An Open Letter To The Teacher Who Gave Me A “D” On The Essay I Wrote For My Son

Jennifer Walker
Nov 14, 2019 · 4 min read
Man holding chin looking perplexed at laptop screen.
Man holding chin looking perplexed at laptop screen.
Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

Dear Mrs. Tresmal:

I am writing this letter in the hope of bringing some much-needed vindication for the oppressed students of the unimaginative, soul-sucking world you call your classroom. When my son brought home his graded essay on the works of e. e. cummings (that is the proper formatting of the poet’s name) that you so callously marked as D work, I was personally and deeply insulted. The incredible amount of time and effort put into writing what I strongly feel is at least B+ work was unjustly rendered mediocre with one swipe of your malicious red pen.

This D looms over my family with an unimaginable weight. Though Jeremy was happy to receive a passing grade despite your nearly impossible assignment expectations, this has been a harsh lesson for him — indeed, a harsh lesson for us all. The image of me sitting hunched over his laptop working tirelessly to meet your outlandish requirements would probably haunt him forever had he not spent most of that time decompressing in our media room. The stress of your assignment triggered Jeremy’s performance anxiety. In fact, he was so distraught by the situation, he had to retreat to a friend’s house for the rest of the evening so he could unwind. To find out a week later that we received only subpar markings for my tremendous effort is a burden no child should have to bear. There is no way I can possibly undo the lasting psychological scars you’ve wrought upon my family, Mrs. Tresmal. It seems you’ve taught Jeremy at least one important lesson this school year, which is that there is no point in putting in honest, hard work when all it earned us was a D.

As a communications minor from the University of Phoenix, I must tell you that I feel strongly my educational training in the art of the written word makes me more than qualified in judging what constitutes B+ work versus D work. The attention to detail I spent in making sure the Works Cited page was flawless and that the margins were in fact one inch all around (a tyrannical power move on your part if ever I saw one) should have, at the very least, earned me a C+. On your grading rubric (more like list of demands), you noted that the essay’s title, “e. e. cummings: An Explosion of Talent,” was “unseemly.” I couldn’t disagree more; it bursts off the page with virility and entices the reader to continue! Additionally, your comment on the lack of depth in my analysis because I chose only to explicate my favorite e. e. cummings memes shows just how out of touch you are with the digital age. Worst of all, though, is your unjust docking of points due to my use of Comic Sans. While I understand the requirement was to use Times New Roman — the world’s most boring font — I felt a more refined selection was needed to properly convey my thoughts. Certainly cummings would’ve appreciated my rejection of your irrationally rigid expectations. In fact, it’s my suspicion that the reason we scored so low is because you find e. e. cummings’s abandonment of traditional grammar rules as a personal insult to your own archaic values.

You see, I am aware that the common man doesn’t care for cummings’s unique and often misunderstood poetry. Google made that abundantly clear. I’ll admit that I barely understood what I was at first reading and thought they were the writings of a dyslexic stroke victim. However, now that I’ve come to know the poet intimately via the Wikipedia, it’s obvious why the average person would perceive his poetry as crude and confusing. It takes a complex mind to truly appreciate such complex work.

It seems that some people simply lack the open, innovative mind needed to understand such advanced art forms. To that, I noticed in your “About Me” paragraph on your class syllabus — situated just above the self-serving “Classroom Rules and Etiquette” section — that your B.A., M.Ed., doctoral degree, National Board Certification, and 22 years of experience are all in the very general field of education. I think perhaps it’s time for you to do your students (and parents of students) a real service and review your grading system to account for the obvious holes in your professional training.


John D. Thomas, Jeremy’s father

P.S. Jeremy told me his next essay is on Langston Hughes. I look forward to honoring yet another great artist. My only hope is that Jeremy will finally earn the grade that I deserve.

Jennifer Walker

Written by

Hobbies include running a lot, eating Trader Joe’s samples, and disappointing my mother.



Medium humor. Large laughs.

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