This is part of the Monday Mission. We're to leave a voice mail. Check out Painted Maypole's spot for more...
"Hi...umm...Mitch? It's Julie, Julie from high school. I doubt you remember me; we only knew each other for about five minutes. You mowed our lawn a few times, dated my friend's sister, and were in my AP English class senior year. That's why I'm calling---about what you did in the English class. It made a lasting impression, really made a difference in my life. That probably sounds dramatic but it's true. You see, I'd spent a lot of years being the kid who fell through the cracks in school. I think by high school I'd gotten tired of being the good enough and compliant student. Senior year, I was one inch from dropping out, and I probably would have if I'd had the guts or I thought my parents would let me get away with it. Instead, I just created a lot of unnecessary sturm and drang for myself, and cut school so much that by the end of the year there was a question about whether they'd let me graduate. Wait..it's cutting me off...I'll call back..."
"Mitch? It's Julie again. So anyway. So that AP English class. It was the straw that broke the camel's back for me. I'd had enough of terrible teachers in a horrible school system who couldn't care less about whether I learned anything, and that teacher was the worst of all. Maybe this will help you remember who I am: I was one of the girls she sat on the far side of the room. She made a row of us, and told us we couldn't think or write our way out of a paper bag. She told us we were a waste of her time and a waste of space in the class. She said she felt sorry for herself that she had to teach stupid girls like us. She told us we'd never be able to do anything better than C work. She called us the C Row. We made a joke out of it. We called ourselves the Crows and we'd make caw caw noises. Does that ring a bell? The irony is that she said this to three girls who served as student body leaders (one vice president, one secretary, one council representative), one homecoming queen, AP track girls across the board, all of whom graduated with good class rankings, and went on to great universities. Wait...cut off again...I'll call back..."
"Mitch? Julie. Okay. I think you know how even though we laughed, it hurt. I think you know what it did to us inside that she never called on us, or when she did, she mocked our answers, reinforced us as stupid. I think you know how much it troubled us that she encouraged the others to laugh at us, too. I think you know because of what you did, and I want you to know how much it changed everything, even after you'd gone. In the middle of one of her obnoxious lectures and belittling sessions, you stood up. You stood up in that classroom and you said, 'This is bullshit. This is such utter bullshit and I won't take it for one more minute.' Then you went on to call her on every single one of her terrible teacher crimes. You told her she was unfair to students, played favorites, and she was the one who couldn't teach her way out of a paper bag. You told her you felt sorry for us, the students, that we were subjected to someone like her. Then you concluded by saying, 'And don't bother telling me to go to the principal. I'm on my way there now. I'll be glad to tell him exactly what I did and why, and request a transfer. I'd rather sit in remedial than spend one more day in your class.' Oh, be back..."
"Mitch? Julie. She didn't change. Of course she didn't change. She continued her reign of self-esteem terror on me and my two friends. But we changed. We quit respecting and believing her. We felt free. We felt free to hate her, mock her, and not take one word she said to us to heart. We felt free to call it bullshit, too. It's true what Eleanor Roosevelt said, 'No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.' We stopped consenting. You started that. Okay I know this is about to cut me off, and I want to tell you the end of the story. Hang on."
"Mitch? Julie. So what happened was her final insult to me was to pull my AP placement exam paperwork. She waited until the day after the deadline and then handed it back with a flourish, 'I pulled your papers,' she told me, smirking her nasty smirk, 'I don't think someone like you can handle these exams.' She tried to pretend it was a favor, to keep me from feeling bad. I knew it for what it was: bullshit. I was furious because a horrible person had power over me, but I didn't let it stop me. You were in my mind. I took a trip down to the university and took the placement exams anyway. I entered college with over a full semester's worth of hours, and a perfect 4.0. I applied for the honors program. There were limited spots in my huge university---didn't you go to the same one?---for this program. They only let in a few people a year. Instead of classes of 200, you got classes of 6-8, with the best professors. I got in. I got in to the honors writing program, and I excelled. One professor only handed out three As per semester, and I got one. I had my first paper published when only a junior in college. They used my paper as a writing sample for freshman. Wait...almost done..."
"Mitch? Julie. I took that paper. Do you remember my friend Kim? Kim and I went to the high school together one day when we were both home from college on break. I walked in, right in to her class, and in front of students I waved that paper at her. I thought of how she must be damaging more kids' esteem, and I thought of you. I thought of how I wished I'd done what you did, and I told her what I'd accomplished, that my professors believed in me, said I had talent and potential. I told her I wasn't stupid or a waste of space, and she'd never had the right to say that to me. I said I'd succeed in spite of her, her efforts to drag me down. I told her I was just beginning, and I'd do well. Then I walked out. There were nervous and delighted giggles behind me, with some applause, mainly from Kim I think, who kept saying. 'I can't believe you did that.' And I went home and I felt good. I probably should have felt bad but I didn't. I felt good. I stood up to her probably three years past when I should have, but I did it. I always wished I'd told you what a difference your action made. I always wished I'd thanked you. I guess it's better now, anyway, when it's got more of an ending. But it might have meant more back in high school. So, I'm sorry I never said anything then, and thanks. You made a big difference. I hope your life is good, and all you want it to be. Take care, and goodbye."
Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
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