This is Part Nine of a Nine Part Series
If I owned a Gucci pantsuit I would have worn that for my meeting with Mrs. H. That was how badly I needed to be in battle amour. K pronounced that my outfit was perfect for the purpose at hand. The day was easier than I had thought it would be. Today was J's day to take her favorite snack to share with the class. Given the pattern of disappointments that she had dealt with since the beginning of the week, I had not given it to her to take to her class. I told J, I would bring it in when I went to meet Mrs. H in the afternoon.
The previous night I had been talking with M about this whole fiasco and he said something interesting. "It seems to me that you bear a great deal of resentment for this teacher. Why is that ?" I had no idea but it was true that I did not like Mrs H very much. I think we started off on a bad note from the first time she sent a note home addressed to Mrs (J's Last Name). Her denial of my existence and entity peeved me greatly. From that point on, everything went further south.
The few times that we had met previously she seemed intent on establishing that I was a single mother of very slender means who could ill afford the smallest luxuries in a child's life. Finally, she gave me minimal credit for knowing what teaching methods worked best for my child. For some reason she viewed me as an adversary who was bent on challenging her authority when in fact that was far from the truth.Maybe it was something about my personality or how I came across to her. It could be one of many things.
M was telling me about the Latin root of the word resent
We had talked about my need to maintain my composure in order to have a meaningful discussion with her. He had a suggestion. "Maybe you should try wishing for something good to happen to her tomorrow. Something you would want for yourself. That might help reduce your resentment and chanel some positive energy between the two of you". I thought that was a very interesting idea and it would not hurt to try.
My meeting with Mrs. H lasted almost an hour and we did part on better terms than we had been on until then. Based on both versions of the story (J's and hers) I concluded that she had indeed treated my child differently than the other kids. It was done so subtly that a kid not as hyper sensitive as J would not even have noticed.
She was forthcoming on her own about having called J to her desk after reading my note because she was so surprised to learn how differently J recalled the events and she was hardly a forgetful child. Our conversation was a two dimensional thing. There was one meaning that was being conveyed directly and another that was suggested in an pregnant undertone. What I did not say was just as important as what I did and I from her facial expression and body language I could tell she was guilty of what J had felt "I was treated differently than the other kids".
On the positive side, I came away realizing that race had little or nothing to do with the whole episode. Mrs H was acting out of her dislike of me and unfortunately for J she became a victim of an unspoken war between two adults. She is competing with me as a parent and for some reason believed that the poster that I helped my child create was a sign of my victory over her, that I was the superior parent despite being divorced. When I told all this to K the next day she said "Yeah, women can be catty sometimes. But its better than her being a redneck !" My other friends were relieved as well though everyone admitted that on surface it bore all the signs of discrimination. It would be imprudent of me to not continue to monitor things closely for the rest of the school year.
I am not sure what the events of the week taught me about my identity as a single parent, a mother, a minority of color in a snooty white neighborhood, about my ethnically diverse friends, my child and not to mention Mrs H. It seems like I have opened a Pandora's box and don't have the least idea how to close it. I am not sure if I consciously decided not to see the racial element in Mrs. H's behavior with J knowing fully well that I was powerless to change it.
Maybe I decided that it was me the person, the woman and the mother that she disliked and not the color of my skin and my ethnicity. Maybe I was seeking to escape from something that made me so sick that I had to lay down and rest all Saturday to recover my normal functionality. Maybe I have gone into denial about the truth as I saw it and want to gloss it over so J and I can go on with life as usual.