Forgiving The Worst Of My Teachers

Forgiving The Worst Of My Teachers

Learning how to learn and like learning.

I remember learning the word “grudge” when I was in the fifth grade. My teacher politely explained to me that the word grudge was not “the coolest thing to come out of the nineties" (though Nirvana did change the contemporary rock and roll scene). No, a grudge, she explained, was a feeling of anger or resentment felt towards someone, a lack of forgiveness. People held grudges when they were mad about something that someone did or said. Grudges were, according to my fifth-grade teacher, unhealthy, and while we don’t want to accept apologies at face value, we should. Otherwise, we could all be sitting around culminating hatred and making passive aggressive comments towards friends-of-friends who unabashedly borrowed my best copy of C.S. Lewis’s "The Horse And His Boy," accidentally ripped out page 72, and then returned it with a smear of barbecue sauce across the front cover. Evidently, I wasn’t one to heed her warning, but instead put my newly used word to (over)use in the worst of ways, often bottling in resentment for months at a time before (unhappily) “letting it go” and/or confronting the problem directly.

Having to come to terms with the fact that forgiveness is only a healthy part of life on earth, and as part of my evolution into adulthood, I figured it would be best for my sanity and blood pressure to let go of some of my grudges. So instead of ruminating on that time that kid in my biology class offended my (oftentimes) frizzy hair, I decided to come to terms with the fact that his prejudice against the coarseness of my mane might be a genetic predisposition, or perhaps at home his family practices some sort of hair intolerance. Either way, if I go to the grave having hated this kid for that one thing he said to me that one time that didn’t so much offend me than it did bother me, I probably would have lived a more fulfilled life having, instead, just forgiven him. Of course, some grudges are rooted in less static issues- it can be harder to just flat-out say that, despite all the feelings of anger and resentment that stemmed from their actions, it was, “no biggie” when in fact it was, more or less, a biggie.

It’s much harder to give forgiveness when you feel as though you have actual justification for being angry for a greater period of time. I found it nearly impossible, despite (in many cases now) years of separation from the situation, to forgive my elementary-through-high school teachers that made my life as a student difficult. Despite how many rhetorical conversations I’ve had with myself, despite my various means of trying to find a reason to forgive the people that made education less of an actual learning experience and more of a metaphorical ball-and-chain (if you will), it often seems impossible to reason with my internal narrative screaming “THEY RUINED SCHOOL.” I spent years of my life under the harsh regime of the American education system, and I spent years of my life running away from the idea of learning because attached to learning was pounds of homework and impersonal class agendas. And I have spent years of my life blaming the teachers that have attached themselves in my mind to the memories I have of cramming for memorization tests or essays assigned, to put another grade in the book rather than to actually teach me something. While I’ve been an advocate for the idea of a more personalized learning experience since I could use the word “advocate” in a sentence, it wasn’t until I had the teachers that I did in my first semester of college that I became so obsessed with the idea of teachers as mentors, as sculptors, and in the case of many of my K-12 teachers, vandals.

I asked my sister the other day if she had ever considered reading as opposed to sitting mindlessly in front of her tablet. She responded, rather dramatically (I shouldn’t expect any less from an 8-year-old I suppose), “But we read sooo much in school and it’s soooo boring.” As a kid, I posed the same argument to my father, though admittedly I still enjoyed reading, but I always found my brain hurt after school, and the idea of reading when I had just sat through 6 hours of staring at textbooks dated back to 1987 seemed a little bit excessive. Nothing about school ever sent me home wanting to learn more. Nothing about homework ever left me running to school the next morning excited to show off what I had learned the previous night. Instead, it left me lethargically dragging myself into homeroom after having suffered through 6 pages of math homework and two rather hefty chapters of Steinbeck.

School, for the most part, left me generally disinterested, and teachers often left me generally uninspired. And while it’s taken me quite a while to admit it, I can’t blame my teachers. Because my teachers were handed from their supervisors who were handed from their superintendents a massive course-load and told, “Finish this by the end of the quarter.” And those supervisors and superintendents are 30+ years removed from high school, from middle school, from elementary school, and are in turn incredibly far removed from the mind and the agenda of your average student. They way my teachers approached the work they were given was often similar to the way I approached the work they gave me, with a small amount of lackluster enthusiasm. And unfortunately, while it’s hard to really learn from someone who doesn’t seem enthusiastic to teach, it’s probably just as difficult to teach algorithms or "Julius Caesar" to a group of tired-eyed preteens whose interests fall somewhere between internet memes and "Gossip Girl." And so the cycle of the poor teaching and poorly taught continues, and it’s sometimes hard to recognize it until you’ve come across a good teacher or a really interesting subject.

