anxiety · blogging · childhood memories · life · school anxiety · school life · social anxiety · teachers · Writing prompt

Prompt: My Darkest Teacher

This prompt originates from this list.

Write about your darkest teacher.

I don’t know if this counts since the phrase “darkest teacher” makes me think of a specific instructor who I kind of hated. My dislike for gym class stayed with me from grammar school to junior high, where there was a new teacher who took the place of the old teacher who left her position due to a personal illness. The semester was almost over too so the new teacher was just coming in to substitute for a few days. At this point I was already failing the class by not changing into my gym clothes. Every day I was marked “unprepared” on my name card. I was truly consumed by anxiety. Just by thinking about how it would make me feel to change into gym shorts, I was so afraid that I would rather just sit out from gym class.

I was so stricken with fear because in a lot of ways junior high was different from grammar school, where I never had the experience of being in a locker room and having to change in front of others. But I was expected to do this in junior high. Every time I felt anxious, I didn’t know what to do with it. A more well-rounded person would try to express her emotions to someone; a parent or teacher or classmate. I couldn’t even do that. It was like struggling with verbal expression because I never really learned how to talk about my innermost feelings to anyone.

I explained all this to give you (the reader) a better grasp on why I acted the way I did with the new gym teacher. The day the new teacher came in, she did the roll call. You would not believe how sick with anxiety I was each time I had to wait to be called by name and either raise my hand or say “here”. I loathed drawing attention to myself. I hated being noticed, or if I wasn’t noticed, I was constantly afraid it would happen. I croaked out “here” without incident when my name came up. It might have been a day or several days later that she loudly commented in front of all the students about how many times I have been marked as “unprepared” on my card. It was embarrassing as hell. Even if she had asked me about this privately, I don’t believe I could have answered her about why I refused to participate. My anxiety was so prevalent that at the first sign of danger I would not speak either because I didn’t know what to say or because I was uncomfortable saying the truth of what I felt.

The next year, the same teacher became my regular gym teacher. I continued to grow even more socially inept and even more withdrawn with verbal speech. That first day of class, she passed out cards for us to fill out that would serve as our attendance cards for the semester. I was half-listening as she spoke. The fact she came up to me freaked me out. My instinct was to be avoidant so I averted my eyes. She was in the midst of telling me to write my name boldly on a card but I was too busy feeling anxious and also confused because I hadn’t heard her clearly. She mistook this for me not understanding English. I just nodded when she asked if I could speak English. My lack of verbal communication seemed to perplex her but she moved on from me.

I still refused to change clothes for gym. During roll call on yet another day, she remarked that I seemed nice but I was failing by not participating. I said nothing in return. It took me a second to realize she was talking about me since there was another girl in class who had the same name as me.

What I didn’t like about her was that she seemed like a hardass with her words and had no patience for nonsense. I heard her being snappy with another student who was also “unprepared” numerous times. She was basically telling him to shape up or fail. After she was done with him, she turned to prompt me about whether I was going to do the same. I timidly said yes. So I did start changing into gym clothes but my anxiety over showing my legs in shorts turned into anxiety over being so bad at sports and being yelled at by my teammates for being useless. I felt so unwanted that there was a day I purposely spilled water all over my gym clothes and told her they were too wet to wear. I guess she thought I meant they got soaked the night before because she coldly suggested I should have taken them to the laundromat.

Honestly, I don’t know how I survived that semester. I’m not sure how today’s generation of teachers are with their students, but I wish my teacher would have given me more compassion. Maybe I would have still been too scared to be honest with her if she asked me directly what was wrong, but it might have helped if she had given me the option to write down what I was feeling. Having had gone through so much turmoil because of anxiety, I believe the missing component that lots of teachers I had then was they simply were not trained to help or reach out to a student on a mental health level. Let’s be real. Kids don’t just act out, whether by getting into fights or being withdrawn, for no fucking reason. The signs are there but I think some adults have a hard time recognizing this because not all children act the same way if something bad is going on in their lives. and not all children will be forthcoming about their problems if they are asked.

3 thoughts on “Prompt: My Darkest Teacher

  1. That’s sadly just it, teachers only see in black and white sometimes, and by that they only see if you’re attentive or you’re not. And if you’re not, they either label you as not being able to understand, or rebellious. There’s not a lot of people who understand that kind of anxiety, or they feel it’s something you can easily fix or just get over. It’s not always so easy though. I’m sorry you had a rough year because of her!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s sad. Maybe it’s a problem in the teaching profession because some would not think that teachers need mental health awareness and sensitivity.

      Definitely, I have to agree that the “just get over it” mantra that some people have doesn’t help.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think they may be making teachers more aware of those things nowadays, but then you have teachers who don’t understand it and don’t believe in it. Which is unfortunate.

        And it really doesn’t. Especially when you’re just a kid. It’s bad enough when you’re an adult.


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