Revenge is a dish best served with a little ivy...

I attended a very expensive private school until eighth grade.  You'd think for the price my parents were paying that I would at least be getting a good education.  Wrong.  I got the security of very small classes comprised of kids who had also been there since before kindergarten.  Many of the teachers were parents of the children there who may know a little bit about something or other but not any considerable amount about anything.  They seemed stumped as to what to do with gifted and slower kids, leaving the middle of the pack's needs being taken care of while the rest of us suffered our own private battles.

Mrs. Owens was one of the most respected teachers on the faculty, teaching English to junior high as well as high school kids.  She had a reputation for being exceptionally tough with very high standards.  Having a knack for most school subjects, I wasn't worried so much that it would be a difficult class.  Her cold manner and strict enforcement of rules is what I was worried about.  I feared she would be an authoritarian using an iron fist to turn us into obedient little children.  Those were the kind of teachers that hated me.  It's not that I was defiant or anything.  I just liked to be mostly left alone.

As the weeks went by in her class, it became more apparent that Mrs. Owens couldn't stomach me.  Even though I was outperforming most of the other students in writing and reading assignments, she took any flaw in my grammar and used it to insult me.  She would constantly call on me to speak in class, knowing how painfully shy I was.  A sickly child, I had a habit of missing many more days than was allowed.  Despite this, I was able to keep up in my classes.  Some teachers looked the other way because my absences were not hurting anyone.  Mrs. Owens looked upon my absences as a blatant disregard for the carefully crafted school rules.  After a certain number of absences, she threatened to drop me a letter grade.  I could however work my way back to an A by doing oral book reports for her after school.  I would often choose books that surpassed the 7th grade level and rather than commending me on it she asked question after question trying to trip me up.

One particular occasion, I was describing the plot of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.  Her disapproving eyes boring into me, I began to stammer and speak more colloquially than I would normally.  Instead of using words like "said," "thought" and "did," all that could come out of my mouth was "like."  I sounded like a valley girl.  "And then he was like blabady blah.  And she was like oh yeah?"  Mrs. Owens stopped me and asked where I had learned such idiotic expressions.  I froze, my mouth slightly open and eyes wide.

Mrs. Owens removed her glasses and asked patronizingly, "Lee, what do plan on doing with your life?"

"I don't know," I croaked.  "I like writing and science but I also like the theater."

"What college do you plan on attending?  Do you intend on going to college?"  She turned a sharp eye to me.

I wasn't quite sure what she was getting at.  It was a very safe assumption that anyone at that private school was college bound.  She was also acquainted with my mother who is an educator and well known in the teaching community for her great intelligence.  I was devouring all her assignments with some of the class' best grades.  

"I don't know.  I would really like to go to Yale, maybe Juilliard.  I might go to Millsaps-"

"I think you need to be realistic.  There's no real chance of you getting into a school like Millsaps."  She cut me off.

Then that was that.  She put her glasses back on and motioned for me to continue my book report.  I must have finished.  I don't remember.  All I remember is going home and sobbing.  

Then came the anger.  Millsaps College is a decent enough liberal arts school in Jackson, MS.  While it is somewhat selective, it is no Harvard or Oxford.  I had given her no reason to doubt my intelligence, I thought.  Why did she have such a fully formed idea that I was this remedial student?  Even if I was, what right does she have to put someone down for wanting something?

It was on.  I transferred to public school where there were honors and A.P. classes.  Every time I wanted to blow some homework assignment or skip class, I remembered Mrs. Owens' smug smile while she was attempting to shit on my dreams.  When it came time to apply to colleges I applied to a ton, most importantly nearly all the ivy league ones.  I was accepted to every college I applied to and I made copies of all the acceptance letters.  I neatly stacked them into a manila envelope with a one sentence letter on top.  It said:

"Dear Mrs. Owens,

I thought you might find this interesting.

Fondly, Lee *****"

In the packet there were letters from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Cornell, Smith, Dartmouth, Brown, Columbia, Juilliard, NYU, UC Berkeley, Washington University, Vassar, Rice and (of course) Millsaps.


I never heard back from her but I like to think that loud "fuck you" was received.  I still hate the woman but I take pride in knowing that I won in the end.  

Bottom line: Don't ever let someone in a position of seniority put you down with no provocation.  Just because someone is a teacher or boss or whatever does not make them some kind of authority on life.  They are just people like you.  People you can break back if they try that shit.



198 views and 0 responses