Personal Posts

The teachers are failing. Not us.


I don’t tend to make rant posts (too often, anyway), but while sitting in the lobby of one of my school buildings, I happened to listen in on a conversation between a student and a teacher.

Often times, our teachers don’t meet with us in their offices. Why? I couldn’t tell you, but this particular discussion was probably better placed within the confines of an office.

The student was in a creative writing class with this teacher, and the teacher was discussing her grade within this class. The student was distraught. She had tears in her eyes and was shaking. It didn’t take much to see she was failing.

The teacher presented her with a paper, covered in red marks with a huge red NC (no credit) in the corner. It was her paper.

He reiterated what I assumed was the prompt.

Now, I’m a firm believer in “you earn your grades.” I’m much quicker to take the side of a teacher over that of a disgruntled student. If you fail, it’s because you earned it, but in the case of a creative writing class where most of the work is completely subjective, I have a hard time believing anyone can earn an “F” or “NC” unless they just didn’t do the assignment.

He said, “I wanted aliens. You gave me cyborgs.”

… What?

The girl mumbled something, but I’m afraid I didn’t catch it, too focused on him pointing out his terrible hand-writing on the page.

“Plus, it just wasn’t good. It was too romantic. Too much genre mixing. Cyborgs, though? Really?”

The girl was crying at this point.

He continued, “At this rate, you’ll be lucky to graduate. You’re definitely not a writer by any means.”

And that was it. I couldn’t sit there a moment longer and listen to that man burn every dream and ounce of self-esteem that girl had.

But I didn’t say anything. I just walked away.

I wish I had. I wish I could go back, just wait for that girl to get done with her conference, tell her to drop that class and take a different one next semester. To tell her cyborgs could be aliens. To tell her she could be a writer if she wanted to be, and if she honed in on her craft. To tell her she could do it.

Aren’t teachers supposed to guide us?

Then why are so many of them tearing us down?

You know what, maybe she couldn’t be a writer. Maybe she couldn’t write a full, grammatically correct sentence to save her life.

But that’s when you help her.

Teach.

You’re a teacher, not an executioner.

I hope that girl doesn’t give up. I hope she takes that man’s words and proves them all wrong. I hope she knows there are good teachers out there. I hope she finds one of them and that they guide her the way they should.

I hope she doesn’t give up.

-Lissy

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4 thoughts on “The teachers are failing. Not us.”

  1. I can’t even begin to tell you how disgusted I am to know that a “teacher” could even say those things to his student. I especially don’t get the part about him saying that cyborgs couldn’t be aliens. It’s a creative writing class, the keyword here being “creative”; aliens can be cyborgs and vice-versa. Don’t stomp all over a young girl’s hopes and dreams because she exercised the name of the class and used some goddamn creativity. I can’t explain how upset this whole thing makes me. I hope that student uses her teacher’s words as inspiration instead of disappointment.

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    1. I couldn’t agree more. I regret not saying something to her, and if I do see her again I hope that I get the chance to… Making a student cry because you can isn’t right, and I feel that is exactly what he did. He took advantage of his role, and he completely stomped her dreams. I’m disgusted.

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  2. Some teachers are guides the way wolves are shepherds. It’s one thing to challenge a student and quite another to mount an all-out assault on their psyche.

    I’ve seen this sort of behavior (briefly) in writing groups. The saddest and most infuriating thing is that these people usually think they’re doing the world a favor by weeding out people not worthy of writing X. They think of themselves as the good guys.

    Perhaps they would understand what they’re actually doing better if they were given a lesson in rock-climbing taught in the same fashion. On Half Dome.

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    1. I feel like 90% of the time it’s them boosting their own egos and “gifting” the world their supposed knowledge of literary prowess. I fully agree. It’s unfortunate to watch, and even more so for the person enduring it. I’m thankful my time in college writing has been peaceful and overall postive with great critique.

      I only hope that girl doesn’t give up. That’d be punishing herself more than anything.

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