We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

← Back to all stories
Photo ofEshaal Syeda

Imagine having to swallow gum every day in school because you’re afraid of getting up in front of others to throw it out. If I could collect all the gum I have in my stomach, it would be as heavy as a five-pound  rock. I can walk into a classroom and sense the atmosphere which will indicate if I will be talking in that class or not. Because I’m so afraid of being judged, or even worse, being laughed at, I am so afraid to talk. Depending on the class, some might see me as a shy or quiet kid and others might see me as the loud, boisterous kid. In some classes I might raise my hand for questions I don’t even know the answer to, but in other classes, I am quiet as a mouse.  This feeling started when I was in my fourth-grade music class. We had a competition called recorder karate, where we would have a list of songs from easiest to hardest in order to get the next belt. We had to play the song on the recorder in front of the whole class with no mistakes. It was a competition between all the fourth-grade classes. At this point in my life, I was able to speak in front of all my classes and I wasn’t self-conscious. I was able to yell out answers and laugh when I answered questions incorrectly. One day I forgot to practice the song so when I had to play it on my recorder, I started shaking like an old washing machine. I blew in the recorder, trying to get the notes correct, trying to hide the fact that I was shaking with the awful tones because I didn’t know how to play the song. In the middle of my song a kid in the back yelled, “HA HA, it looks like she’s having a seizure!” All I heard from then on were people laughing hysterically at me and mimicking me relentlessly. I stopped playing instantly, and tears began rolling down as fast as the speed of light.  Everyone may say that people forgot about incidents that happened years ago, but it has been five years and so many people still joke about it even though I’m a freshman in high school. Now, when I’m struggling in school, I will never ask for help or even speak in some of my classes because I’m so afraid of being embarrassed or saying the wrong thing. Just one experience triggered an entire existence.  It’s hurtful to me, and many other students I know, because there are so many people who hurt others and don’t even know it because they are so used to putting others down. I often go to class and see a group of popular kids making fun of someone who isn’t so popular. They laugh at the things she or he would say, which affects the kid negatively. This also affects their education because they stop asking questions in fear of getting judged by their peers. This is what America can often be: kids making fun of other kids each day, each hour. It hurts inside to be laughed at, it hurts inside when you don’t have enough friends, and it even hurts when you have to walk alone to your classes with no one to protect you. In many eyes, America is a beautiful place with amazing children, but in reality, some kids struggle to go to school without being afraid of getting picked on. The tiniest cruelty can impact a person’s life longer than someone might think. 

© Eshaal Syeda. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person’s teacher.