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We Graduate But We Never Forget

, , , , , , | Learning | December 15, 2021

Like many others, I had a terrible school experience growing up. Middle school was especially hellish thanks to relentless teasing, both from students and teachers. It was the 1990s. What can I say? 

One teacher, in particular, was a bully, plain and simple. He’d tease me along with other students. He forced me to cut up my brother’s toy dinosaur for a Viking ship project. He made fun of the way my cat scratched at my arms. And so on and so forth. 

After high school, I thought I’d never see him again, but when you have a retail job in the city near where you grew up, it is inevitable. I came across him three times.

I wasn’t working the first time; I was with my sister at a popular gas station/food place. We were on our way out when the teacher came in. He lit up, as teachers do I guess when seeing old students.

Teacher: “Girls! [Dumb Nickname we had in school]! How’re you?”

I briskly walked past without acknowledging him. He looked at my sister questioningly.

Sis: “What’d you expect?”

She walked away, too.

The second time, I was working at a fast food place, taking drive-thru orders when he pulled up. My friendly demeanor immediately turned icy. It took him a moment but I saw the recognition in his eyes.

Me: “That’ll be [total].”

Teacher: *Handing me money* “You probably don’t recognize me, do you?”

Me: *Giving back change* “I know who you are.”

I closed the window and had a coworker give him his order.

The third time, it had been about ten years since school. I was a shift leader at a bookstore, I was married, and I figured I’d moved on from the trauma of school… but when I saw this teacher approach the cash register, I felt anxious as though I were in middle school again.

Me: “Will this be all today?”

I was trying to be cordial and ring through the transaction quickly. I gave him his total. He squinted at me, almost accusingly.

Teacher: “You know who I am.”

Me: “Yes.”

Teacher: “Then why—”

Me: “Your receipt is in the bag. Have a good day.”

He struggled for a moment, his face red. I have no clue what was going on in his head, or why he would think I of all people would be happy to see him. Maybe he was confused that this was the third time his former student was “mean” to him.

It definitely made him angry. He was with two little girls, and I think that’s the main reason why he just grabbed his bag and walked away.

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