It has been a long, long, long time since my junior high days… decades, in fact. And yet, there is one moment in my junior high experience that remains fresh in my mind: the time my mama, a soft-spoken woman, ripped my biology teacher up one side and down the other.
It all started on a cold spring morning. I was getting readt to get dressed for the day before heading to school. As I was standing in front of my closet trying to select an outfit, my mother opened the door. “Because it is so cold out this morning, you should wear something warm. But it is going to get hot this afternoon, so take shorts and a t-shirt to change into before you walk home.”
That sounded like a plan, so I grabbed a pair of jeans for the “to” trip and a pair of shorts for the “from” trip. After a quick breakfast and an even quicker goodbye, I rushed out the door. Although the school was only a mile away, the chill in the air made me glad that I was wearing pants and a long-sleeved shirt.
Slightly shivery by the time I reached the front doors, I hurried inside to my warmer homeroom.
The day passed quickly, and the temperatures outside and inside began to rise as the spring sunshine heated up. By the time my sixth-period biology class came around, I was sweating. I asked my teacher if I could please go to the bathroom so that I could change. “No,” she said, so I was forced to swelter through the heat of the afternoon until the class concluded.
I then hurried down to my seventh-period shop class. Unfortunately, the shop was even hotter than the biology lab. Certain I would melt before the end of class, I asked the teacher if I could go to the bathroom to change. “Sure,” he said, so off I went.
After peeling off those jeans and putting on my shorts, I felt about 20 degrees cooler and ready to work on my leather project. Picking up a hammer and the stamps, I proceeded to pound my name into the bracelet, oblivious to the rising temperatures thanks to my cooler clothing.
When class was finished, I put away my tools and headed out to the final period of the day, rushing upstairs to the second floor. I hurried through the hallway, saying hello to my biology teacher en route. However, I had only gone a few steps when she called me over. “Weren’t you wearing jeans earlier?” she asked.
“Yes, I was, but I changed during shop class.”
“Where did you change?” she asked.
“In the shop bathroom,” I responded. She did not seem happy with my answer, but as she said nothing further, I said goodbye and headed to my last class of the day.
I had just sat down in class and opened my textbook when my biology teacher appeared in the doorway and asked to talk with my English teacher. A few minutes later, my English teacher told me that I needed go get my things from my locker and head down to the principal’s office. I was confused. What did I do? Everyone else in the class was looking at me, wondering the same thing. Embarrassed, I grabbed my book and hurried to my locker.
When I got to the principal’s office, the receptionist told me to take a seat until the principal was ready to see me. About ten minutes later, his door opened and my biology teacher told me to come in. The principal walked out briefly to talk with the receptionist, then came back in, sitting behind his desk with a serious expression on his face. After looking at me for a moment, he said, “I am sure you know why you were called in here.” I wasn’t, so I shook my head no.
He looked to my teacher to elaborate, which she gladly did. According to her, I was not permitted to change my clothes at school. And, to make matters worse, I changed in the shop bathroom. I was confused. Why did she care if I changed my clothing? Other kids change outfits after gym class or just because? And why was the shop bathroom even an issue? “I don’t understand,” I said. She then went on and on about right and wrong and inferred that the shop teacher was not on the up-and-up. She lectured me for some time and was only silenced by a light knock on the door.
“Come in,” said the principal. It was my mother, who looked fit to be tied and slightly sweaty to boot. As Mom did not have a car, she had to walk to school in the heat. “Uh-oh,” I thought. “This is not good.”
My mother sat down beside me and asked the principal why I, an A student with no disciplinary issues, had been called to the office. Before the principal could answer, my teacher started slinging accusations and casting aspersions. My mother listened quietly, allowing my teacher to talk until she ran out of steam. When she had finished her diatribe, my mother sat still and silent, looking back and forth between my teacher and the principal.
“So let me get this straight… You do not think that my daughter should have changed her clothes?”
“That’s right,” replied my teacher.
“And, if I am hearing you correctly, you don’t think that she should have changed in the shop bathroom because the shop teacher is a pervert?”
“Oh no, I never said that,” said my teacher.
“But you implied it,” responded my mother, who then went quiet for a moment while looking back and forth between the teacher and principal.
The principal tried to smooth over the situation, but my mother was having none of it. Before he could mansplain, my mother stopped him in his tracks.
“My daughter did EXACTLY as I told her to do. She brought a change of clothes to wear this afternoon when it got hot. So, the whole issue you have with her changing her clothes is silly. Kids change their clothes all the time. What’s the big deal? Because the shop teacher is a pervert? I can’t imagine that the school would allow such a person to work here. Right?” she asked the principal.
“No, of course not,” he replied.
“So, the shop teacher is not a problem, and my daughter had MY permission to change her clothes. Why again did she get into trouble and why was I called to the school?”
My mother then gave the principal a withering look, the one my siblings and I call the stink eye. I swear that the principal began squirming in his seat. He hemmed and hawed, unable to explain why it had come to this.
My mother then looked at my teacher and said, “If you are finished wasting my time, I will be taking my daughter home now.” We then got up and left the office. As we walked away, I could hear the principal raising his voice to my teacher.
My mother and I walked out the front door, passing the other students boarding the buses. After we were off-campus, I turned to her and said, “Wow, Mom, I can’t believe you did that!”
My mother was quiet for a moment before saying, “Now I don’t want you talking that way to your elders, but it felt good to tell them off! Now, let’s get home. It’s hot out here.”