I was talking with one of my best friends Drew early this morning. During the course of our Facebook Chatting, he asked me why I had not been an English major. I was actually talking with my mother about this the night before, and it really made me think about my life in a way I hadn’t considered prior to this conversation. There is a reason why I did not major in English. It’s a story that still pokes at the throbbing wounds of my heart, but It’s time that I share the story, with the encouragement of Drew.
Drew, this is for you kid.
I had the choice to go to a private high school in my area, or a public school with an accelerated academia program, called S.O.A.R. (Kennedy S.O.A.R. School of Academic Renown) I chose In high school, I was active in many clubs: Proud and Spirited Seniors (PASS), Key Club (Community Service), The Italian Club, SEARCH (Water Treatment and Maintenance Club), National Honor Society…hell, I was even the president of the Math Club my junior and senior years of high school. I could do algebraic and calculus equations with my eyes closed. There was one problem – I was 5’4″ entering my freshman year at 190 lbs.
I had an enjoyable first year. But, my second year was another story. On my schedule, I was to have a certain teacher, who shall remain nameless, who was known as having THE worst reputation in the school. A hard grader, who was known for lambasting any student who stepped so much as a quarter inch out of line. I wasn’t going to let this teacher scrape me like a cheese grater. I did well in her class, and actually grew to like her. Let us, for argument’s sake, call her “M”.
Fast forward to junior year: I had another teacher, whom I will call “C”. C seemed very lovely and professional, but was so orthodox, her alleged perkiness became sickening after a few months. She ran the school newspaper, and ran it like the New York Times. She was very snooty, and downright insulting to those who did not see her way with things. Over the summer, I worked with her and several other students getting ready for the next year’s issues. I got more issues than I bargained for. I became severely stressed over a volunteer position, and she would demand something and expect you to respond to it immediately, not caring how much work you had to do for other teachers. I left the school newspaper relieved, and with a slight bitter taste in her mouth of me. It’s not my nature to do that, but I alleviated myself from dealing with much unneeded stress. Then came the first day of my senior year.
I received my schedule and saw that I had her again for class. I nearly shit a brick. I figured I was screwed, because I thought that this teacher would let her personal opinion of you dictate your grades, no matter how much effort you put into your work or how well your writing was. This was AP English 12. The only other teacher that taught it in conjunction with her was teacher M. I switched teachers within hours.
This was a smart decision, or so I thought. Teacher M was not the teacher I once knew. She was stubborn, demeaning, and down-right cruel. She had me on the top of her “To Kill All Means of Self-Esteem” List. I thought leaving the school newspaper I was leaving behind unwritten issues. As it turned out, I was in deep trouble. The teacher singled me out every day, by using her method of mental torture that she knew would work best on me. She knew I was extremely sensitive, and used that to bury my hopes and dreams of becoming something of an intelligent being. The method to her very real madness was telling me every day how wrong I was. I would participate as best as I could, and I would still be incorrect, or as she called it “disjointed thinking”. Even open-ended questions she would tell me that they were wrong, or something that had a specific, elementary answer would be wrong. To explain this with a very real example, she could ask the question “what color is the sky?” I would answer: “The sky is blue”. She would then retort, “No. That’s incorrect.” Then, one of her favorites would answer, “The sky is blue”. She would then reply, “That’s correct!” Half of my class would then say to her, “He just said that the sky was blue!” She was silent. Not even looking up, she moved on to another subject that would ensure my failure to understand the concept, as she liked it. My class could attest to this slow method of her Chinese Water Torture. Everything was always wrong, even if it could be proven correct. Was this her revenge plan for me leaving the newspaper? I still think that this has a very viable solution to what mental agony I was enduring. I was slowly going into a very real madness that literally made my stomach turn when I walked through the door to her classroom.
At this point, life was miserable. I was a senior awaiting my one-way ticket out of there, and this heinous woman found it her life’s mission to keep me waiting in the terminal, telling me that she was sure my ticket would not scan because of my failure to buy it properly at the desk instead of using Expedia.com. I could see my plane; all my friends were getting on it, and I have this ill-mannered stewardess telling me that my ticket was not good enough for her means to scan it. I knew that being patient with this and having the burden of a cheeky woman, with a double agenda, to make sure I felt her wrath. I never understood why she had selected me, the one who never missed a class, always completed my assignments in full and on-time to be the target for her flaming arrows. Every one else’s work was genius; mine was not worth her time. She told me that how dare I insult her by sending her revision after revision without striking the point dead-on. I said it many different ways, but none seemed to work. At one point, I had one of my friends in her class, a favorite, write my small introductory paragraph to be submitted. My friend always got perfect scores on all of them, always on the first try. So, we tried this experiment. I got mine back with a big “RE-DO” on the front of the half piece of looseleaf in big, red, bold, writing. In the meantime, as an exchange, I helped my friend with her paragraph. She got a perfect score once again. Now, my theory had been proven. There was an unprofessional interloping between her personal relationship and academic relationship with me. What happened if I confronted her with what I found? She would have failed me for it, and leave her favorite’s grade untouched without any thoughts that would cause her to do anything that wasn’t normal for this girl’s grades. I was up to my neck in quicksand. My weight was now at 230 lbs. How could things get any worse? Oh, they did. Much, much worse.
