This is a long overdue apology letter. I don’t know if you remember me, I was in your standard Algebra 2 class in 2006. I was a junior; I didn’t pass your class. At the end of the year you went around the room and asked everyone to say what math class they were taking the next year. I took this a little personally because I knew, that you knew, I wasn’t going to pass your class and that meant I was taking Algebra 2 again. When you got to me and asked what I was taking I said “Algebra 2, because I didn’t learn anything from you this year.”
Here is where I will own my stuff. That was uncalled for and it was disrespectful. I didn’t try very hard in your class, because I felt discouraged and because I had never failed a class before and I didn’t understand how easy it was to do. But this doesn’t absolve you from being a “waiting for my pension” teacher. For seeing that I didn’t understand and never offering me help, never reaching out. It also doesn’t absolve you from telling me, in front of everyone that without Algebra 2 I would never go to college and that I would work at McDonald’s asking people “do you want fries with that?”
At the time I thought you were just being mean, but now I understand why you said it. I’m working as an intern in a guidance department at a high school (I did manage to pass algebra the second time around and not only did I graduate college, I’m half way done with a master’s degree.) I teach advisory classes for juniors as part of my internship. I gave them a section of the PSAT as practice today. The disrespect of me and the exam itself was flagrant. Most of them didn’t do it, they didn’t try. They might have tried and saw it was hard and shut down. They talked, they banged the tables, they swore at me. I asked them why they wouldn’t try and they said it didn’t matter. They said they’d be fine, they said they didn’t need the PSAT or the SAT. They’re teenagers and they think they know it all.
It was really frustrating and I wanted to leave the room and slam the door and tell them without an education they’d work at McDonalds. The temptation was great. But I didn’t do that. I won’t do that. Because maybe every other adult in their life has given up. Because maybe their teachers are a little tired. Because maybe they don’t have the confidence they can do it and maybe they need a cheerleader. I won’t let them disrespect me, and I won’t let them walk all over me. But there’s a better way than telling them they’ll serve fast food (and frankly, a job is a job and your comment was classist on top of plain mean.)
You made a point and I proved you wrong. And I want these kids to prove me wrong too.