23: Speak Up

23: Speak Up

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom

Speak Up

Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself, you should speak up even if you don’t get the answer you were looking for; it’s the fact that you said something that matters.

~Author Unknown

“No, I don’t want to go to school anymore. Anyway, I can’t find my backpack,” I protested.

My mom looked at me, puzzled. “What’s going on? Why don’t you want to go to school?”

“I can’t find my backpack. Besides, I don’t like school anymore! Can you teach me here at home, please?”

My mom remained adamant. “What is the real reason you don’t want to go to school? Is someone bothering you?”

“No! I just don’t like school anymore, and I can’t go to school without my backpack. That’s where I have my homework.”

Earlier that morning I had sneaked into the back yard and, attempting to hide my backpack, I’d thrown it on the roof. My mom walked straight into the back yard and pointed up to the roof.

“Maria, isn’t that your backpack?”

My heart sank. How did she know it was up there? My brilliant plan had backfired.

At the beginning of the school year I had been so happy to start second grade. I had a few friends and we were always playing and talking about school and planning new adventures for our weekends. I had my routine. Every day after school I would take off my uniform and get it ready for the next day. I had a jump rope that I took to school and only my friends and I could use it. School was fun. After school I would tell my mom all about my day and everything that had happened.

But now I didn’t want to go back. And Mom was trying to get to the root of the problem. I finally gave in and told her, “I don’t want to go to school anymore because the teacher pinches me on my arm and sometimes on my back.”

Very calmly Mom said, “Okay, let’s go; I’m going to have a talk with her.” At that moment I regretted telling my mom about the pinching. I pleaded with her to forget what I’d said.

I had the whole scenario down in my mind. I could see it. After the meeting my teacher was going to slap me and continue to pinch me and separate me from my friends. I was terrified, but my mom grabbed me by the hand and took me to school.

We arrived late. My teacher came to the door and said, “Good morning. What is going on?” I did not respond; I was paralyzed with fear.

Mom took charge by saying, “Good morning. I am Maria’s mother, and I’m here because my daughter does not want to come to school anymore. She says you pinch her arm and her back.”

My teacher glared at me with a piercing gaze that sent chills down my spine. She proceeded by saying, “What a little liar you are, Maria. When have I ever done those things to you?”

I wished the floor under me would open and swallow me. I wanted to disappear, but my mother courageously said, “I don’t think Maria has a reason to lie, but let me tell you something. My daughter does not come to school to be punished; she comes to school to learn. And if there is a problem with her behavior, you can send me a note. I need to make sure you understand that if this punishment continues I’m going to have a meeting with the principal, and if that does not give me good results, I will go to the district. Do you understand my concern?”

The teacher changed her tone and said, “I’m sorry for this misunderstanding. It will never happen again.”

My mother gave me a hug and a kiss and left. As I walked inside the classroom I heard a tender sweet voice directing me to my seat. It was my teacher saying, “Maria, take your seat. We are reading page 22.”

After that magical day my life at school changed. My teacher treated me decently, and I was not afraid to go to school anymore. She never pinched me or anyone else in my class that year.

That day I learned you don’t have to be a victim, and that when you speak up people listen. Even though this incident happened many years ago, that day my mom became my hero. This experience gave me the courage to speak up throughout my adult life whenever I encounter an injustice, which is something I’ve passed on to my children.

~Maria Calderon Sandoval

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