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When Teachers Fail

, , , , , | Learning | March 21, 2019

One of the assignments in my seventh-grade language arts class is to memorize and perform a monologue in front of the class. The teacher says that, after the in-class performance, we can volunteer to perform against the students from the other Language Arts classes, with the teachers as judges. I’m into theater and confident in my acting skills, so I’m super excited about this.

To start, the teacher brings us to the school library so we can pick a monologue from a specific list. I latch on to a specific monologue at first, but when I present it to the teacher she tells me, “Oh, I don’t know… I just don’t think that one would be a very good monologue if you want to compete.” I’m a little put out, but I pick a different monologue, which she approves.

Now, for whatever reason, the “monologue talent show” ends up scheduled on the same day as a major seventh-grade field trip. To save on time, the teachers decide to hold the competition just before the field trip so they can immediately load everyone onto the buses afterward.

Between a lack of spare money and my lack of interest in the trip, I don’t end up going. Unfortunately, it’s my math teacher who takes me to the class I’ll be staying with that day. When I try to tell her that I’m supposed to be in the library for the competition, she just says, “No, you’re not,” and shoos me inside. Between being autistic and being somewhat socially anxious, I just roll with it.

A week passes. There’s no talk about the monologues, and I’m too afraid to bring it up; I figure the teachers would tell us if we were getting another chance to perform them. Then, just before handing out a test, my language arts teacher lists off the students who were judged best in our class.

I manage to finish the test, but I can’t let go of the fact that I’ve basically been screwed out of competing for no reason. By the time I finish, I’m in tears and another student has to flag down the teacher for me. She takes me out into the hall, where I shakily explain what the problem is.

She apologizes and tries to calm me down, saying it was an honest mistake and it shouldn’t have happened.

And then, she adds something to the effect of, “You know, the speech you chose probably wouldn’t have been very good to present, so you probably wouldn’t have won, anyway.”

Yes, I should have spoken up earlier. Yes, a school competition is a pretty small thing for a twelve-year-old to be bawling over. Yes, I know the teacher meant well. But if a child is that upset over something, how the h*** is saying, “Oh, you had no chance, anyway,” supposed to be comforting in any way? After I had changed my speech specifically because I wanted to compete?!

At the very least, the math teacher who screwed me over had the sense to own up to her mistake and move on.