This is a descriptive paper I wrote in my english class in college about overcoming a difficult experience…
Broken but Not Defined
Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward. – Henry Ford
As an adolescent I struggled throughout school with low self esteem and a learning disability. Along the way I encountered a teacher who changed me, but not for the better. A traumatic incident occurred with this teacher that in the long run made the decision to go back to school emotionally difficult for me. With my husband’s encouragement I was able to move past these impediments. Teachers have a tremendous power to influence; their words can be used to build up or tear down. This is a story of the harmful effects of a teacher who chose to use his words to tear down and the resultant circuitous path to overcome and ultimately find success despite them.
As a child, I struggled a great deal in school academically due to a learning disability, but even more than the disability, I struggled with a lack of confidence and subsequent anxiety. I dreaded school as far back as I can remember; I can still recall the feeling of trepidation building in my stomach each morning and I can still taste the sour stomach acid of the all too familiar indigestion. I was not as studious as the other kids and usually struggled more, and a lot of times stood out for all the wrong reasons as a result. I had trouble paying attention as well, so when called upon by my teachers, I was usually off course and would then be humiliated in front of my peers (one of my worst nightmares). The fear, anxiety, and academic struggles in school only grew as I approached high school.
In my sophomore year these struggles came to a head. My algebra teacher was a horrible little man that enjoyed torturing his classes with the task of assembling a terribly complicated notebook that was worth a large portion of the class grade. I had trouble understanding algebra in general, much less the setup of this notebook, so inevitably, I was failing the class, seemingly much to this teacher’s enjoyment. Success for the students was not the goal for this teacher, control was his objective. The severity of my anxiety in this class had become so bad that my special education teacher had authorized a free pass that enabled me to leave in the event that I was driven to tears or became exasperated. Eventually, this stress and anxiety had become almost unmanageable so my mother decided that I should drop out and enroll in a home school program. In the middle of my tenth grade year I walked into the office and signed myself out of my local high school. That act made me feel like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders with all of the anxiety the school and that algebra teacher had caused that year.
A few weeks after beginning home school, my former algebra teacher came into my place of employment (McDonalds) as one of my customers. It was the middle of a Saturday afternoon. The sun streamed in through the windows down onto a crowded dining room filled with people going about their business. He deliberately positioned himself in my line amidst the sea of other customers. The noise of the crowded restaurant was at a dull roar. I spotted him immediately and could feel my anxiety level rise as my heart began to beat out of my chest with each of his steps, one by one, closer to my register. The dreaded feelings in the pit of my stomach from the days of his algebra class came rushing back and the image of his look of enjoyment as I failed once again, was vivid in my mind. Beads of sweat began to form on my brow as he inched toward me. The noise of the crowd around me faded, there was a deafening silence as his approach was pending. He finally reached my register and I tried to smile and then I forced myself to look up at him and say, “Hi, May I take your order?” He peered back at me to meet my gaze with a smirk on his face and simply said, “You will never amount to anything more than this job!” upon which he proceeded to walk out.
As he left, the sound of the roaring crowd around me suddenly returned and I was very aware of the large audience that had been present to my very personal floor show – my heart sank. I was embarrassed, angry and most of all his words left a lasting pain in the deepest parts of me. I carried that pain for a very long time. Even though I knew I was still finishing school through the home school program, the words still cut deep and unfortunately became a part of me. For quite some time afterwards, on each occasion that I thought about furthering my education, I heard those words in my head telling me ‘I would never amount to anything’ or ‘I wasn’t good enough’.
I heard those words in my head for many years after that. It took a long time to build up the confidence to face education again and have the chance to attain to the dreams that I did not even realize were in me. My husband knew I was not happy where I was professionally but I was scared, in response he gently urged me to seek something more. As can be imagined, my first semester of classes at the Art Institute (AI) were an emotional struggle. The words from that teacher many years prior had left a gaping wound. Throughout the entire semester, my husband overwhelmingly encouraged and reminded me that I could do it, and continuously provided positive reinforcement. Little by little, those negative words spoken so long ago were replaced with positive ones. Now, I no longer hear the words from that teacher. I have also come to realize in writing this that I no longer feel anger towards him.
I have freedom from his negative words and I did not let this teacher and his low opinion define me. With the help of those who love me, like my husband, I have been able to move past and not accept his estimation. My husbands constant support and sometimes sickening positivity has encouraged me to seek and want something more. He has been an inspiration and a positive driving force in my life and toward my future goals. It has driven me to want to learn those things of which I am capable. Through my experience I am bigger, I have developed character, and it is in the endurance of these setbacks and grief, for which I have the perseverance to push on.
In hindsight I can see that this teacher probably thought he was doing something good by helping me see that I would be nothing but this job if I did not stay in school. He did not know that I was in homeschool. As far as he knew, I just quit school and decided that McDonald’s was the career for me. I do not agree with his method and I feel it would always lead to pain and cause a negative outlook on ones self. He could have said what he had to say very differently and maybe would have been a positive influence on my future.