Music teacher beat me in front of the class in China

My second grade music teacher was quite an interesting character. She was very talented, had the looks, and probably aspired to be a professional performer. Music class with her was very fun. She taught us a lot of tongue twisters, and she tried to teach us to move our bodies to music. She was also one of the first teachers to really see my talent in performance. She often called me up on-stage to sing and picked me to demonstrate some technique. Like every artist though, she had lots of issues buried below the surface. In the depths of her soul, she had lots of anger. Her name was Teacher Zhang.

Sometimes she’d get mad and spend the rest of class lecturing us. One time she kept us after class for so long that we were the last class in the whole school to go home.

But the worst incident that ever happened involved me. This was one of the most scarring events in my existence, and I still remember it vividly.

The day started like any other. There were two classmates sitting behind us who were extremely distracting (they always were). But this day, the two classmates were being extra distracting. They found some worm on the ground and tried to put it on me and my friend sitting next to me.

While the shenanigans were going on, Teacher Zhang called out my name once to tell me to stop fooling around. I quieted down for a while. But then the two classmates behind us kept up their distracting behaviors, so my friend and I were forced to engage them and turn our heads again.

Eventually, when my head was turned, I felt a really sharp pinch on my cheek. That pinch turned into searing pain as my whole face felt like it was being pulled off. It was the Teacher Zhang’s hands and she stood above me.

She grabbed my cheeks really hard and pulled me up from my seat. She then proceeded to smash my face repeatedly with her music book. WHACK, WHACK, WHACK. The sounds echoed through the quiet room as everyone watched in shock.

“Why were you talking?” She yelled.

“They...” I pointed at the classmates behind me, about to tell her about the worm.

But she shoved me really hard into my seat before I could finish.

“What do you mean ‘they,’” she asked violently, as I stood back up. “I saw your head turned back the whole time.” She proceeded to twist my head to show me what I was doing. The force of it was so strong, I fell back into my seat again.

Then my friend, Jie, next to me, spoke out in my defense and finished my sentence for me. “They were trying to put a worm on us,” he said.

She didn’t even seem to hear that. She proceeded to grab my head again and shove it back to show that my head was turned the whole time. Her force pushed me back into my seat again.

“Your head was like that! You psycho!” she yelled.

Look who’s talking, I thought to myself.

In China, students didn’t fight back even to something unjustified like this. I took the punishment with dignity and never shed a tear in front of her. She shoved me so many times and threw me back into my seat, but somehow, I stood back up as a silent way of saying, “You can hurt me all you want, but I did nothing wrong.” So after being pushed down more than ten times and standing back up again, she gave up trying to hurt me further and started hitting my friend Jie who was standing next to me. That’s what bullies do; they pick on people who they think are easy targets. I wasn’t going to flinch as easily as she thought; after all, I was an American.

I was ready to shrug off this incident by the time music class ended. If I were allowed to walk home by myself, I probably would have buried this incident pretty deep and forgotten about it. But life has a way of playing tricks on you, and this day, my dad decided to pick me up from school. When I saw him I immediately started crying. I cried because I expected him to give me a beating even worse than the one I had in school if he found out from the teacher that I “misbehaved.”

So he saw me crying, and he probably would have hit me immediately for being weak, but some fatherly instinct told him that something bad just happened. So he pressed me to tell him, and I told him that the teacher grabbed my face really hard and humiliated me in front of the class and I wasn’t even being bad. His face reacted in horror, and he took me immediately to tell Teacher Liu. Teacher Liu, my homeroom teacher, immediately arranged a meeting for my parents and the music teacher to talk about what happened.

I got home, and my grandparents were there. My grandfather was very sick, so he was at the hospital in Hua Xi Medical School, where both my parents were professors, to undergo examination and treatment.

Like all Chinese grandparents, they tried very hard to feed me extra food. The Chinese way of showing love was to overfeed whoever you wanted to express care to. But I was not in the mood to eat. I felt so betrayed by the Chinese public school system and my music teacher. I was only eight.

My grandfather kept telling me to eat meat, and I snapped back at him for the first and last time, “No! I don’t want it!” I shouted, and tears started flowing out of my eyes.

“Why are you crying?” criticized my mom. “You’re always too emotional.”

My mom didn’t know what happened in school. She, like every Chinese parent, didn't want a weak son.

Later on in the week, the Teacher Zhang met with my dad and Teacher Liu. Teacher Zhang claimed she called out my name six times before she came to discipline me. According to her, I had dire warning and kept ignoring her; I had to be restrained somehow. My dad didn’t believe her, but Teacher Liu did. Teacher Liu was so embarrassed by the fact that a parent actually had the nerve to question a teacher’s judgment. She would often curse my dad in front of the class in the subsequent months. To Teacher Liu and Teacher Zhang, my dad was being a retarded American parent who overreacted to an incident in school and brought shame to her and the school.

Many years after this incident, my one wish was that I could go back in time and tell myself to fight back. I could have easily punched Teacher Zhang in the face. Even when I got back to America and attended middle school, I still dreamt of going back to China and strangling Teacher Zhang. I hated her so much.

I'm not angry anymore. I have a very successful career as a filmmaker/artist in America. She couldn't dream of getting where I am now ;)

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