Warning: Article mentions Ableism, Homophobia, Transphobia, Racism.
For the sake of privacy, I’m not going to name my teachers – but I’m going to tell you how they supported, encouraged, and destroyed me as a teenager.
It sounds like hyperbole, but the reality is that the third teacher definitely chose violence against me while I was in high school. So, let’s get into it.
The three teachers we will discuss are my science, media, and English teachers. Let’s call them Smith, Jones, and Brown – since they’re three of the most common names surnames in the UK.
Firstly, I want to point out that while they were all influential to me and how my life turned out – it wasn’t always for the better. I refuse to give credit to Brown – I didn’t succeed because of her, she held me back. But, let’s start!
Smith was the best of the three, and all my teachers. She was my science teacher for two years, and it was her that made me want to go into a science career. I was set on being a Pathologist, and she was my biggest cheerleader.
Before her class, I averaged E’s on all my science tests. When I finished my exams for science 18 months later, I had two Cs and a B in my final exams. If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have gotten enough GCSEs to get into the standard workforce of the UK – since you need five C-level GSCEs to get a job in 90% of places. She allowed me to wear arm warmers to hide my self-harm scars from classmates; she let me fidget and draw while she was talking so I could focus on what she was talking about. She permitted me to sit alone on the side of the classroom instead of at a crowded table – knowing that it made me more comfortable to be away from everyone else, even if it did make some aspects of my education slightly harder.
Thanks to her, the first novel I ever wrote was a Sci-Fi based on Bio-Chemistry.
Jones was a combination of the best and worst teacher. He liked encouraging me but never gave praise, which made me feel like a letdown every time I did what he asked me to. He definitely contributed to my father figure issues as well as my people-pleaser problems.
But, he was the person who encouraged me to start my own magazine/e-zine at age 15. In 2013, I started a magazine with a group of LGBTQ and Ally writers, and it was… amazing. It ran for over three years, and it was phenomenal. He was the reason I started writing professionally because, in that same year, I landed several ghostwriting jobs. Meaning my professional writing career officially started when I was 15 – a decade ago.
And finally, Brown. She was my English teacher for three out of five years at my high school, and she deliberately made it hard.
At the point of meeting her when I was in Year 8, meaning I was 12 – 13, I was already diagnosed with Dyslexia. I was known to the school as being special needs and therefore needed an extra hand in school. On top of my Dyslexia, I was a raging ADHD kid, which was obvious but ignored. So, I would always hand my homework in late either because I forgot it or because I’d gotten so overwhelmed that I got rid of it.
I’d also like to point out that at this point in my life, I was yet to learn how to read correctly. I could only read every other word because I was reading at a Year 3-4 level due to my Dyslexia being ignored in Primary School.
Besides her ignoring my Dyslexia, she specifically put me on a table of students who were known to bully me, both verbally and physically. I was placed back in her class in my fourth year of school. This was the year I began writing professionally, as encouraged by Jones (who was also an English teacher but never mine).
The day before my first English exam, for English Language, she pulled me aside after class to let me know I’d not handed in my homework. I told her I had a note from my Additional English Teacher, who’d taken the homework to review it as we were doing prep work later in the day.
She, somehow, didn’t know I was in an Additional English class for special needs students – even though she was the head of the English Department… It was at this moment that Brown let me know I wouldn’t amount to anything because of my special needs and that I’ll “[you’ll] fail the exam tomorrow”.
Contrary to her beliefs, I passed both my English Literature and English Language exams with flying colours and achieved B’s.
On results day, she was the one that handed me the envelope. I opened it in front of her, which she was happy for me to do – grinning like a Cheshire cat. But don’t worry; I wiped that smile off her face when I let her know I got B’s – instead of the E’s she’d predicted. I’ve never seen her face turn white quicker.
Sadly, in my final year of High School, while I was suffering from a Major Depressive Episode and getting in-school Counselling, she decided to let my fellow students [including my abusers] know that I was in counselling for being a sinner. Yes – my English teacher outed me to my peers as being depressed and queer… But then again, I shouldn’t’ve been surprised, since this was the teacher who allowed racist students to bully her best pupil – with her response to him being, “you need thicker skin”.
Looking back at my teacher in high school, there’s only one teacher that really cared about her students – Smith. The rest were there for the wrong reasons, with the wrong intentions, and most were too bitter to be happy for those around them.
A couple of years ago, I found out that Brown had been spotted reading my book at my high school. Due to my name change, she didn’t know it was mine… But she liked it very much.
I may not have amounted to much – I didn’t become a pathologist like I’d wanted – but I’ve made a much better impact on lives than Brown did. And that’s good enough for me.
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