AP English was in third period. After that, psychology. My psychology teacher was kind to me, and comforted me when I’d enter her room in tears. My senior year I cried every day about something that was not under my control, and it was an injustice to my role as a good student, and my grades were going to reflect her personal opinion of me. What had I ever done to this woman? I prayed to God every night to let me pass, wondering what I had ever done in life that was so abhorrent that I would have to serve this as my penance? I felt at this point that I wasn’t intelligent about anything, that all the things that I knew and could work well with were suddenly shaded by this one teacher. I felt like a failure. I thought myself to be ignorant, and unworthy of learning anything because of my remedial level of understanding.
This is what my psychology teacher saw, that I was going through an unjust punishment and she was getting sick and tired of seeing me being bothersome when I was looking for an adult for help. I didn’t know where to begin. I placed my trust in her, not knowing it was going to set everything aflame. Here is what caused me greater pain than being slowly crushed by a steamroller.
In psychology, we had to create a CD based on our life experiences. I needed to humor myself, and those in my class a little. The project was private. Under the track list, you have to write what event or idea the song signifies, and why you like it. Mine read:
Track 4 “Cruella DeVil”
3rd Period AP English. No need for explanation.
Everyone laughed, even the teacher, and she told me that I got a one-hundred on the project. Come to find out, to alleviate herself of her promise to listen to me, and be there for me as a friend, she found my English teacher and informed her of my doings. This coming from the woman who told me how much she didn’t like her herself, and how unfair it was to me that I must endure such a wretched hardship. I found out from my now favorite teacher in the school that the psychology teacher did it. She explained that the psychology teacher was two-faced, eager to gain everyone’s approval, and really did not care about the well-beings of her student. She explained that the principal stepped in against both of them on my behalf, because it was not a hate crime, nor was any off-color language used. It was meant to be a joke, where the Psychology teacher was feeding me her own medicine, just to stir things up, for she lived for drama and seeing people crumble. To this day, I will not speak to her. She used my own trust against me, and basically assured me to walk on the floor after she had greased it to guarantee my fall.
This is the hardest part that I still have immense trouble talking about: the confrontation that my English teacher had with me the next day. She called me into the hallway, left the door open so everyone could hear what she was going to say, and the whole hall heard the worst confrontation that the building has housed in a long time. She told me that I was now dead to her, that I should have been honored to have her correct such deplorable work. She told me that she was seeing me in a “whole new light” now, and that her opinion of me has severely changed. How dare I say that about her? This was a personal attack on her and must be brought to the attention to a higher authority. According to her assertion, I did the most despicable thing someone could do to a teacher, and I was never to be forgiving for such a profoundly cruel act. She then refused to help me with anything, and she told me that I was no longer worth her time.
I shuddered. I teared. I couldn’t udder a word. First of all, a teacher whom I trusted who told me that she understood my dilemma and pain stabbed me in the back, and the most despicable teacher now verbalized her wrath on me for me dubbing her “Cruella DeVil” was the now the most horrible thing I could ever do to a person. I’m sure this overpowered greatly the mental torture that left me second thinking every basic act I knew as a human. How was this comparable to what she had done to me? I had lost all my self-esteem and confidence as a student; I had managed to lose all confidence in all of my other work; I felt inhuman and alone. I was suddenly the worst person on earth in existence, and I was to know that every day until the day I graduated, if I graduated, I thought. I had lost my will to live. I wanted to crawl into a corner and die.
She brought it to the attention of our principal. He called me in once she had left, and laughed. He thought it was funny, and knowing what she was putting me through, he dismissed her case completely, because he knew how she was, an over-reactive psychopath who longed to acquire company in her misery. She became even more bitter when she found out her boss and 75% of the faculty voiced their opinion on my behalf, and refused to speak to her because of it. “M” was known for turning mole hills into mountains, and they knew that I was in mental trouble. I began loosing weight rapidly. I had been trying to diet and exercise to lose the weight, but this stressful dietary supplement accelerated my weight loss. Teachers asked me every day if I was doing well. I ended up using her anguish as an impetus to shrink myself down and graduate high school with a bang. And so I did. I dropped 52 lbs over the course of five months, and made it a personal accomplishment. I shrunk down to 175 lbs., my current weight. My teachers and Principals were proud of my efforts. I dropped the weight to regain my confidence that was almost completely crushed, and in doing so, I once again found love, happiness, and a newfound level of self-esteem that I would never let anyone touch it again, because for the first time in my life, I had made something my own.
When I came to college, I was nervous for my first English class. I ended up having the most wonderful teacher who told me how well I could write, and that I had a voice that must be heard. To make a long story short, I gained back the confidence as a writer and student. I found my voice again, and have put it to the best use that I know and love. My love for literature and writing had once again resurfaced, and now I have never felt such a strong connection to it.
In reflection, I must advocate four things. First and foremost, never let anyone tell you that you are not worth something, because it is undoubtedly always a self-reflection on their lack of maturity and understanding. They have not reached that level of self-confidence, no matter what the age, and they will see to it that you share in their misery. Second, understand the profound effect that words have on people. By telling someone that they are worthless, you can kill them as a person. This occurs more easily than one may think. Third, be careful who you trust. Sometimes teachers are just as malicious as students can be, if not worse. Lastly, know and embrace your family and friends. They are the ones who get you thorough the most difficult times of your life. When the times are tough, they step out in your behalf, and help you find yourself again.
This experience was one of the worst things that I have ever endured, and voicing it now helps me to come to terms with my feelings towards it. My failure to let things go has now become a healed injury in the past. My love for writing, like I had mentioned, has now resurfaced, and I’m taking if for a ride in my speedboat.
My love and appreciation for my family and friends: you mean more to me than you will ever know.
This is my thought for this evening.