A Classless Teacher

  1. I was in 9th grade at a prep school in Birmingham, Alabama.
  2. I had never been a competitive person academically unless given an assignment revolving around performance or creativity.
  3. This school was not a good fit for me. You needed to be able to handle academics independently and I needed structure.
  4. The text books were confusing. I remember reading the introduction to one and it saying it was a college text book. I became irate. I was 14. I read the book in its entirety, but did not remember or understand a thing.
  5. I felt stupid. My friends were all brilliant, competitive, eager to learn. I was struggling.
  6. One day my teacher for ancient history announced we had a test coming up. It was on Yom Kippur. I raised my hand, "when can I make up the test? It's a Jewish holiday and I won't be here."
  7. His response: "Why should I let you make up the test? You're the ones who killed Jesus....(long pause)... Just kidding."
  8. It was astonishing to hear a teacher say this but especially at this school known for its diversity and liberalism.
  9. It got worse. My feeling of stupidity was compounded by the many times he called me stupid. Repeatedly. In front of classmates.
  10. One day I told him to shut up. He paused, "what did you say?" I was proud I had said it so I repeated, "I said shut up." He sent me to the principals office. I went happily.
  11. I don't think I told my parents what happened. I wish I had. I was left as my own advocate. I have no recollection of the principal helping me.
  12. Sometimes I want to find this old teacher and tell him how he impacted my life and thank him for helping me figure out that it's okay to stand up to a bully...even when he's an adult.