there was a problem with her room. "What now," she wondered. It was amazing. There were sprays of flowers in each corner, flowers on each student desk, filing cabinets, and a huge spray on her desk. With them being poor, how had they pulled it off?
The boy who had started the fight, worked part-time in a flower shop. He had asked the florist for the "tired" flowers in the shop. Then he called the Funeral homes, explained his class needed flowers, and they agreed to give him flowers saved after each funeral. The real tribute came later when all 14 graduated and 6 earned scholarships.
I was deeply touched by this story for I too, had some learning difficulties as a child. We also had a class in Jr. High called the Opportunity Class. It was a class of 'retards' and I was always curious as I peeked into their class for time to time. I hope they were treated well but that was a long time ago and times have changed.
Humans, if they hear labels about themselves especially negative ones come to believe them. I am constantly remind myself to use positive ones.