What Doesn’t Kill
You ...
This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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      “This is the worst honors class I have had in all my 46 years of teaching!” Being told this on a weekly basis is neither encouraging nor beneficial. Every day I heard, “If you don’t get this lesson or know what this word means, then you should not be in this class!” I would sit at my desk, heart racing, palms sweating, afraid of what she would say if I answered a question wrong.

One of the first times I was a victim of Mrs. C’s cruel comments was while I was getting help from my algebra teacher before school. He was explaining a problem and Mrs. C came in the room. She saw me getting help and commented in front of everyone, “Well, I see you aren’t doing very well in that class, either.” I was caught offguard by her remark and could only laugh weakly in an attempt to brush it off.

Other students had to deal with her insensitivity, too. One day Mrs. C was returning our tests and before she handed back Lydia’s*, she looked at it, looked at Lydia and said, “Lydia, you’ll never get into college with grades like this.” A minute later, I saw tears rolling down Lydia’s cheeks. This was just one of many times students (including me) cried in that classroom. Over time, I taught myself to ignore what she said. I would remind myself that I was smart and nice, and Mrs. C could not change that. I convinced myself that what she said did not matter, and that she was just a mean person - that was the only way I could bear her comments.

Another cruel tactic of Mrs. C’s was to announce everyone’s grades. As she graded tests or quizzes in the classroom, she would make faces or sigh heavily.

“Well, someone didn’t know what they were doing on Exercise B,” she would say, staring at the person whose paper she was grading. Other times she called up students to lecture them, letting everyone know their grade. Mrs. C did this to me, too. She called me to the front and began to rant about how she did not know how I could have messed up and as a result I was getting a C. From that moment on, every time she would call my name, I would immediately ask her not to announce my grade. I told her I would come up to see my grade, but sometimes, despite my efforts, she would still broadcast it to the room. I would just nod and not let her see that I was bothered. These tactics helped me get through embarrassing moments, and did not allow Mrs. C the pleasure of a reaction.

One of her favorite students always did well on the tests, and Mrs. C would ask, “If Helen could do so well, why couldn’t the rest of you?” She would then make the class clap for Helen. We knew it was just another way for Mrs. C to degrade the rest of us so I turned it into a joke, over-enthusiastically clapping and saying, “Good job, Helen! Good job, everyone!”

For one project, we had to write two sentences describing two events that happened for each year of our life. We also had to include sentences for five, 10, and 15 years into the future. The day our projects were due, one of the boys realized he had not done the sentences for the future. He said nothing and waited for Mrs. C to notice. When she passed back the papers for that project, we were surprised to realize that she had picked apart our projects but given him a higher grade. She had not even noticed the missing section! When I asked what she had based my grade on, she could not tell me. She did not have a rubric she was grading by; Mrs. C merely scribbled notes on a single sheet of paper for the entire class. When I confronted her about the student missing a part of his project, she said she would take care of it, but ended up letting him get keep the higher grade. I was not able to change my grade for this project, but from then on I constantly questioned how she was grading materials and what they would count for.

I had never had a problem with a teacher before Mrs. C. What I took from this experience was that in life I will have to deal with all kinds of people. I learned how to deal with her while I had to but I also learned how to stand up for myself when I knew I was being wronged.

I will always remember how small and impotent she made me and my peers feel, but I chose to turn the experience into something better and not let her take me down. I chose to learn from the horrible experiences of one manipulative and bitter woman. Some say that what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. Mrs. C didn’t kill me and I didn’t let her kill my spirit. I did indeed grow stronger.

*Names have been changed.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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Loolabell said...
Jan. 14, 2009 at 4:34 pm
I really liked this book report, it told the story well without spoiling the storyline. Good job, good use of punctuation. It was basically all good! Thanks for this book report, who knows, you might have just inspired me... XxX
 
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