Unfiltered Story #215213

, , | Unfiltered | November 15, 2020

A friend of mine has signed up for an English class in college. The teacher did not make syllabi or required reading availiable until the first day of class, but my friend felt pretty comfortable as the class was small and she’s socially anxious.

She soon found out why the class was so small.

Turns out the teacher was on a tenure power trip. His first statement to the class was to say that he has his own rules and invited anybody who doesn’t like them to drop out of the class. My friend cringed, but she really did need to keep her course completion schedule on track so she decided to stay.

Throughout the year, the teacher assigns horrific and/or raunchy books, while requiring students to assess the worst parts of said books with quotes. My friend is made deeply uncomfortable, as the sex scenes are usually disgusting and/or disturbing and she doesn’t really like reading about sex to begin with. Unfortunately, the window for dropping out without failing the class had passed, so she was stuck now. Since all the students are over the age of 18, the school was also unable to fire the teacher for this. The best she could do was get a well-regarded local tutor to help her navigate the situation to at least a passing grade.

The final book and the book required for all of the most important assignments was the worst of the bunch. While the previous books were more horror than sex, this one was straight up literary porn. My friend’s parents won’t even let her repeat the title outside of assignments from the class because it’s so inappropriate, the plot was vapid at best, and richly-described disgusting non-consensual sex happened every chapter. The teacher wanted a detailed literary analysis on the book, and it counted enough to effectively determine a student’s final grade.

My friend is not comfortable with typing up enough quotes in the book to reach the teacher’s quote quota, and especially is not comfortable with using the excerpts the teacher assigned as required parts of the analysis. Nevertheless, she nervously types up a rough draft that fits the requirements and the next day shows it to her tutor. Some good news comes of this– the tutor is equally horrified and discomforted as my friend, encourages her to take out any parts she doesn’t feel comfortable with quoting or analyzing deeply, and volunteers to advocate for her if the teacher raises a fuss about it. From there, they work together to fill in the analysis with the most sterile words they know of that are on topic.

As predicted, the teacher is patronizingly displeased when she comes with an essay that doesn’t fit all the requirements. At this point, she’s frustrated, exhausted, and knows the class is ending soon. So she speaks up. She affirms to the teacher that she is not going to include anything she does not want to, and besides, English was never her best subject anyway so a bad grade isn’t going to break her heart. She gets a glare from the teacher, but he snatches the essay from her and ignores her entirely for the rest of class time.

Her mother gets a phone call that day from the teacher. He demanded that my friend rewrite her essay immediately to fit the requirements or she will be punished for disrespecting him and fail the class. Her mother is very annoyed, but calmly explains that her tutor taught her not to include anything that made her uncomfortable, which happened to be the majority of the assigned book. She invited him to take it up with the tutor if he didn’t believe her, and then called the tutor to warn her that the teacher may call her soon to complain.

I don’t know how or if the conversation with the tutor happened. I know so much that at some point that day after class, the teacher’s brash, rude, and unempathetic attitude towards my friend crumpled enough to net her a B on the essay, which translated into a final grade of a B.

She wasn’t lying either when she said English wasn’t her best subject, though at this point a lot of it related to lack of confidence instead of lack of skills. Ironically, the teacher who tried to demoralize, discomfort, and embarrass her instead paved the way to boosting her confidence in her English skills. Her performance in English became much more consistently good as a result.

There is no one perfect solution to dealing with a power abuser, especially one in a protected position, but in this case standing up to the abuser with advocates on her side was exactly what my friend needed to do. While I would never advocate intentional abuse of power to promote self-growth, it’s important to know as well that long term good can come from short term bad in the most unexpected ways.