The Time A Teacher Let Me Down.

I was very fortunate to have stellar teachers on the whole throughout my schooldays. Sure, there were a few I could do without, cough cough sophomore year English teacher cough cough, but mostly I loved my teachers. However, it was one of the teachers that I loved the most that hurt me the worst.

She was my theater teacher and I thought she was the very definition of bees-knees. She had tattoos and awesome chunky highlights and went to concerts like all the time. She was very good to me and I frequently stayed after school just to hang out with her because she was the kind of teacher you hung out with. Before we started class we would play warm-up games, it was mostly improv but every once in a while we would play Never Have I Ever. I don’t know if you’re familiar with this game or not, but if you are I imagine you’re thinking how inappropriate that game was for 15 year olds to be playing although it was tamed down a bit. When someone had done the thing that was called out, they had to go into the middle of the circle and then it was their turn to call out what they had never done. In one such round of Never Have I Ever one of my friends boyfriends was in the middle when he looked right at me and said “Never have I ever had an eating disorder.”

In that moment it felt like a bomb had gone off inside my chest. Obviously my “friend” had shared with her boyfriend the struggles I had with food. Never once, in all those struggles and recovery had I thought someone would use my eating disorder as a weapon against me. Every single person in the class was staring at me. No one made a noise for what seemed liked 10 minutes. At some point, I was able to shake off the shock and look at my teacher- surely she would intervene on my behalf. But she didn’t. She just looked at me. I mustered every bit of courage I had, stood up, walked to the middle of the circle and stood as tall as I could. I then looked at the now somewhat sheepish boy who had just sought to destroy me and said “Fuck you.” Then, I sat down again.

At that point the teacher formerly known as my favorite asked the class to work silently in their journals. I kept thinking she was going to say something to me or give me detention for cursing but she didn’t even walk over to where I was sitting. The bell rang and I was leaving the class when she called me over and said “I’m sorry I let that happen to you. I didn’t handle that correctly at all. And I know how you feel because I used to have an eating disorder too.”  More than anything else she had done that day, this let me down. How could someone who understood what I had gone through let something so publicly humiliating happen to me? Didn’t she know what that type of event could set off in me? Didn’t she know that at that very moment I was longing for a toilet to purge in? Maybe. Maybe she did. Maybe she was scared. Maybe she just wasn’t mature enough to know what to do. She was young. She was new to teaching. A part of me knew I should let it go but a bigger part of me wanted to slap her in the face and walk out of the room. However, all I did was say “No. You don’t know how I feel, you weren’t in the center of that circle.” and then I walked away.

I took many more of that teachers classes and would still occasionally hang out after school in her class but I was never as close to her as I had been before. She was no longer someone I looked up to. That day in her classroom playing Never Have I Ever was the day that I realized even cool tattooed concert going grown-ups could be assholes, but it was also the day that I learned I had a lot more chutzpah than I thought and that actually helped a lot.

19 thoughts on “The Time A Teacher Let Me Down.

  1. Whoa. Both you standing in the circle and saying “fuck you” and then what you said to the teacher afterwards are both amazing. Those two things seem like the things you would “wish you did” after the moment passed and it was too late – but you actually did them! I’m sorry for your struggles with an eating disorder, and can’t imagine how you must have felt in that class. But damn girl! You handled that situation with a helluva lotta bravery.

    • It was one of the rare moments of clarity for me where I didn’t regret anything I said or didn’t say later. Thank you so much for your kind comment!

  2. First, bravo! I dare say that you are incredibly brave, this was a very powerful entry and I am sure it took courage to write it much less share it with us readers. I can certainly relate to those terribly awkward-and on occasion horrible-moments in high school. Thank you for sharing, it is very inspiring. 🙂

  3. the version of events in which she handled things correctly – when everyone is staring at you, she steps out to the middle of the circle instead… probably refraining from saying fuck you, but only because she is a teacher. Be the freaking adult in the situation, why don’t you. You handled it brilliantly, though – lots and lots of chutzpah!

