An open letter to my former teacher

Nicole Winters, Guest Columnist

Perhaps it was my youth that allowed me to remain convinced that all who enter schools
as teachers and mentors are there because they feel the drive to sculpt the next generation of
cooperative leaders, talented artists, and empathetic humanitarians. It could be that I grew up in a school environment that did just that. Maybe I expected more from you simply because I was
always taught to treat others with the dignity and respect that I would want from a stranger.

However, in your class, I felt small, like my education came second to you. When I asked
questions you danced around them, then told me not to ask them, so I stopped. Worse than that I was taught to hate a class I once loved. Your class taught me to cram for quizzes and tests and memorize isolated, random facts. On your tests, I was confused and struggled with deciding what to study, and how to study it.  I had to hope that the questions you picked would have something to do with what I found important.  I once asked you for help studying for a test, and you told me I was trying to cover too much with my notes, “Pick your ground and stand on it”, you said. But here’s the thing: in your class, the ground was crumbling all around me, and I was just trying to gather enough pieces that I could at least teeter on a ledge of minimal knowledge and sleepless nights.

Education should be about increasing useful knowledge, the kind that creates insightful thinkers and powerful leaders, not about trivial bits of information that narrows our scope of a understanding. I wish there was a way to persuade your opinion on the way you teach. Someway I could show you that the way you teach isn’t a way your students learn.

So, for someone who will never read this, I want you to know that your class broke me. I became a worse student, one that didn’t understand how to stand up for my learning, one that let your attitude threaten me so much that I stepped down from what I knew was right.  I didn’t know how to stand up for my learning, and how is a student supposed to approach a teacher about such a difficult subject?

If I could go back, I would say more; I would ask questions even when told not to because asking questions is one of the most important things a student can do for their education.

But we can’t travel through time, so I hope other students take my advice and not let their teachers intimidate them. Stand up for your education because we all deserve a worthwhile one.  Stand up for the good teachers that look out for their students’ best interests, that plan their lessons with students in mind, and that use engaging methods and relatable material to create a positive classroom experience. Stand up for it.