Written by: Kevin Jackson
It must have been in the first month of school when I got my first lesson in how unfair and unjust the world can be for a naïve trusting boy. I only attended half of my first year in school at Dell elementary school. Our teacher was out of the classroom and some of the kids were sharpening pencils and talking. I really had no friends, so I grabbed my pencil and headed to the back of the room. Some kids were standing around laughing. I approached them and they parted to let me in. I think his name was Randy, he had his hand on the crank of the sharpener. He said, in what I thought was a warm and inviting tone, “put your finger in here”. I knew what could happen, I wasn’t stupid in that way. So as bravely as I could, showing Randy that I trusted him, inserted my pinky finger into the pencil hole. Well, the obvious outcome commenced. As I screamed, another teacher came in and demanded to know what happened. I promptly told her…”Randy sharpened my finger”! Not knowing what else to do, she escorted Randy and I to Mr. Wileys’ room, where who would be there but my older sister, Lisa. He asked me what happened, I repeated what I had told our escort. A hushed chuckle came over the room, which added humiliation to my pain. When I thought the worst was over, Mr. Wiley, being the disciplinary teacher he was, paddled me with three hard licks. (for those who don’t know, corporal punishment was widely practiced then.) Randy, in turn received a much lighter three licks. You may think my memory tarnished here, but I assure you, I’m not distorting the truth. Remember, Lisa witnessed the rounds with the wooden paddle. I’m happy to say, I still have a fully functional pinky ( it just got slightly skinned). I didn’t learn to self advocate that day, but I took from it what I could.
It was in the sixth grade that I encountered the infamous Mr. Wiley again. He taught math in Central middle school in Blytheville. Still being the strong, and sometimes abusive, discipline over his class. He had a kind of “spock grip” he used on the guys of the class. Never the girls, even Mr. Wiley had some self restriction. Time after time I watched as he dug his thumb into that tender pressure point on the shoulder, close to the neck, as they all squirmed as if to go… to their knees, but were held up by the iron grip. I knew my turn would come. Mr. Wiley did remember me. He looked up from the role call and slowly called my name on the first day of school. All the memories were obviously coming to him as he checked me present. I thought if I do my work and keep my head down, I’ll get a pass. Afterall he had shown me who the boss is already, right? Wrong. My day came. He stood in front of the class a summoned me forward. I had a great resentment for him and I steeled my nerves as I did what I was told to do. I refused to give him the satisfaction of seeing me squirm at his death grip. The pain was intense. I don’t remember what he said to me then, it took all my focus to stand there and ignore my burning neck as he looked at a paper that I think was mine, seeming oblivious to any discomfort he might cause. When he finally looked at me, puzzled, looked where his hand was as if it might be misplaced. He released me and said “Are we clear.” I responded and took my seat. That was all anyone could talked about the rest of the day. “That had to hurt, “How’d you do that?” “Are you numb there?” On and on. I enjoyed the attention but I really hope Mr. Wiley never forgot, I won’t break! It is something I’ll never forget, I just hope that he saw in me the rebellion against his abuse. What else can a sixth grader do? My dad could have broken him, although he would have never handled it that way. A look might have been enough to make him wet his pants. I have prayed for him. Maybe he found some love after all.