You broke me

Subject: You broke me
From: A former student
Date: 21 Aug 2016

Let me set the scene for you: I am 10 years old in a new school that is in a new town that is in a new state. I am focusing on making friends and feeling comfortable in this new environment.
You are a new teacher in this school. You are young with little classroom experience. The year started, and I had no idea what to expect.
I had never had a problem with a teacher before this year, because I have never been one to stand out. My previous teachers all loved me and helped me solve all of my school-related problems. Then there was you. I’m sure you were good at teaching, but all I remember is the yelling. The smallest thing would happen and you would slam your book on the ground and scream at us.
You screamed at a classroom full of 10-year-olds. The worst thing I remember you doing didn’t happen to the whole class. It was just me.
You told me that there were rumors going around about me. Instead of addressing this problem as you should have done, you said “maybe you should start keeping your mouth shut.” Now, I have never been talkative. I always sat politely in class and listened. From a young age I was taught to never speak out of turn. I spoke when I was spoken to and I stayed quiet out of respect for others. I raised my hand when I had something to say, and I never interrupted. But still you told me to keep my mouth shut. Most people would be able to brush this off, but I am not like most people. I take things to heart, which is a blessing and a curse. I still hear your words ringing in the back of my mind: “maybe you should start keeping your mouth shut.” These words still haunt me. Why? Because they caused terrible things. In middle school, I was afraid to get close to anyone.
I didn’t want any more rumors going around. I stopped raising my hand in class because I stopped talking in school. I only participated when it was absolutely necessary. From sixth grade up until my graduation day, I had severe, crippling social anxiety. I wasn’t able to overcome that terrible thing until I realized what caused it. You. You and your “helpful advice” ruined the rest of my education. That is seven years of lost opportunities. I could have been extraordinary. Instead I got seven years of anxiety, four on-and-off years of anorexia, and two years of undiagnosed, untreated depression. That eating disorder could have been prevented if I wasn’t too afraid to talk to someone. It got so bad that I had heart palpitations and I was put on a heart monitor. It started at the end of my eighth grade year. My parents didn’t find out until I told them four years later. I didn’t tell them until after I graduated. Some of my friends also had you as a teacher. I told them what you said and what you caused, and now they respect you almost as much as I do, if not less. They saw me go through this. They watched, unknowingly, as I got sicker and sicker. They saw me begin to wither away. They witnessed the suffering. Some of them even suffered with me because of the anxiety.
I couldn’t be left alone in a public place. I couldn’t make a simple phone call. I couldn’t ask an employee for help. They always did it for me. I did slowly get more courageous as I got older. I got close to teachers and was comfortable around them. They know what you said, too. I will not be silenced just because some people would consider this to be a trivial phrase. I could have been great. I don’t mean education-wise, because I excelled. I took the hardest classes I could and passed with flying colors. I was a Board of Regents scholar and graduated with honors. I mean I could have stood out. I could have been more involved. I could have gone through high school without the fear of being noticed. While I don’t believe in Forgive and Forget, I do believe in forgiveness. I refuse to forget. I will make sure that people know that the world has teachers like you. You will not silence me. It may have been only you and I in the room at the time, but this has not stayed between you and I. I will continue to tell my story to anyone who wants to hear it, and I will continue to use your name in it. People deserve to know. You have a child now, and I fear for him or her. Are you going to treat them the way you treated me? If they come home and tell you that someone started a rumor about them, will you tell them to keep their mouth shut? If you wouldn’t say that to your own child, why say it to a student? A teacher should care for their students like they would their own child. I was angry with you for a long time. How could you comfortably say something like that to someone young and naïve like I was? You robbed me of my dignity at such a young age. It’s amazing that I managed to forgive you without any apology. I have forgiven you, the person who tore my world apart when I was so young.