School was not my thing. Kindergarten was a total drag. I didn’t understand why I had to sit in class for hours while people learned their ABCs and to count. It all seemed like a major waste of my time. At 6 years old, I thought I had better things to do. My teacher got on my nerves. I remember this one time she wanted me to color Christopher Columbus and I refused. I thought it was stupid to spend all day talking about a man who supposedly discovered unknown land. You can’t discover anyplace where there were already people there. I chose to spend my coloring time with my head on my desk. My Grandma taught me about Native Americans, and how they were the first people here. I wasn’t about to participate in a celebration that honored the man who instigated the genocide of the indigenous peoples of North America. I got a chance to explain my view to the class and my teacher. Instead of my teacher respectfully challenging my views, all she said was, “Just color it,” in a stern tone.
I remember thinking to myself, “Talking to me like that is no way to get what you want from me.” I shut down completely. I pushed the paper to the side of my desk and put my head down. I wasn’t disruptive or rude, but I was frustrated and angry that she was teaching 16 young minds distorted facts. I mean, I had to be in that place 5 hours a day. And for what, to learn the wrong stuff? At that moment, I didn’t care how my teacher felt, and I doubt she cared how I felt. I knew I wasn’t going to color because I didn’t want to. But I was even more peeved that she sent me home with a note.
I locked myself in the bathroom while my mother read the note. I was too scared to come out. She spoke to me through the door for a while until I felt comfortable enough to come out. When I got out, she sat me down at the kitchen table and asked me again if I wanted to color the paper the teacher sent home or get a bad grade. I told her, “Mommy, I just can’t do it. I don’t believe in it.” She said “Well, you’re never supposed to do anything you don’t believe in.” She kissed me on my head and got up out of her chair, while she was pushing it in, I said, “Mommy, I don’t want to do the Pledge of Allegiance.” “What’s wrong with the Pledge of Allegiance, Cherie?” she asked. “It’s just lame, Mommy. We are not one nation under God. If we were, people wouldn’t kill people and hurt children. I believe in God, Mom, but everyone doesn’t.” She just looked and me then finally said, “No, Cherie you do not have to say it, but you have to stand up with the rest of the class, ok.” “Ok, Mommy but I’m not putting my hand over my heart either.” “Fine, Cherie,” she said as she walked away to make dinner. I felt like I won! That is the earliest memory I have of negotiating.
Maybe some things are in your genes….