About a week ago, a teacher called me stupid for not doing well on a test. This isn’t the first time a teacher has taken out their frustrations on me and made me feel bad about myself, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Normally, I don’t give a flying fuck about what 99.9% of the human race thinks about me, especially if it’s in regards to a test. But that comment and what ensued afterwards really hurt me, and I cried for hours. I felt that it was crossing some line—I expect other kids to act like that towards me, but never a teacher to be a bully. I had been struggling with my mental health anyways that day, and had a lot going on outside of school that was affecting my performance in general, so this interaction broke me. It was like that scene in Stand By Me when Chris cries about how a teacher punished him for trying his best to do the right thing. It is never okay to make anyone who is obviously struggling feel worthless or small.
But I am not here to hate on teachers, because truthfully, I believe that teaching is the most important and undervalued profession in the world, and I have had a number of teachers who have changed my life so dramatically. And if teacher pay is tied to test scores (which it is in Arizona and several other states), it causes a number of teachers to see their kids as numbers rather than as kids, which explains the reaction the teacher I just spoke about had. It is part of a larger societal issue.
But now that I have got that off my chest, I want to spend the rest of this post thanking four teachers who have made me a better human being.
Thank you Ms. Orriss (and now Ms. Erickson!), for never making me feel bad for asking for help, for always encouraging me, for never making me doubt myself, for never making me feel shame about asking for help, for loving me for who I was and not my grade, for making biology cool, and for being there for me when I felt like I was drowning.
Thank you Ms. Velazquez for encouraging me to be a leader, for giving me a safe space to write about my political opinions, for listening to me always, regardless of whether I am excited or sobbing, and for appreciating every part of me, even my flaws.
Thank you Ms. Marsh, for making me believe in myself again, for allowing me to make mistakes, for making me feel heard, for empowering me to use my voice to make change in my community, and for always reassuring me that my work is making a difference.
Thank you Ms. Patti, for being like a grandma to me, for teaching me that there is a world outside of the million dollar homes of Scottsdale, for telling me that I can change the world, for getting me involved in diplomacy, for showing me that the world is interconnected, and for teaching me to care about people that I don’t even know.
I know that the world, the state of Arizona, and the schools that you work in often don’t appreciate you or make you feel like you matter, but you do. Teachers are so important. And yes, I had a bad situation the other day, but it made me remember how fortunate I am to have such incredible teachers in my life. I love you. Thank you.