I don’t remember much about what I learned in Kindergarten, but I do remember spending a lot of time standing in the corner, facing the wall. It usually played out like this: a couple of kids would go up to the teacher, they said something with my name in it, the teacher would look at me, call my name, and I would be punished by being sent to the corner. It happened so frequently that I expected to be sent to the corner almost everyday. My crimes? I never knew.

The kids in my class knew that I didn’t speak English and man did they love accusing me of fictional bad behavior. I fought it in the beginning. The teacher would call my name right after a student spoke to her and I would just yell out “no!” I didn’t know how else to defend myself, but I thought that maybe by saying “no” she would understand that what I meant to say was “they’re lying and I don’t know why they’re being mean to me.” She never understood, though. She misinterpreted my defense as another form of acting out.

After a while, I didn’t fight it anymore. I just knew that when my name was called, it usually meant I was in trouble again. I thought that if the teacher could at least figure out a way to ask me if I had actually done terrible things or at least explain to me why I was being punished, then it would have helped me feel better. Instead, I was sad.

One time, I was so “bad” that I was given the ultimate punishment: I was sent to another class. To me, that meant that the teacher hated me so much that she couldn’t even stand to have me in the corner of her classroom. I had to go to a whole different classroom and stand in their corner. Normally, I didn’t mind being in the corner, but this time it was different. My class knew that I was actually a good kid being wrongly accused of things for the purpose of their entertainment. This new class, though, wasn’t in on the joke. They looked at me as if I really was a terrible student. At lunch time, I still wasn’t allowed to go back my class. Even the cafeteria looked completely different as I walked with this strange teacher and this strange class. I didn’t know where to sit. I saw my own class a few tables down, but they had made it clear that they didn’t want me. Nobody in this new class dared to talk to me because I was the “bad” one. So, I sat by myself.

When I was finally able to go back to my class the next day, I was happy. Although I was still constantly in trouble, I had a much more positive outlook on the situation. Of course, it didn’t take long for me to cross the line.

On one of the occasions, instead of being sent to the corner, I was sent to face the wall right next to my teacher’s desk. I was facing the wall for so long (or at least that’s what I thought) that I grew bored. I was so bored, I decided I would dance. The class was silent (presumably doing work). So, I did a little shake and began to turn myself around. If I was going to spend my day facing a wall, not learning anything, I figured I might as well entertain myself. I smiled and even added some finger pointing towards the ground as I moved my shoulders up and down. The class laughed. I was in mid-turn when I felt a sting on my thigh that snapped me out of my little fantasy dancing world. The teacher did not find my dancing amusing and she smacked my thigh with her yard stick. I immediately went back to facing the wall.

Although I was embarrassed, I wasn’t upset because for those few seconds, I was actually having fun and I made my class laugh on my own merit.