When I was in fifth grade the teachers would separate the boys and girls to go to the bathrooms and then we would meet outside for recess. One day it was raining and our teacher was sick, so she didn’t want us to go outside. The teacher for the boys wasn’t sick so the boys went outside. At the time we didn’t know that our teacher didn’t want us outside because we could get sick. We thought it was a gender thing. At the Hernández they separate the boys and girls a lot, so you can see why we thought this. She told us we were being disrespectful when we said it wasn’t fair.
When I got home I wrote a letter to the principal (with the help of my mom). I just said that it wasn’t fair and the school should have a plan for when this happens. When I got to school the next day I was feeling too scared to give it to the principal. Then one of my friends asked me about the paper, and I told my friends about it. They asked if they could sign it, and eventually the whole girls’ table signed it. Even some of the boys signed it too.
That moment was so amazing to me because we all came together to agree that this was unfair. It gave me enough courage to leave the note in the principal’s mailbox. We were all so proud that we stood up for what was right. What surprised me the most was that at lunch the teacher that did not let us go outside came and yelled at us and told us the note was very disrespectful.
I remember the look on everyone’s faces when she got mad at us. I wish in that moment I had stood up and told her that from our perspective, no one was blaming her, and that we were not being disrespectful. We hadn’t done anything wrong.
Suddenly I grew ten feet tall and everything else seemed less scary. I looked down at the teacher and I saw fear creep onto her face. I looked over at my classmates and a smile grew on my face as I saw how proud they looked.
I looked back over at my teacher and said, “How can you say that we’re being disrespectful if you don’t even listen to our side of the story?”
The teacher looked up at me, still in awe at my height, but quickly tried to make it look like she hadn’t been intimidated the whole time. “I’m the teacher…” she started. “I know you kids think you’re better than adults but you have to listen.”
I looked over and suddenly saw my classmates had started growing too. When I looked back at my teacher I said, “I am listening, though. You’ve taught us to stand up for what we believe is right. All you’re doing is neglecting our feelings. Are you saying we should only tell you we don’t believe in something when it doesn’t bother you?”
My teacher began to shrink and her words seemed to have less and less power over us. “I—Um—”She tried to find the words to express herself.
¨You can just admit that she’s right. We have nothing against you,” one of the kids in my class said.
My teacher stepped forward and looked over at the other teacher in the class. She looked back at me and said, “I owe you guys an apology. I see what you were trying to say.” My classmates and I shrank back to our normal size and the teacher grew to her size.
“It’s okay. We have to learn from our mistakes.”
After that, my teacher went and discussed what they could change so we don’t have a problem like this again.
In the 2020 Young Authors’ Book Project, I Closed My Eyes and Imagined: Visions for a Better Boston, twelfth-graders at the Margarita Muñiz Academy and eighth-graders at the Rafael Hernández School paint a powerful, quirky, and authentic vision of what students want to see in their future and in the future of their city. The Muñiz seniors crafted op-eds on a social issue of their choosing, from climate change and internet access to raising the minimum wage and ending the school-to-prison pipeline. The Hernández eighth-graders wrote pieces about what life in Boston could be like if some of our city's biggest challenges had been solved—from racism and gender equality to difficulties with remote learning and the antics of mischievous younger siblings. Jennifer De Leon, writer, professor, and author of Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From, wrote the book’s foreword. [pvfw-embed viewer_id="9812" width="100%" height="800"]View In Store Read more from this book »