A day at Saint Patrick’s

I grabbed my mom’s hand as we were invited into the principal’s office. I sat down next to both my parents in the chairs across the principal’s desk. I stared at the floor as my parents requested to speak with my first grade teacher. After calling her, the principal turned back to my parents.

“Okay, tell me what happened from the beginning,” the principal said.


“Have a good day at school,” my parents said to me.

After they drove off, I turned and walked through the doors to the San Patricio (Saint Patrick) Catholic School in Trujillo, Peru. I got in line behind my classmates in the courtyard to recite Peru’s national anthem as we did every morning before class. Then I followed the person in front of me to our classroom to begin the day.

First Day of First Grade

My first day of school as a first grader.

Mother's Day first grade

The first grade Mother’s Day presentation.

As all of us students worked on the lesson assigned by the teacher, my classmate in front of me had an accident. A yellow pool accumulated around his desk and everyone sitting by him, including me, ran to the other side of the room. So the teacher told us to wait there as she went to find something to use to clean up the floor.

As soon as she was gone, everyone stood up and began talking with their friends. I stayed on the opposite side of the room and talked to another girl as I wondered how I would be able to get back to my desk when the teacher got back since the puddle was now completely blocking the path to my seat.

When the teacher entered the room, everyone rushed to their seats and the teacher’s eyes came to rest on the girl I was talking to and me. She marched over to us and pulled her hand back. Before I could react, her hand smacked me across my face. The headband I had been wearing slid across the floor next to me. When I looked back, she had already hit the girl next to me as well.

“What do you think you were doing?” the teacher yelled.

The girl and I looked at each other.

“Get back to your seats!” she screamed.

We did as we were told. My cheek stung and I silently cried at my desk the rest of the morning.

San Patricio Class Picture

First grade class picture. I am pictured in the middle with pigtails sitting in a chair. The girl I was talking to when we were slapped is sitting in the chair on the far left.


“How was your day?” Dad said when he picked me up.

“Good,” I said.

“Anything interesting happen today?” Dad said.

“No,” I said.

We walked to a nearby restaurant as Michaela related every little event that had happened to her at school. Since classes ended at 1 p.m. every day, my parents would take us out to eat to a cheap restaurant near our house after school.

I sat in silence as my parents continued to question me about my day. When we got home, I was so uptight that I began yelling at my siblings over every little thing. I became violent to the point where my parents could tell that something bad had happened at school just by my actions. They finally pulled me aside and sat me down.

“What’s wrong?” my parents asked.

I told them what had happened and they were completely shocked. They immediately drove back to the school to talk to the principal.


After my parents explained what I had told them, my teacher denied it at first. But my parents continued fighting for me and used the evidence that I had never come home from school so quiet before. Eventually my teacher admitted what she had done, but she continued defending herself. It did not help that the principal was also on my teacher’s side.

“You need to understand, children need to be disciplined,” my teacher said. “It is my job to discipline these children. I hit Olivia because she was misbehaving, right Olivia?”

I kept my head down and sunk deeper into my chair.

“It does not matter if she was misbehaving or not, you should never hit a child,” Dad said. “And if you are going to use this discipline with our children, we do not want to be part of this school.”


I was homeschooled for the rest of my 1st grade year. Since Michaela was only four years old, my parents did not worry too much about her education. The next school year, we attended the Colegio Crisitiano Elliot (the Elliot Christian School) founded by Jim Elliot’s brother Bert. I went to second grade and Michaela went to kindergarten.

Holding Flag Elliot

My first year at the Elliot Christian School holding a flag to celebrate missions. Bert (right) and Norma (left) Elliot, founders of the school, are standing behind me to the right.

Many years later, the government closed down the San Patricio Catholic School for mistreating children.

*Note: the dialogue in this story was only used to convey the story. It may not be exactly what was said in the circumstances.*

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One thought on “A day at Saint Patrick’s

  1. Oh Olivia, how awful! I would have cried and cried right there in class! I could not have been as brave as you. I am so glad to hear that the school was eventually closed down. That type of discipline is never acceptable. I once witnessed this exact same behavior, only it was our son-in-law hitting our granddaughter across the face. It was pure agony. His grandmother was there and told him he should never hit a child (she was maybe 6) and he informed her he could do what he wanted. That left a huge scar in my heart for her and what she endured. Much love to you and I pray you will continue to write, I love your stories!

    Like

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