Dear Ms. Collins

I’ve wanted to say this for so long and today, Saturday, April 2, 2022 @ 8:45 CST, I’m about to say it. Albeit on virtual paper but here goes. 


Well, hate is a strong word but my younger self hates you. 

Whew, that felt good! I have no idea if you are dead or alive but if I’m in my mid 50’s, either option is very possible. You could be in your 70’s or or 80’s. If you are still alive, I really hope your temper isn’t as bad as it was in the late 1970’s when you were my third-grade teacher. 

For years, I’ve periodically thought of a time when I was trying to learn my multiplication tables in your class, and I struggled. My struggle with math throughout life probably stemmed from being in your class. This is more for me than you but here goes. 

  • I was in third grade. 
  • I was one of 2 black students in our class just a few years after desegregation.  
  • I was a bit overweight. 
  • I was taller than everyone else. 
  • I had the makings of boobies when everyone else was still flat chested. 
  • I was smart and made it to your class because it was the class for students who caught on fast. I guess I was in what would be considered the accelerated class. 
  • I could read and I could write, but math was a bit of a challenge, albeit I did get it. I just wasn’t the quickest when it came to 12 x 3 = 36.

So, on days when I’ve started a new job, days when I’ve found teaching my own children new things, or days when I’m trying to learn something new for myself, like Spanish, I try not to beat myself up or my children. I want them to 

  • aggressively go after things in life. 
  • do things they desire. 
  • be successful.
  • be happy.

 I try to do the same things, but somehow since I’ve crossed the 50-year-old line, I’m not as quick to learn as I was between 20 and 50. However, I am still teachable. 

I recently left a job I was on for a short time.  I hated that job! I started out happy until I met some coworkers who embodied your spirit. Again, we all learn at a different pace so why do people get so upset when someone else is not learning at their pace? 

It was a job where we worked together as a team, and I found myself having serious anxiety attacks because some of them acted just like you. Their words were berating. Their attitudes were the antithesis of mine. It was toxic. I left. No amount of money is worth my mental health. Plus, the money wasn’t that great anyway.

So back to the year that was third grade. On this particular day we were doing a multiplication worksheet and I was struggling. You came over to my desk to “help” me but what ended up happening was you became a part of my life from that day forward. The memories of you have crept back up in my 50 something self as feeling like a failure. I know I’m not, but there you are and here I am 40 something years later still thinking about you and being in your class and learning multiplication tables. 

Photo by Monstera on

So, I needed help. You scooted yourself over to my desk in your big orange teacher chair with rollers. You had a red pen. I remember that damn red pen so vividly. You were yelling “You know this, Daphine! No, that is not the answer. No! That’s not right!” 

You kept trying to make me know it and you had that red pen and kept yelling at me and banging that pen on my paper—so hard you tore my paper. 

I was so embarrassed. I was crushed. I tried to hold back tears. It was so hard to keep my composure with the entire class looking on. Some kids turned around in their chairs to look on. I was the center of attention for all the wrong reasons. I WAS MORTIFIED.

All the little white kids were looking at the chubby black girl with the ponytails that were “puffy and scratchy” and not smooth and silky like the other kids. Everyone looked on as you, Ms. Collins, yelled and tapped and tapped and tapped. And that torn paper. 

I wanted to die that day. 

I wanted to run away because obviously I was stupid. 

Obviously, I couldn’t learn. 

Obviously, the white kids in class were smarter than I was because they got it.




We were all in that damn class because we deserved to be there, me included. My test scores qualified me to be in there just like everyone else. 

You just sucked. You lacked compassion. You lacked the will to keep your cool. You used tactics that should never be used in a classroom. You crushed my spirit and my soul that day and obviously, it is still a sore memory because I’m in my home office on a Saturday morning at 9 am when I should be sleeping in, typing about my experience in effing third grade with you DECADES AGO. 

I am not dumb.

I am not stupid. 

I am teachable.  

I learn differently from others because: WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT. 

Sometimes I don’t get things as fast as others, but I DO get it. 

I have taken my power back. I will no longer let others dictate how I feel about myself. I will not allow what others say to me harm my spirit. People say words cannot kill but they can if we let them. I am choosing life and I will fight negativity with all my being. You sucked as a teacher!

Whew, what a relief to finally put words to something I’ve been carrying for so long. It’s weird, too, how things from the past can manifest themselves in other ways in our lives. 

Goodbye, Ms. C, you mean spirited, joy stealing, dream crushing, so-called teacher. 

God made me and made me great. I’m going to go with what God says I am. I am great. I am smart. I am wonderful. I am Daphine and I’m glad I am.

Whew, I finally said it. Bye!

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