Mackie and Bon
I wouldn’t say I was depressed, but I had a sadness on my heart that translated into blatant defiance and what some might call disrespect. I didn’t want to be told anything, and I had just about as much as I could take with the many changes of life before I saw the age of sixteen. No, there wasn’t a party to celebrate, nothing special gifted, it was simply a day like all the others. I missed the energy of celebration that lives in the air on the twin isles, the local foods and fetes, and the friends who had now become family. If I flashback, everything changed and life got a bit more manageable when we moved to De Gannes Village, and I started at St Christopher’s Anglican. The transition was a lot easier than expected, and I wasn’t as much of an interest for teachers and students. Having learned the basic norms of school, I had the correct supplies, proper pens, and knew to stay quiet unless spoken to directly. What I didn’t have, was the correct uniform, so here I sat again, waiting on a seamstress to prepare my latest daily fashions. I do not have many memories of the teachers or other school staff, but the two responsible for the primary instruction of my standard, painted an unpleasantly vivid picture. My salve, I had friends to share in the torment, and overall hatred we felt, so my days of being the isolated outsider had come to an end.
Mr. Winston McIntosh, who I despised, not only did he come to work every day with the goal of breaking the ass of a child, his additional crime was his inability to chew without making a sound. How boldface of him to eat a sandwich with such noise, I wondered how his wife could stand him at all. He annoyed me, his slightly balding head, excessive mustache, and bow legged gait caused my face to remain in a perpetual scowl every time he walked into the classroom. I also thought his pants were entirely too tight, ball bulge not appropriate, but I am sure he assumed he was an example of educated fashion. He was fierce with the whip, seemed like he gained pleasure from beating the shit out of children and calling them dunce, especially Nigel. I have no idea where Nigel is today, but if I were him, I would have waited for “Mackie” as we called him, after school in a drain and slung steaming hot chicken shit into his windows as he drove his old car home to Santa Flora, hot, steaming, shit!
Mackie spent time picking his tool, we always saw him under the trees in the early morning. Most times we watched, as we finished a piece of fry bake and cheese, or sada roti with potato, always giving a friend a piece, and waited. He preferred a green branch from the guava tree, always removing the leaves, his desire was maximum discomfort and mental dominance through fear of the next sharing of licks. To hell with that, I wouldn’t give his balding ass the satisfaction, I would make his life hell on days that I was afforded the opportunity. He liked to pull the shorts of the boys tight, so that you could see the welp forming on their skin through the fabric, and don’t dare squirm, that resulted in an extended beating! I simply didn’t understand why this was ok, I could understand a tap for misbehavior, extra school clean up, even penance, but this disturbed me. At this age I had no real in-depth knowledge about how our minds have been shaped by childhood traumas, but looking back, this was no way to discipline children, this was abuse. Many people will disagree and that’s fine, say children changed after they took beating out of schools, bla bla bla, that’s your business, this was mistreatment. Beating children breeds nothing but anger, discipline, correction, positive reinforcement, always followed with love is what we teach them, and that is what matters most.
In my quest to disrupt his peace, I learned that nothing annoys teachers more than subtitle disrespect. Most question those actions, and wonder if they heard you correctly, yet can’t punish what they aren’t quite sure you did wrong. Why should a teacher be remembered and well known in the community for skinning the asses of children without mercy? You explain how that creates an environment built on learning and not trauma and fear? A quiet classroom with students facing front, silent and breathing, does not guarantee a healthy learning environment is being fostered. I can’t recall learning anything in his class, all we did was recite, and rotate until it was time to change lessons with his counterpart, Ms. Bon.
Lucille Bon seemed to be driven by the same anger and poor teaching practices but had an abundance of religious fervor and judgement. Plump, stocky in stature, a very short afro framed her round head with a nose like a pig. She had awful allergies, cleaned her nose excessively, snorted and hacked constantly. She used to scratch her throat in a manner that made this knocking sound and in my mind I thought something about this can’t possibly be considered good manners, yet she constantly criticized children night and day for their lack of intelligence, inability to recall math facts, and co-sign on her views about the “lord”. I wondered if the “lord” would approve of your teaching methods, and your overall disdain for your children and girls in general.
Her husband drove her to work most days, and others she walked. Parents she passed would wave and smile, teachers are well respected members of the community, they could do no wrong in the eyes of parents. What I didn’t understand was how could parents be ok with such awful treatment and what seemed like a daily rotation of simple repetition? We already sat in a hot classroom, with open air windows called louvers, if the rain was heavy we might get a bit of spray, in close proximity to other students, at times with almost no personal space. Some days we had to stand for hours, and those who simply “could not learn” were further ridiculed by being forced in a corner to kneel down. I often wondered what purpose kneeling served, but remember, I was an uneducated child with no manners from the States so not much was expected of me anyhow. But why weren’t parents outraged?
Bon ruled with a whip as well, and her sharp tongue shamed children who were unclean and performed poorly. The only thing I remember learning during class time was vocabulary and multiplication facts. We recited them constantly, inside, outside, in the morning, and in the blazing sun. Ms Bon did redeem herself somewhat during Saturday lessons, I was allowed to attend and this was where she actually prepared us for the Common Entrance exam. Maybe it’s because we were paying extra money and it was on her personal time that she behaved like an educator. Had I not witnessed this myself, I would not have believed she had the capacity to actually teach a child anything but self hate and dwindling self esteem under the guise of instruction.
Nobody will come out and say that students were divided based on if they were deemed “bright” but that is exactly what happened. Teachers won’t admit to having favorites, but they do. It’s usually a sweet Indian girl I observed, at times a boy, perfectly mannered, soft spoken, light sheen of coconut oil on the hair, bright as a bulb, and always a pleasure to teach. You can never be angry with this child, you love them, but you are disgusted by the teacher’s blatant favoritism. In our class, it was Peter, Mr. Presentation College and we can’t forget Susanne of Bishops. These were the favorites, and we didn’t begrudge them, both lived up to the expectation of their family, teachers and peers with passing for their desired schools. Hopefully the continued early encouragement and success allowed them to fulfill their life dreams, I just thought it was sad that other students who needed the same reinforcements were denied. Teachers treated those who they knew would provide a pass for a prominent school as their main priority, others were just lucky to receive the crumbs. If your parents didn’t have the money to send you to lessons on the weekends or after school, your possibilities were seen as limited.
Life in Trinidad wasn’t easy, and many students went home to extreme poverty, sexual abuse, and frequent beatings because they could never maintain the expected level of academic performance to satisfy their teachers and parents. I received my share at home as well, and many harsh words about my school antics and misbehavior. Not once did anyone question what might be going on in school, but adults are usually oblivious to any suffering that wasn’t their own. Sadly, this was the reality of life, and as children your job was to stay silent, and carry on.
Much Love from the brown girl, sharing short stories for Blogtober, keep writing, even if no one is reading❤️
Nyri~The Unnerved Traveler