I had just transferred to an elite high school. The teachers were sharp and ruthless.
The first year is a very humbling experience for anyone. And apparently this strategy worked for them.
My 1st to 4th grade teacher, in his rough style, unpredictable, impatient and unkind, taught me to not rely on teacher approval.
8th to 9th grade was rough as well. Dan went away to college, and I entered into adolescence, the deep end. I also had a faith crisis; I then learned to depend on God, and I started reading the Bible with thirst and hunger.
In such seasons of vulnerability I would draw near to God. And as I look back, I realize those were seasons of such clarity, of comfort near my Lord. The Bible was my stress free zone. Adolescence Fear pushed me into the arms of Jesus.
So this is the context.
I was learning the lay of the high school land. Eyes upfront. We had little to no time or energy to impress our peers with our self promotion.
One cold day we had this math test. Our teacher was on her way out to retirement, with a very low opinion of us. Everybody got c-
I was still feeding off my good math foundation and I was frustrated with this teacher’s lack of interest or consideration.
I thought about it, and as her attitude repeated, early one morning I took my c- test, just as we got the results, and asked her to show me why she gave me such a poor grade. How did she reach this result.
She dismissed my paper, pushing it back, not even looking at me, saying we’re all cheats. I looked her in the eyes and politely asked her to review it, because I didn’t cheat and I deserve a better grade on that paper. She was bothered and dismissed me rudely.
I took my paper and sat back down in my seat. My colleagues were bewildered. Why would I stick my head out? There will be consequences to speaking up. They said.
I wasn’t done yet. My teacher offended us all, didn’t grade the papers, and the situation wasn’t improving.
That evening I asked tata to come with me the next morning and see if he could get a straight answer about my paper. He was happy to assist. At the end of my match class, tata was waiting for me outside. I met him and then we both went to the teacher after the class and I introduced my dad, and asked her to explain to him how she graded my paper. She got flustered and fumbled and mumbled some words I don’t remember. She did not fix it. The next morning (we had one or two hours of math every day in high school) she had me stand up in class. And then with tears in her eyes said that in her entire career she has never been so offended by a student. For the next month, she tested me every day, reviewed my homework and gave me a complicated math exercise to solve in front of my class. She was obviously surprised to discover I’m good at math. She didn’t know me, she didn’t even know my name before that day.
She kept at it the whole semester. But got tired after a while.
Her persecution didn’t end there. She complained about me to the director. I was called into the principle’s office to explain myself. Which I did. And I believe the director saw reason. There were no repercussions for speaking up respectfully. But the director asked me to tread lightly. That very next morning, during the 0 period, my French scary teacher, stormed into the classroom and called my last name. I stood up. She asked me to come upfront for a pop quiz evaluation. She asked me to conjugate two verbs and translate a phrase on the board. I did well. She then sent me back saying that she heard I was disrespectful to the match teacher. And that she was disappointed in me. I said nothing. I just looked her in the eyes. She also grilled me in French for a few weeks. I was 15.
This was my first year in high school.
I have confronted many directors, bosses and a CEO since, politely but firmly. I don’t dive into confrontations randomly, but I feel it in my bones when it’s time to speak up. And I get a clear sense of guidance as I spend time in the Word.
Last week I went to speak with the director of the child protection office. I waited a long time to do so. I prayed about it. I fretted over the potential negative consequences of my speaking up. And I was purposeful in not throwing anyone under the bus. We don’t do the right thing because it’s easy, and we do the right thing despite how others will respond to our respectfully firm approach.
There is no resolution yet. And there might not be for another month. But my heart is at peace with sticking my head out.
The response is with the Lord. (Prov19:21) Whatever and whenever that might be.