Why I Am Grateful To My Least Favorite English Teacher…

Everyone who ever went to school has a favorite class. For some people, it’s lunch (haha), for others it’s science or history. I don’t know many people who favor math, but I’m sure they’re out there.

For me, it was English.

This should come as no surprise, considering I love reading and writing. All through school, I always looked forward to English class, which I felt I truly excelled in. Even when we had to read Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck for the fourth time in high school. 

But that’s not the point.

Despite it being your favorite class, I’m sure every one of you had a teacher who taught that subject who you could not stand. It could be for any reason, really, but I’m sure there was that one who just got under your skin.

I had that in my ninth grade English class.

Now, for some back story. This teacher, Ms. Nemo, we shall call her (that is not her actual name), was actually a long term substitute teacher. The actual teacher was only at school for a day, before going out due to having her baby and being on maternal leave the rest of the school year. Looking back on it, there’s probably a lot more to that story, but I don’t know, so I’m not getting into that.

Ms. Nemo came in the second day, and stayed the rest of the year. She was a young, preppy blond, fresh from college. Which I am okay with! Everyone has to start somewhere, right?

Well, it was from her first day on that we had a mutual hatred for each other.

Most teachers appreciate when you point out a mistake on the board. Heck, some even give you bonus points! Being as knowledgable as I was in English, I caught a lot. I probably should have been in AP English, but… I was too lazy for all of that back in high school.

But I caught a mistake. And I pointed it out — respectfully! — to Ms. Nemo. She… didn’t like that. She argued with me. And I would have let it drop, except one of my classmates backed me up, with evidence from our text book.

From that day forth, I am pretty sure she aspired to make my life a living hell.

Papers turned in would be graded much harshly (She didn’t like my tone for most essays), short stories I wrote would be returned coated in red ink notes, and poems I did were ripped apart. When I had a question or wanted to answer one, my hand was always ignored. And the one time I was out when we had to turn in a major paper because I was seriously sick, she took fifty percent off, because it was late when I turned it in when I returned to school. Now, remember, this was ninth grade, back in 2007-2008. Emailing assignments to teachers was not a thing at the time. That one, I fought.

And, in a way, all of that made me a better person. It might sound backwards, but think about it.

By grading my papers and critiquing my work so harshly, she pushed me to become a better writer. Before then, I had teachers who told me I wrote so well, and so sophistically. My parents told me I was an amazing writer. I had no one who actually critiqued my work fully before then, thus no one who pushed me. I had become too over confident in my abilities, thus complacent.

By ignoring my questions, she forced me to find the answers on my own. I did the research, found the answers, and taught myself more then what could be done just in the classroom setting. And by doing this on my own, what I learned really stuck in my head.

And finally, by having to fight to get the grade I deserved on that paper (which was our mid-term, by the way), I learned to stand up for myself, even against authority figures. I could have gotten my parents to deal with it for me, but I dealt with it all the same day that it happened. Her class was early in the day. I tried to talk to her, to her to explain why it was a day late (I literally had major sun poisoning and was throwing up the day it was due), but she didn’t want to hear it. So, during my lunch, I went to my guidance counselor about this. After checking the attendance for that day, he took my case to the principle, who mediated a student-teacher meeting between the myself and Ms. Nemo, who finally relented. Especially when I showed her my still burned and blistered shoulders. By the way, the sun poisoning was gained through a school sanctioned event, which added weight to my argument.

Through doing all of this, I felt I became a stronger student of English, as well as a better person. I became a better writer, learned research techniques that later helped in my undergrad and Master’s programs, gained a deeper understanding of the language, and learned to stand up for myself.

In fact, it was thanks to Ms. Nemo’s class that I gained an interest in teaching, as well. And that, you’ll have to tune in in two weeks to learn why I said that.

The whole point of this post, though, is to say that you will face adversary in life, as well as those who comfort you and lift you up. And sometimes, it will feel like you are being crushed under that adversary. But you can also learn from it, and grow to be a stronger, better person.

And that is why I am grateful to my least favorite English teacher.


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