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Starting middle school was a terrifying experience. Taking new classes in a new building with new people and, scariest of all, new teachers – seven more than I was used to – who would, as my elementary teachers claimed, not tolerate happiness or joy. I’d also read books and seen TV shows portraying middle school as nasty bullies and mean teachers with rulers, so you can probably understand when I say I was not overly excited to go to middle school.
There was one specific teacher that I’d heard tales of terror about from the 8th graders. According to the older kids, she couldn’t teach (language arts), was sassy and mean, and gave out 50s on her essays. The students called her names behind her back, disrespecting her by calling her by her first name and adding swear words in front of her last name. Once, they collected two hundred signatures in a petition to fire her from school. I’ll admit, the first time I heard these rumors, I didn’t doubt them because they fit in perfectly with the rest of my slanted views on middle school.
I recall one specific time where she brought in a student teacher from an outside source to grade our papers. He graded everything out of four, so pretty much the entire class failed, which only ruined her image. Like everyone else, I gossiped about the teacher and sassed her teaching methods.
What the heck? Two out of four? How could I possibly get this grade?! I stormed home, thinking furiously.
Later that day, my mom stood with one hand on her hip. “You got a 50 on an essay?” she asked.
“Yeah!” I said, grabbing a snack out of the pantry and slamming the door loudly. “It’s not fair. She didn’t teach us anything!”
My mom glared at me. “Watch it. So, why don’t you give her a chance to tell you why you missed so many points?”
“What is there to ask?” I fumed. “She has no freaking idea what she’s doing.”
My mom sighed. “Give her a chance, at least.”
I rolled my eyes. There’s no way this is going to work. She doesn’t know anything, she’s just a crazy lady who doesn’t teach, there’s no point even trying. . .”
But the next day, I grudgingly approached my teacher. “Uh…hi,” I said awkwardly as she looked at me sternly.
“Hello,” she said expectantly.
“Hi. Um, I was wondering…could you explain to me why I lost so many points on my essay? I’m not really sure…” I stuttered.
She scooted over closer to me. “Okay, here you didn’t explain the basis behind your reasoning enough. You need to expand this part ...”
For the next twenty minutes, she went through and carefully explained many of the parts to me. My writing style actually improved under her harsh criticism, and as time went on, I realized the students had been patronizing and scathing in their remarks on my teacher. Although she was sassy at times and gave low scores, these things only helped me if I adapted to them correctly. I didn’t gossip about her anymore afterwards, and tried to manage my grade well in the class instead of dropping out like many of my peers did.
At the end of the year, she recommended me for a higher level of language arts. I took the test and surprisingly passed. Because of my teacher, I learned not only how to read and write in a more advanced way, but also to stay wary of biting gossip and words.