Sunday, April 6, 2014

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An Open Apology To My High School Teachers

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Dear High School Educators:

I’m sorry for being a shit. I’m sorry for not following the rules. I’m sorry for not viewing teachers as dedicated professionals with hopes and dreams and passions, but rather as robot-like authority figures sent from another plant to make my life hell.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for my outbursts. I’m sorry for always demanding attention during class and never shutting up. I’m sorry for mocking you. I’m sorry for half-assing my work. I’m sorry for throwing things at you, pulling the fire alarm while on a trip to the restroom, and trying to stage a walkout.

Mr. Baxter: I’m sorry for stealing the real human brain you brought into class, asking Sam Garcia to “go long,” and then hurling it across your class room. Luckily Sam was on the football team and the pass was complete. And thank you for accepting my late assignments so I could pass biology. 

Mr. Dinglmire: I’m sorry for calling you Mr. Dick-muncher. And I’m sorry for lighting fireworks in the hallway outside your classroom after you’d kicked me out of class for being disruptive. And I’m sorry for leaping out the open second story classroom window during a warm spring day in an attempt to fake my own death. As you know, I landed safely on the awning just below the window, scooted across it, and climbed into the next-door classroom. I thank you for not giving up on me, for tirelessly urging me to finish my assignments, and for answering my questions.

Mrs. Fey: I’m sorry for saying that your glamour shot portrait, framed and placed on your desk, made you look like a slut from a White Snake rock video. And I’m sorry for saying that the man in the family photo next to the glamour shot (most likely your husband) looked like a douchebag. And I’m sorry for getting in a fistfight with David Grimes during freshman algebra, and then calling you a bitch for breaking it up. And what did you do to get back at me? You showed up at 7AM each morning and worked with me one-on-one, the sun slowly creeping into the classroom, so I could pass freshman algebra, the class I failed two years earlier. The class I needed to graduate from high school.

Mr. Stewart: I’m sorry for dropping my pants and exposing my butt to your floral design class. And I’m sorry for supporting Jimmy Taylor’s attempt to pop your colostomy bag while on an FFA trip to Southern Utah. From what I understand, you were wounded in the Vietnam War, and that’s why you had a colostomy bag. I’m sorry for not respecting the sacrifice you made. And thank you spending several weekends away from your family to take me (and many other rowdy students) to conferences and presentations.

Mr. Anderson: I’m sorry for trying to sell you a pornographic movie, and when you politely turned me down, I’m sorry for insisting that “you really needed it because you’d never been married.” Thank you for not turning me into the administration, and thank you for offering me a place to stay the following year when my father was put in jail.  

I’m sure I made many of your lives hell. I’m sure I was that kid in your class that you dreaded dealing with. The one that, at the end of the day, made you say, “They don’t pay me enough to put up with this.”

I want you to know that I was going though a rough time back then. My parents were divorced; my father was addicted to alcohol and painkillers (he died two years after I graduated from high school). My mother and I weren’t getting along, so I was living with my grandmother. But none of this really justifies how I acted. And honestly, it wasn’t your responsibility to deal with all the shit in my life. Your job was to educate me.

But I want you to know that I appreciate what you did. I’m grateful that you cut me slack and stuck with me. That you took the time to chat with me after class about my family, that you encouraged me to keep trying, and, most importantly, that you, time and time again, talked me out of leaving school.

The way you kept working with me, day in and day out, made this difficult time in my life bearable.

Thank you.

I want you to know that now, fourteen years after graduating from high school, I’m an educator myself. I work at a university. Sometimes I teach, but mostly I’m an academic counselor in a program the serves students with backgrounds much like my own.

Here is just one example of multiple situations I’ve been faced with as an educator. I hope it speaks to you.

Just a few weeks ago I asked a classroom of 30 students what their short-term goals were, and one of them replied, “to get laid.”

I looked at that student, and I wanted to get pissed. I wanted to take him outside and let him KNOW how to act appropriately in my classroom. But instead, I thought about my high school educators. I thought about how I probably said something very similar back in the day, and how some of you didn’t come down on me, but rather took me aside and asked me a question that really got to the root of my actions: why are you acting this way?

So I did the same thing. I pulled the student aside after class, asked him that same question, and after chatting for an hour or so, I found out that his mother had died less than one year earlier. He was away from home, trying to fit in, and feeling frustrated and confused. I feel like I’m that student’s ally now, much like how you, my high school educators, were mine.

This is a skill I learned from you. I suppose this is my way of paying it forward. Of giving to others what you so tirelessly gave to me. I know it doesn’t make up for the things I did, but I hope it helps you to feel like the time you invested in me was not wasted.


Clint Edwards

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, and a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His essays on parenting and marriage have been featured in New York Times Motherlode, Huffington Post Parents, Huffington Post Weddings, and The Good Men Project. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo by Lucinda Higley


Anita said...

Perspective is an amazing thing! And, good grief, Clint! You were a horrible teenager! I'm glad you grew out of it. Mostly! ;)

Clint said...

I cannot tell you how many times I talked my way out of being placed in an alternative high school. But I really am grateful to the teachers who stuck with me.

Courtney Garcia said...

Dang! You are a super success story!

Clint said...

I wouldn't go that far Courtney. But thank you for the kind words!