Most authors are inspired by an event in their lives or by something they’ve read about in a newspaper. In my case, it was personal. I had a heartrending experience that I never forgot. I was a substitute teacher for an elementary school. I had subbed for this one class before, but this day was different. This day something was definitely wrong and I was not sure what it was. As I moved toward the back of the room, I noticed a desk that was hidden behind a bookshelf. I peered around the corner and saw an eight-year-old girl resting her head against her arms.
I was surprised. Why was this student separated from the rest of the children? Why was she hidden behind this bookshelf… alone? One of the students volunteered, “She has to sit there because she’s a trouble-maker and doesn’t do her schoolwork and fights with the boys at recess.”
She was a slender and pretty young girl. After excusing the children, I talked to her. It took quite a while to soften her angry eyes and her rebellious attitude. But after a time, I had the young girl smiling. I moved her desk beside my own so she could be near me. As the day wore on, I spent much time with this young girl, helping her, talking to her, having her pass out papers to the students, and sat beside her during a music class. By the end of the day, I had grown to love this young student and my heart went out to her. She had been abused by her peers and was misunderstood, simply because a teacher had labeled her as a troublemaker. No one seemed to befriend her or show they cared.
At the end of the day, I was supposed to write a note about the young girl’s behavior so she could give it to her parents. After the class was empty, I packed up and walked out the door. To my surprise, the mother walked up to me with the note and asked, “Did you write this?” After acknowledging that I had, the young mother’s eyes welled up with tears as she said, “Her teacher has never written anything positive about my daughter. I want to thank you very much. This means a lot to me.”
As a mother and substitute teacher, I am not perfect by any means and I have days of impatience just like everyone else, blurting out something in frustration. A teacher’s job is a difficult one and I know it. I appreciate what teachers do to educate our youth, but many times we have to remind ourselves that when we do blurt out something unkind, then we must humble ourselves and ask forgiveness. Children tend to forgive so easily.
This experience affected me quite a bit and I never forgot it. I remember when my own eight year old daughter was labeled as a troublemaker, simply because she was an active child. Her teacher didn’t know how to cope with a lively child and had given her a negative label. This broke my heart and I didn’t know what to say or do. I realized that her self-esteem was being hurt. The following year, my daughter’s new teacher was an elderly woman who adored my little girl. She said that she realized my daughter had a tough time sitting still, so she allowed her to stand at her desk as she did her work. Because of the love of a teacher, my daughter wanted to try harder. This sweet elderly teacher helped to boost my little girl’s self-esteem.
Why do teachers have to give negative labels to children? It tears them down and degrades them in front of their peers. My husband told me about a young classmate of his, whom the teacher had labeled “dummy,” simply because he was slow. The students soon picked up on it and the boy lived with this label until he left school. How would he have turned out if the teacher had labeled him something positive? What if he was labeled as “one who really tries,” “one who can create with his hands,” or “one who is kind to others?”
I soon realized that negative labeling was something that had been going on for years. A few months later, I sat down and wrote a historical romance novel, “Melinda and the Wild West: A Family Saga in Bear Lake, Idaho.” This story is about a teacher who helps a rebellious student, but it’s a rugged rancher who challenges Melinda with the one thing for which she was least prepared—love. I always try to uplift and entertain in each of my books. This historical romance series is for teens and adults.