To The Nurse That Told Me To Stop Speaking Spanish
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To The Nurse That Told Me To Stop Speaking Spanish

Thank You

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To The Nurse That Told Me To Stop Speaking Spanish
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Hello ma'am,

I don't know if that's your preferred way to be addressed by those younger than you, but I learned that it is a way to address women. I was in 6th grade when we had our lovely conversation. Except, it wasn't much of a conversation because the words you spoke didn't make sense to me at the time, so I couldn't answer whatever it was you were saying. Now, I understand that you're a school nurse and you must see children in your office quite often so you may not remember me and that's fine, but I certainly remember you.

Let me just remind you how everything went.

It was a lovely and boring morning at John Adams Middle School. I was in my Language Arts class sitting in the back of the room trying to make sense of the gibberish coming out of the teachers mouth. Lord knows why I was in a Language Arts class when I clearly didn't speak any English. It was my first week of school but it must have been the third month for all of my other classmates. The teacher was reading from a book that the whole class seemed to own except for me because someone forgot to give me the Spanish memo. She began to call out on my classmates to read out loud who would later call out another student once they finished a paragraph. There I was, being so afraid that I'd get called out to read words that I've no idea how to pronounce. I knew the alphabet but I had never seen the combination of letters that the book contained.

Luckily for me, I was called out of the classroom by some lady I had never met. Still, I didn't know what it was for. The lady made a hand motion at me to follow her, so I did. She took me to your office, ma'am. There was a line going outside the door to your office and the lady that took me motioned for me to stay there. Being the curious eleven year old that I was, I began to wonder why I was brought there. Now this right here is the best part.

I noticed that the two guys standing in line ahead of me were speaking in Spanish. They were the first two individuals that I saw at the school that were speaking my native tongue besides my brother and cousin. I was in the process of asking them why we were brought there but my question was cut short due to your grand entrance. You came out of your office, pointed at me and in what I can only assume was your best attempt at Spanish:

"Esto es Norte America. No hablamos Español."

In case you forgot what that means in English, you said: "This is North America. We don't speak Spanish"

I will never forget those words. Each of them, a cold dagger stabbing me and causing confusion. I remember thinking to myself that I've only ever known North America. Mexico, which is where I am from, is a part of North America. It is, right? I began to doubt my own knowledge while I feel ashamed for not speaking English. I looked down at the floor and said nothing because I couldn't remember the words to say that I don't speak English. My sister had taught me how to say some things but I couldn't formulate a single word through the shame.

You motioned me to come into your office, so I did. I was taught to do as I was told by those that are older than me and to never questioned their judgment.

You pointed to the seat, so I sat down and looked towards the floor.

You spoke what I think were questions but all I could do was shake my head and shrug my shoulders. I can't seem to understand how you believe that a child could learn a language at the snap of your fingers. You expected me to do something that was impossible and you shamed me for not speaking your language every time you chuckled in disapproval.

You then switched back to your broken Spanish and asked me questions about my health.

You asked me about my weight, which I gave in kilos

You asked me what I weighed in pounds.

I asked you, what are pounds?

You asked me about my height, which I gave in centimeters

You asked me about my height in inches

I asked you, what are inches?

You shook your head and told me that I could go back to class. I left your office no longer knowing who or what I was.

To this day, I still wonder why or how you learned that bit of Spanish that you knew. Did you only learn that much Spanish in order to silence those that speak it? School is a garden and each student is a certain type of seed. Some flourish quicker than others, while some will take years to blossom. Don't you know that you cannot water a seed with arsenic? But you poured your poison on me anyway in an attempt to cease my development.

Don't get me wrong this isn't a letter for me to express hatred or deep remorse towards you. On the contrary, I am writing this as a thank you. Your poison became the catalyst I needed. Every time I would finish reading a book, I'd remember your disapproving look and say I'd "thank you."

My inability to speak English appeared to be an inconvenience to you and a waste of time. I had never felt so belittled in my entire life before. It was then that I made a promise to never allow myself to be in any situation like that ever again. I would dominate this language that you wanted me to speak so badly. I would make English my b****.

On that day, I became a waste of time to you and perhaps another one of your victims. On that same year I learned English and you became the accent I got rid of.

With all of that said and done. I want to say thank you. I don't expect an apology. I just wanted, closure.


Muchisimas gracias,

Javier





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