I was finally an upperclassman, something I had wait for, for the last two years. My schedule was almost perfect except for one class. My English class. It wasn’t so much the class that I hated it, it was the teacher. Whenever I was asked about my schedule and I mentioned my English class, I got comments like “that’s rough.” “good luck with him, he’s terrible.” “ew, you should switch out of that class ASAP!” With all these comments running through my head, I felt doomed. I went to the guidance office in hopes of switching out of the class, but instead to my surprise, all the other English 11 classes were full. The first day of class I took my time getting to class because I knew it was going to be the longest 80 minutes of my life. When I walked into that prison cell, it was lined with graffiti printed desks and rickety chairs. I took my seat along with nine other students and awaited the teacher.
A short man, maybe 5’6”, with a grouchy wrinkled face, wearing jeans and a Yankees’ shirt stepped into the room. Before even saying hello or acknowledging anyone, he immediately opened up the syllabus with all the assignments and their due dates. The first assignment was due the next day and the semester schedule was riddled with tests and quizzes every other day. That’s when I quickly realized this class was going to take over my life for the next four months.
Every week got easier, but more challenging at the same time. The material was getting more and more advanced, and I was drowning in assignments. Just when we got comfortable with the new material, we switched focuses and would start something new. We were reading 500-page books every week and constantly taking tests on the material we had read the night before. On top of reading, we were tasked with writing five paragraph essays and then the final exam was a ten-page research paper on American Authors.
The last week of the semester was finally here and that meant I had one more assignment left standing between myself and summer. This paper was going to be by far the hardest paper I had written all semester, and I had no idea how to approach it. I headed to the library where I spent countless hours; I even re-read the book. It took me three, eighty-minute study halls and a total of four additional hours working on my first draft. The first deadline approached quickly, and I was nervous for the feedback I was going to get. I didn’t feel my paper was strong enough and was expecting to get back a paper covered in red ink, but to my surprise, it wasn’t. I saw a big fat 98! This grade was so reassuring and gave me great confidence going into the final draft. I went home that night and typed away. It took me two nights to put the whole paper together, but I was feeling very confident. I read through the paper countless times and even had my computer read it back to me.
When I finally felt it was strong enough to stand on its own, I sent it to my grandmother, who has written a couple books, for her final approval. I always sent my papers to her since she was previously an English teacher and was now teaching teachers with her learning style seminars. She always provided me with good feedback and was always so encouraging. She sent me back some minor errors that I fixed right away. I was feeling really good and was ready to send my paper away to be graded.
Nervous and excited for the grades to be posted, I anxiously waited. The suspense was killing me, and I was refreshing my grades every five minutes. I refreshed my grades for the 100th time and saw that a new grade had been added to the grade book. My hands started shaking as I tapped on the grades tab. I scrolled down the page as my phone was jiggling in my hand and saw a big fat… 60! I swear my face turned bright red and steam started coming out of my ears. My blood was boiling, and I couldn’t understand why my grade was so bad. I looked at the feedback and saw little to no feedback that was actually helpful.
After I had cooled down, I went to the teacher the next morning and questioned why I got such a bad grade. He seemed threatened that I would question his grading, but I simply wanted to know how a kid that plagiarized got a better grade than someone who spent countless hours and worked so hard. When I asked if he could explain the grade and the reasoning behind it, he immediately started pointing out everything he didn’t like to the point where I started to cry. He was so rude and unprofessional I couldn’t believe it. I just remember trying to justify my paper and why it was the way it was, but he wouldn’t even listen to me. I remember asking him “why did I get such a good grade on my rough draft and such a terrible grade on my final draft?” His response was, “your paper sucked, it was terrible, you didn’t even proof-read it”. The tears just kept rolling down my face, and I needed a bucket to collect all of them. I told him he was wrong and that someone did proof-read it. He told me that I was a “liar”. When I mentioned that my grandmother proof-read the paper, he said that “she’s not used to writing these types of papers.” totally dissing her. But in fact all writing rules are the same, so he couldn’t argue that the paper was grammatically incorrect. His behavior was so childish that I politely excused myself from the room and thanked him for talking with me.
I wiped the tears from my red puffy eyes and hid in the bathroom. I frantically called my mom to tell her about the awful encounter with the teacher, and she couldn’t believe how unprofessional he was. When my grandmother had found out, she was mortified that a teacher would act like that and wanted to know more about the incident. I told her the whole story, and she gave me some encouraging words. She reminded me that sometimes we put in a lot effort, but the feedback we get isn’t always positive. She reassured me that not everyone is going to enjoy your writing, but that your writing style is what makes you unique.
I took her advice and found peace with the issue. I picked myself up, dusted myself off, went to class the next day and acted as if that terrible encounter never happened. If I could go back and change the way I reacted, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I think it’s completely normal for a sixteen-year-old to cry when they are being bashed by a forty-six-year-old man. We definitely weren’t on an even playing field, but this incident has molded me for the better because now I know not to let one person’s opinion(s) affect my writing. I will take into consideration their thoughts on my work, but I can respectfully decline to agree with them. I won’t let one bad experience dictate my future relationships with teachers. Instead, I will use it to my advantage and build better and stronger relationships. If I was to run into this situation again, I would have a better understanding and maturity when addressing the issue.