But in college and sometimes even in high school, it’s easier to individualize an agenda, to personalize it for the group of kids in a room who are all there, in that class, because they are excited to learn and to teach. I don’t know if the same can be said for middle school science teachers or freshman year Algebra 1 teachers, and so I don’t know if it’s fair to hold them to the same standard. I’ve grown to forgive those teachers because I can blame their supervisors, I can blame myself and generations of other students for not caring enough, and also because it’s probably bad for my blood pressure to get heated over a seventh grade English teacher every time somebody brings up "The Outsiders." I’ve learned since that there will be ups and downs in the great road of education, and I’ve learned that if I hold grudges against those that gave me pop quizzes on test days or assigned hours of reading for no particular reason, I’ll never be able to grow as an individual student and learn to like learning a little more.

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30 Things I'd Rather Be Than 'Pretty'

Because "pretty" is so overrated.

Nowadays, we put so much emphasis on our looks. We focus so much on the outside that we forget to really focus on what matters. I was inspired by a list that I found online of "Things I Would Rather Be Called Instead Of Pretty," so I made my own version. Here is a list of things that I would rather be than "pretty."

1. Captivating

I want one glance at me to completely steal your breath away.

2. Magnetic

I want people to feel drawn to me. I want something to be different about me that people recognize at first glance.

3. Raw

I want to be real. Vulnerable. Completely, genuinely myself.

4. Intoxicating

..and I want you addicted.

5. Humble

I want to recognize my abilities, but not be boastful or proud.

6. Exemplary

I want to stand out.

7. Loyal

I want to pride myself on sticking out the storm.

8. Fascinating

I want you to be hanging on every word I say.

9. Empathetic

I want to be able to feel your pain, so that I can help you heal.

10. Vivacious

I want to be the life of the party.

11. Reckless

I want to be crazy. Thrilling. Unpredictable. I want to keep you guessing, keep your heart pounding, and your blood rushing.

12. Philanthropic

I want to give.

13. Philosophical

I want to ask the tough questions that get you thinking about the purpose of our beating hearts.

14. Loving

When my name is spoken, I want my tenderness to come to mind.

15. Quaintrelle

I want my passion to ooze out of me.

16. Belesprit

I want to be quick. Witty. Always on my toes.

17. Conscientious

I want to always be thinking of others.

18. Passionate

...and I want people to know what my passions are.

19. Alluring

I want to be a woman who draws people in.

20. Kind

Simply put, I want to be pleasant and kind.

21. Selcouth

Even if you've known me your whole life, I want strange, yet marvelous. Rare and wondrous.

22. Pierian

From the way I move to the way I speak, I want to be poetic.

23. Esoteric

Do not mistake this. I do not want to be misunderstood. But rather I'd like to keep my circle small and close. I don't want to be an average, everyday person.

24. Authentic

I don't want anyone to ever question whether I am being genuine or telling the truth.

25. Novaturient

..about my own life. I never want to settle for good enough. Instead I always want to seek to make a positive change.

26. Observant

I want to take all of life in.

27. Peart

I want to be honestly in good spirits at all times.

28. Romantic

Sure, I want to be a little old school in this sense.

29. Elysian

I want to give you the same feeling that you get in paradise.

30. Curious

And I never want to stop searching for answers.
Cover Image Credit: Favim

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Coping With The Loss Of A Passion

It's hard to get it back once you lose it.


In college, time to focus on passions seems limited. The homework, essays, group projects, and exams are never-ending.

In high school, I took my free time for granted. I was dancing four hours four nights a week, but I wasn't constantly stressed. I had time to focus on my passion, which is dance.

In college, I am a part of an amazing dance club. But I don't get to compete, take technique classes, or be with the team I was with since I was 8 years old. Now, I receive videos of my team from home's amazing performances, and it aches a bit. I am so proud and happy for their growth but jealous that they have more years than I do. It is nearly impossible to find technique classes at college to take with no car, little free time, and barely any money. I miss my team, I miss my dance teachers and choreographers, and I miss competitions, but most of all, I miss the person I was when I had the opportunity to pursue my passion several hours a week.

My passion will always be there, and I do get to pursue dance on a smaller scale with some amazing dancers in college, but I am coping with the fact that I will never do another competition with my team again, I will never be able to dance with them again, and I will never be able to learn from my dance teachers again. It's a hard loss, one that I think about every day.

To anyone who still has the opportunities to pursue their passions to the fullest extent, you are lucky. Not everyone gets the chance to keep up with their sport, passion, or activity that they dedicated all of their time to in high school. Don't take a single second of it for granted, and remember why you are doing what you are doing. Take time to reflect on why you love it so much, how it makes you feel, and how you can express yourself during it. Whatever this passion or activity is, make every second count.

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