    • Thank you! It was horrifying but ultimately, I think it made me at least a little bit braver, a little bit more proud of who I am.

  4. Her failure likely left two scars: yours and the one she’ll carry for the rest of her life for not standing up for you. Sometimes it takes a kid to be the adult in a situation. You handled it beautifully.

    • Thank you. I hope she doesn’t carry any guilt around but I also hope she knows how to better handle situations like that now.

  5. I mostly know how you feel. Uh junior year in algebra class, I was constantly being teased for being gay, and I would always look at the teacher hoping she would do something and never did. She just watched me everyday argue with classmates, the yelling got pretty ugly and it only ended when other classmates stepped in. Then again I wasn’t close to the teacher. I just meant I know what humiliation feels like. The trick for me was, never let them know it got to me 😉

    • I’m so sorry that happened to you. I hate that teachers let such ugliness pervade their classrooms. It sounds like you handles it courageously though- I hope you know if I had been there I would have had many a snarky (and curse laden) response to those who were being cruel to you.

  6. Good work throwing shit back at his face. What a complete douchebag.

    As for your teacher, I guess she froze when shit hit the fan. I guess it’s maybe not something they train you for in teaching school… but as a person who is the authority figure, common sense should tell her that she had the ability to contain that situation, and silence and turning a blind eye was just not acceptable.

    Bullying is bullying.

  7. Your 15 year old self handled that situation perfectly. A lot better than 99% of 15 year olds out there.

    Huge kudos to you for writing about this. Very brave!

  8. wow! you brave girl!!!!! I remember situation when I was 15 and in a boarding school, some things went wrong with classmates but nobody confronted me, there was a lot of whispering and behind back talks, silences when I was entering classroom and giggles after, I had asked a teacher to let me speak, stood there in front of the 30 girls, shaking inside and asked what is going on, the teacher did not help me in ANY way, none of the teachers (most of them nuns) did anything to help, girls had started telling me how I don’t fit, how I’m a weirdo, and proud and think myself better then them (???!!!!) and then my room mate, very shy girl (teacher still saying absolutely NOTHING, no control over quite vicious verbal attacks) got up, bright red on her face and said: it’s all bullshit, she is not proud, she is amazing you just need to WANT to know her and stop judging her and she turned to me and said: I’m on your side and I nearly fell apart then and few others stood up there and said something similar and then the bell rang and it was all over and guess what? the teacher did NOTHING after that all scene, she didn’t talk to me, NOTHING, uh!
    you’ve done FANTASTIC for yourself and this is something to be proud of!

  9. Wow! Deep stuff – I too struggle with an eating disorder, and it has taken me 46years before I dared to name and shame my ‘illness’.
    Food is a contentious issue with so many people. What you did was brave and mature beyond your years. You were put in an unfair and hostile situation.
    Keep talking, keep writing – we never know how much our words can inspire and wake up awareness in other people. x

  10. Hi, I just stumbled upon this blog by accident and wanted to say; wow. That’s quite a heavy thing to go through for someone that young!

    I recognize this to a certain extent in a way. Never had any eating disorders, but I’ve had many teachers to whom I looked up to, too. Or boyfriends for that matter! Or anyone else that made a difference at some point in my life, really.. Some of them still are high up in the charts because they just were and still are that cool. Some of them have tumbled deep though, because like you said; they can be assholes too. And they’re not nearly as perfect as we think they are.. But then again, we may just paint a picture that might be impossible for them to measure up to, just because we’re teens with stars in our eyes.

    I find life a lot easier since I began to understand that even my heroes are simple human beings. Makes it easier for me to make and accept my own mistakes. After all if they can make them, so can I, right? It also made it a lot easier to understand that, even though it might be hard to imagine right now, -I- too can at some point be one of them to someone else maybe. Hopefully without too many of them being disappointed.. ;p

    Good for you on not running away and letting that bloke get the best of you. That was a very strong sign. I can only imagine how strong you are now (in your 20s?) 🙂

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