I’ve failed too many times to be afraid of it now.

I remember once, my senior year of high school, I snapped from too many failures. And it wasn’t your average oops-I-failed-my-math-test-because-I-copied-all-my-homework-answers-from-the-back-of-the-textbook failure. It was an I-poured-my-heart-and-soul-into-every-English-paper-and-only-recieved-an-88 failure.

It’s safe to say I really disliked my English teacher. I would say hate, but I didn’t really hate him. He had a couple acceptable points. But they were few and far between. One time we happened to be alone together in the classroom, which alone was enough to make me feel angry and uncomfortable. He asked me what I wanted my profession to be, what I was planning on studying in college. I told him, as evenly and calmly and nicely as I could, “Journalism. I want to be a writer.” And he replied “Oh, I wouldn’t have pegged you as a writer.” My own English teacher.

But I digress. Early on he picked his favorites. I wasn’t one of them. He chose to give the atheist cynics the high grades, because he enjoyed their company and enjoyed their essays laced with venom and pretense. He continually was rude to a girl in my class who is the most genuinely kind person I know. She would be talking before class, just like the rest of us, and because her voice was a hair louder than the low buzz of conversation, he would yell at her to shut up. He literally used those words. “Shut up, Anastasya*” and when she would begin to defend herself “I was just–“, “SHUT UP, Anastasya.” I had to fight back tears for her. She took it, but I wanted to cry. And everyone else in the class would laugh, like it was some hilarious joke.

He was a forceful person, or rather, he tried to be. It was like a scare tactic. He’d threaten us all and try to be harsh, but brush it off under the guise of humor.

I still don’t really understand why everyone loved him and thought he was a great teacher. I honestly feel like I was one of the only ones who felt so passionately angry towards him. Maybe it was partially fueled by the selfish fact that I was not one of his favorites, and that I never felt I got the grades I deserved. Maybe I took everything too seriously.

Whatever the cause, I’d like to say it eventually wore me down. On the morning he finally acknowledged the fact that I was never friendly to him and demanded I say hello, I’d like to say that I stood up for myself. I’d like to say it went like this:

“Why do you never say ‘hello’ to me?”

“I don’t know…”

“Say hello to me right now.”

“Why? You may be my teacher, but you don’t have the power to bark orders at me. I never say hello because I don’t want to say hello.”

“Well, I’ve never known Katy to say anything, let alone be mean!” he chided, wanted to get a laugh from the rest of the class.

“I do talk. Just not to you. And I’m not being mean. Mean is believing you’re in some way better than everyone else. Mean is trying to order students around and shouting at them to shut up. Mean is choosing cynical and rude people like you and favoring them,” I said.

I was astounded I was saying any of this at all. I was aware the entire class was watching and listening, and aware that I was back talking to a teacher– something I had never done. I felt my face ready to burst into flame at any moment, and I saw Mr. Johnson’s* temper rise.

“Get out of my class,” he said, staring straight into my face.

“Gladly,” I quietly responded.

I turned towards the door, feeling every eye on my back. As soon as I heard the door shut behind me, I erupted into tears. Luckily, the staircase was just next to the classroom door and lead right down to the parking lot, where my car was approximately 100 strides away. I had skipped school like this many times before, but never so early in the morning. Still, I wasn’t worried about being caught. I just wanted to get home and listen to angry music, to revel in my courage and brashness.

I would like to say this is what happened. But all I did was stop in my tracks for a moment, say “hello”, and walk defeated to my desk.

I’ve failed too many times to be afraid of it now.





*names have been changed

This entry was published on March 17, 2012 at 12:42 AM. It’s filed under Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

7 thoughts on “Failure

  1. Nice post Kato. Most of my regrets are for the things I haven’t done or the things I left unsaid. I’ve gotten to spend a lot of time with younger folks lately, a journalism student is writing a profile for the local student run paper (Columbia had the first J-school) and I was talking to these high school kids as part of a brain awareness week yesterday. Its tough time and when there is a huge power differential holding stuff back is natural. You don’t have to beat yourself up about it. Nice to see you posting a lot lately, keep it up.

    • Thank you so much for the empathy and encouragement. You always have really kind things to say to me, and I always appreciate it.

      It’s awesome to know you’re spending time with younger people. Was the article and speech for your campaign? If so, I bet your influence will create a surge in youth voting. At least, I hope so.

      I haven’t thought about this incident in a while, but it crossed my mind a few days ago and it got me down. However, I reminded myself that all the pitfalls of high school should just be learning experiences. At least I’ll never have to go through it again, and I’ll be able to handle situations in a more balanced way.

      Thanks again for reading.

  2. befunnygirl on said:

    I think this post is the best retort you could give to a hater. It’s so well done….I’ve been staring at the blinking cursor trying to figure out how to express that. Doing a horrid job of it, but there you have it. Keep writing ’cause you’re amazing at it!

    • Thanks so much for continually coming by and reading. It’s really nice to have someone to relate to/ who can relate to me.
      And you’re not doing a horrid job of anything! You’re a great writer and I love to read your posts. I looked at the one about your new highlighters yesterday and was just longing to go out and buy some cool new writing tools. I need a little incentive to do homework haha

      Thanks again for reading and being so kind!

  3. There are many things left unsaid. Most of the time they are left unsaid for a reason. What the reasons are, at the time, may not be clear. Hell, they may never be clear. But they are left unsaid. Some we lament and some we are grateful. Had I always spoke as openly as I thought I should, I would find myself in more trouble than I usually am. I love this post because we have all been faced with this teacher. But I also remember those teachers that were true mentors, that treated us all as humans and gave us all, equally, they gift of their wisdom.

    • Upon reflection, I know that, had I said the things I wanted to say to my teacher, I would have regretted them. They may have brought me satisfaction for a moment, but I’m not the kind of person who handles being in trouble very well. It would have probably been far worse facing the awkwardness in class every day, and facing even further discrimination against my work.

      I guess you’re right– there’s a reason why I didn’t say what I wanted to. It’s all in the past now, and I’m thankful for where I am. Who knows what the consequences may have been?

      And thanks for the reminders of all the good teachers I’ve had. Honestly, Mr. “Johnson” was the only bad English teacher I’ve ever encountered. And in a way, I did end up getting revenge on him.

      He once told me that I was not up to AP level with my writing, and that I should seriously consider not taking the AP test at the end of the year. I was so frustrated because I knew my writing couldn’t possibly be that bad. I had been in advanced English classes all my life, and though maybe my writing wasn’t the best, there was no way I wasn’t up to scratch.
      So I still took the test, a grueling 5-hour monster complete with 200 questions and 3 essays. When I received my scores at the start of summer, I found I got a 5—the best score one can get.
      A week or two later, I happened to run into Mr. “Johnson” at Starbucks. He asked me what I had received on the test. I told him I got a 5. He hesitated a moment before saying “I had no doubt about that.”
      Knowing this to be untrue, I just looked at him like “Really? Really?” Then I got my coffee and left.
      And that was an interaction I was completely satisfied with.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: