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School has become the most valuable and important aspect of people’s lives. Teachers and classmates can change a person’s experience into good or bad, depending on how they interact with each other. Shame, I Became Her Target, and The Professor Is a Dropout describes the hardships on the author’s education during their childhood. The stories deal with racism, discrimination, and holding onto hope.
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Teachers are supposed to help guide the students to become successful and lead them to a brighter future. In I Became Her Target, Rodger Wilkins is a black student who faced racism and was treated poorly by his classmates. His teacher, Dorothy Bean, saw Wilkins differently. “She was the first teacher to give me a sense that thinking was a part of education and that I could form opinions that had some value,” (Wilkins 654). However, in The Professor Is a Dropout and Shame, Lupe Quintanilla and Dick Gregory had teachers who were derogatory to them. Lupe visited her children’s two teachers that stated, “Your children are just too slow. Sorry, but they can’t learn,” (Johnson 748). Gregory’s teacher also thought the same. “The teacher thought I was stupid. Couldn’t spell, couldn’t read, couldn’t do arithmetic,” (Gregory 646). Although Lupe and Gregory were disappointed and ashamed, Wilkins had a great teacher who made him feel as an equal (Wilkins 654).
Students are expected to interact and learn from their classmates. But, there are times when they become judgmental and start to hurt others based on their ethnicity, color of their skin, or social status. Wilkins lived in a new neighborhood where it “had previously been pristine… and that they were ignorant about black people,” (Wilkins 653). He was bullied by the students at school. “They threw stones at me, chased me home when I was at foot and spat on my bike seat… I was pretty lonely, friendless, and sometimes frightened kid,” (Wilkin 653-654). Wilkins did not have a close friend to rely on, nor support during his first few weeks at school. Likewise, Gregory felt confused and alone. He grew up in a poor family and was treated differently by his class. “It seemed like the whole world had been inside that classroom, everyone had heard what the teacher said, everyone had turned around and felt sorry for me,” (Gregory 647). In contrast, Lupe was “humiliated by the other children” and “teased her for being “so much older and dumber” than they were,” (Johnson 747). During her childhood, it was difficult to talk or play with her classmates because Spanish was the only language she knew (Johnson 747). At that time, people were narrow-minded and subjective towards others who were different to them.
These memoirs share a common theme of hope and inspiration. Gregory fell in love with Helene Tucker, “a light-complexioned” girl (Gregory 645). She was the “symbol of everything you want… her goodness, her cleanness, her popularity,” (Gregory 645). He wanted to impress her by dressing nicely, carrying a handkerchief, and brushing his hair. Helene was the only thing that kept him looking forward to everyday (Gregory 646). Another example, Dorothy Bean was Wilkins’ hope. “She was viewed as a very liberal person, who believed, among other things, that Negroes were equal… Thus, the teacher began to give me human dimensions,” (Wilkins 654). She was the first teacher to questioned and listened to him, whereas the other teachers would ignore he was even there, (Wilkins 654). In addition, Lupe was determined and “motivated by the love of her kids” that she “was not going to quit”,” (Johnson 749). Lupe was not leaving her children down the same path, so she taught herself and her children English (Johnson 751). Having a goal or a person to look up to, reminds people what they are capable of and to never give up hope.
The memoirs show firsthand accounts of the author’s education. Wilkins had a liberal teacher that gave him a chance and taught him valuable lessons, while Lupe’s and Gregory’s teachers were disapproving and hostile. Interacting with students was a conflict they all struggled; they would be prejudice or humiliate them based on their differences. However, the authors had someone whom they reminded them to keep going, no matter the hardships they had.
Being Different in Childhood Education. (2022, Oct 01).
Retrieved March 28, 2023 , from
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