Family Life Stories Life

This is my open letter of apology to my sister

Growing up, I had only a few friends. From the ages of twelve to sixteen, I had a grand total of three people I would talk to and even then, I only felt comfortable messaging one out of these three friends. But, the one consistent person in my life has always been my older sister, someone I owe a big apology to. 

When we were younger, my older sister and I were often called twins – we were so in-sync all the time whether it was sentences, responses, or even emotions. My sister is in fact just under two years older than I am and although she can be a bit up herself for being the older sibling at times, I can’t say I’ve never connected with her even though my sister was always a little more sympathetic to things than I was or even still am; if I shed a tear, she shed a waterfall. 

Exhibit A; I slipped headfirst into the side of the building and got a concussion at school one time in year three and she cried more than I did as she went off to get a teacher who basically told her to calm down because not a single coherent word was coming out of her mouth. Though I had to stay home battling a throbbing headache for the upcoming weeks, my sister would spend her time at school making get well soon cards for me and coming home to just sit with me. 

I remember when she was leaving primary school and on her last day, I was filled with dread because I realized that if I now had a spat with my friends, I couldn’t run off to my sister. She was now going to be somewhere that would require me to climb out of the school gates undetected, crossroads safely and not get kidnapped by the white van that appears to be everywhere. Far too much effort for the kid who barely got off the sofa once she sat down.

I got through that year anyhow and remember my sister giving me a pep talk before my first day of secondary school with the same sentence over and over: “I’m there if you need me.” It got really sour, really fast. 

Although undiagnosed at the time, social anxiety has always been a lifelong struggle of mine and I always took comfort in familiarity in my surroundings. I expressed to my sister how nervous I was about starting school on our walk there and she agreed for both of us to meet during break time in the school canteen. The first day had already been awful for me with the highlight of it realizing that I would be picked on by this one girl for the next five years. Her reason? She thought I was ugly. 

As I sat at a table waiting for my sister, a group of girls from my class walked past me making comments about how ‘ugly’ I was. I became the focal point of their laughter when my sister walked up to me and gave me a hug asking how my first few lessons were. I was suddenly torn between being in my safe space and fitting in – would I have been spared the embarrassment if I didn’t talk to my sister? I didn’t know it wouldn’t matter either way; the class bullies ran with it, teasing me relentlessly for the next five years. 

I got teased for a myriad of things during my time at secondary school, but it was all largely in comparison to me and my sister. She was tall, fairer-skinned (colorism at its finest), pretty, and above all, skinny. It didn’t help that she was also smart so whenever we had the same teachers, I would have to face comparisons by the teachers which would just become more ammunition for the class bullies. One girl in my class spread the rumor that I was adopted because there was no way one sister could be so beautiful and the other one so ugly. Another girl told me that my sister should be embarrassed to have such a fat sibling. The comments only got more demeaning from there.

I took it all out on my sister. I started arguing with her every morning so she would leave for school without me and purposefully get out of class really late so I wouldn’t have to walk home with her. Everything anyone has ever bought me down for, I would blame on her and I made sure she knew it. I bullied my own sister for my insecurities and that is a regret that will haunt me for the rest of my life. I regret my actions especially because my sister is a kind soul who has only ever encouraged me and waited patiently for me to work through any issues I was having.

It wasn’t until I got out of secondary school that I realized how awful I had been to someone who had never been mean to me – we came out of school with an overwrought relationship on my behalf. The road to healing has been long but my sister deserves to know that none of it was her fault and if I could undo it, I would.

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Race The World Inequality

Your privilege is showing when you’re forcing kids to speak English only

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”Nelson Mandela

Something that I have been slightly unsure about is a ‘speak English only’ policy that exists within some schools. The argument behind the rule is this- it is unfair for a certain group of children to speak a language that the others do not understand. Often, this is done out of concern for children do not speak English as their first language, as it is thought they may fall behind due to the language barrier.

And whilst the ‘speak English only’ policy has good intentions, some children can feel marginalised and punished by it. Many schools will enforce the policy within the classrooms, and in lessons. However, some schools have taken the policy way too far, and have banned children from speaking their own languages when they are at lunch, when they are walking home, or just in a private space of their own.

As a result, children tend to feel criminalised and ashamed, simply because they do not speak English. It implies that education is only accessible to those who speak English well, meaning that children who take English as a second language feel that they are unable to achieve due to the language barrier.

The idea that English should be the only language in which people should be educated in is an idea that stems from elitist and colonial customs. The education system is built so that privileged children have a better chance of success. than children from poorer backgrounds.

Children from poorer backgrounds are less likely to thrive, simply because cost, time and resources needed for educational success is not accessible to them. However, being from a less privileged background, and being unable to speak English does not mean that child is not a bright and intelligent individual.

There is a fear from teachers of children swearing and cursing the teacher in their own language, which sometimes motivates teachers to enforce the ‘speak English only’ policy. Teachers can feel scared and out of control, and often see children of color as a ‘threat’, so the rule is enforced so that they can maintain their authority.

The racism that is suffered by these children as a result of this rule can wreak havoc on their confidence, and will inevitably cause them to flout all school rules. This will result in an exclusion from the education system.

I find it difficult to believe that one has to know all their English numbers in order to be able to recite their multiplication tables. Many school subjects do not require a common language to be able to be understood. Plus, the ‘speak English only’ policy gives the impression that the teachers do not want to take the time and effort to try and learn their language, or customs.

Whilst I believe that people should learn the language of the country that they live in, I do not feel that teachers shouldn’t try to help children with their understanding by explaining things in their own language.

It will actually help them and encourage them to learn English, as they will see it as the teachers ‘meeting them half-way’ rather than being forced to put in all the effort. If learning languages is a problem for teachers, this is the perfect opportunity to start recruiting teachers that are able to provide these language services for these children.

In terms of children swearing or cursing in their language, it is almost guaranteed to be less of a problem if there is a teacher around who if fully aware of what they are saying. Because let’s be honest, teenagers who speak English fluently swear too, and they know that the teachers understand the words. Has it ever stopped them from doing it? Of course not.

There is a great deal of social politics involved when it comes to enforcing a policy like this. This is not in any way arguing that teachers who enforce the ‘speak English only’ policy do not have their student’s best interests at heart. But there does need to be communication and honest discussion about why such policies are being put forward. One may find that such a policy is an extremist position, that will result in the further exclusion of children of color.

Therefore, putting emphasis on learning English, whilst at the same time communicating to the children in their own language is in my opinion, a much better and more successful approach.