The Turning Point

Second grade was awful!

It truly was a nightmare of epic proportions. One might ask how second grade could be that bad. Well, I’ll set the scene for you.

In the middle of my first-grade year, my mother thought it would be cool to send me to private school. She asked me, and I went along with it because my best friend was there. So, how bad can it be? Little did I know I was entering into the proverbial lion’s den. The second half of first grade wasn’t that bad. There aren’t any negative memories that have stuck with me. However, I do remember feeling like an outsider. This was manifested times 50 when I entered second grade. My second-grade teacher did not like me. I know kids say that all of the time. However, I have plenty of experience to back this claim. Before I go there, let me give you some background on me.

When second grade hit, I was angry.

My parents got divorced at a time where the subject was taboo. I was mad because I wanted my dad, but he was nowhere to be found. It was quite the change with no answers to a plethora of questions. And I wanted answers now. As life goes, the answers wouldn’t come until years down the road. So, I had to cope. I just didn’t know how. I was surrounded by children in two-parent homes which were a constant reminder of my situation.

And some of these kids were mean.

I got picked on six ways from Sunday. It was only one or two children, but that’s all you need to make a child’s life miserable. One particular child, let’s name him Jason, made it his mission to mess with me every chance he got. On the playground. During lunch. At recess. You name the scholastic location, and we probably got into it. Even in the classroom.

Cue my second-grade teacher.

Mrs. K loved Jason. It was like the kid could do no wrong. The usual situation went as such. Jason would aggravate me. I would retaliate. I would get in trouble. This went on almost the entire year. One particular situation happened like this. We were in the gym playing tag or some burn energy game. Joyous laughter echoed off the walls of the gym. I was playing with another group of kids when Jason decided to kick me out of the stark blue middle of nowhere. This was a shock, and I resorted to what I did best at the time.

Fight back.

I remember chasing Jason and hitting top speed in 2.5 seconds. Revenge was mine. All the while, Mrs. K. saw the entire situation, but she only called my name. In hindsight, I heard her, but it didn’t register. I was focused on payback. I took a flying, Bruce Lee-esque, leap and the sole of my shoe landed squarely in Jason’s abdomen.

Mission complete.

Within seconds of my landing, I got snatched by the arm and pulled out of the gym. Once we were in the hallway, I got spanked.

Yup, Mrs. K. reared back and gave me a good swat on the backside. I received the “angry parent” arm drag to my desk. She chastised me and went back to the other children in the gym. I sat at my desk forlorn, dejected, and crying. If only I had the words to express my feelings. If only I could explain the situation. Second graders don’t really know how to verbalize their feelings in an adult like manner (neither do some adults). So, I was stuck. Even if I could explain things, Mrs. K. wouldn’t have cared. I was the problem in her eyes. To my knowledge, not a word was said to Jason. Within two or three minutes, the class waltzed back in and he sat down carefree.

Needless to say, my mom made several trips to the school to speak to Mrs. K. and the principal regarding my behavior. The school was adamant that I had Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Things got so bad that teachers and even the lunch ladies couldn’t stand my presence. At. All. What a nightmare!! An 8-year-old with low-self esteem, no friends, and the feeling of being alone every time he stepped in school was hated by adults.Thankfully, my mom ended the private school experiment and I attended my original school the next year.

Cue my third grade teacher.

Third grade could have been just as hectic as the prior year. I moved to a new school which means adjusting to new expectations. New faces, familiar building. Would I receive a fresh start? I surely did, and I give thanks to God for using my third grade teacher.

Mrs. Thompson was my scholastic turning point. She took a little boy with a broken heart and allowed him to heal. And get this: She didn’t always coddle me!! I still got in trouble, but she was effective in commanding my respect and allowing me to voice frustrations. She let me be me. I even got to separate myself from the pack so I could have a sense of identity. I was one of three Jareds (not how to spell my name) in the class. She allowed everyone to call me by my middle name, Rishod. The other children took to it, and they were nice. To this day, some of my classmates still call me by my middle name over 20 years later.

Her class was also my first taste at presenting black history to a crowd. I did a report on Martin Luther King, Jr., and presented it to the class. I was nervous, and I found out I could get the other kids to laugh. So, I resorted to that tactic. She politely helped me put my books on the stand, and gave me a “you can do it” look. That’s all I needed.

Mrs. Thompson helped build my confidence. For that, I am forever grateful.

School continued to get better after third grade. I had a few bumps in the road, but I was no longer the “bad kid with no hope.” I was a regular, intelligent, athletic, social student. It’s wild how kids will turn out if you just give them a chance. Remember that when you run into a child that is labeled. Sometimes, their actions are reflecting a deep sense of hurt.

All they need is their turning point.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Eddie Gilliam says:

    Great post. I know 1st hand what you went through. I was there when it happened. I now see how that bad experience made you the strong educationed man who going places. Keep it up. Your pain became your gain.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jody says:

    After what was likely my worst week in 9 years teaching at-risk youth this story lifted me. May I always be the 3rd grade teacher.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jarrod Brown says:

      Good! I’m glad the story lifted you. If I know you like I believe I do, you’re a wonderful teacher and those kids will look back on you with fondness.


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