You were the teacher, the adult, the one person in the room charged with a responsibility towards your students. Yet, you failed me. Oh, I passed your ridiculous exams without a second thought…. My intelligence was never the problem. It was you who failed me.
Your sarcastic sneer has never left my mind. I will forever remember your condescending arched eyebrows accompanied by your smarmy comments, expecting me to crumple into a heap at your feet. My humiliated crimson face could never stare you down, but I made sure you never saw me cry. I still have that. I don’t remember most of the teachers I had in high school, but have never forgotten you, Mr Rose. You scarred me for life.
You, Mr Rose, were supposed to be someone I could trust. A teacher. A person in authority. You behaved like a nasty schoolboy. Each time, and just for fun, you sought out the sharpest spear of humiliation you could find and you pierced my heart with it. The entire class thought you were hilarious. You’re the reason I dropped out of high school.
If I faced you in the class room today, things would be different. I would stand up to you. I would stare you down. I would call you out. I would reclaim my power and show you up for the miserable cowardly pathetic creature you were. I didn’t even know back then that was possible. At school, I never had the kind of teacher who could teach me how to manage a bully.
Yes, Mr Rose, you were a bully. You were mean. You were rude. You were cruel. I was fifteen years old. As it was, I struggled to get through a day in the school yard without being harassed by some kid who thought they were better than me. Then, in the class room, there you were with your insufferable insults and degrading commentary. You shamed me to my bones. I hated school. I hated you. I hated all you stood for.
I went home depressed every night. My parents thought I was crazy. I was desperate for help and support, and you made it all so much worse. Because of you, I didn’t trust anyone in authority enough to tell them what was really going on. I suffered needlessly for many more years because you showed me that people in authority could not be trusted with any of my deepest secrets.
You’re one of the reasons I don’t ever go to school reunions. You, and everyone else who sat smirking in that class room, chortling at your heartless barbs. Not only do I have zero interest in reconnecting with people who regularly beat me up in the school yard, and laughed at me in class, I also have no interest in returning to a place that gave me nightmares, where you haunted my sleepless nights, and ruined my school days. You were a horrible teacher, Mr Rose. You never bothered to find out who I was then; an abused, confused, angry teenage girl. Instead, you abused your position. You could have made an amazing difference in my life, but you contributed to my life-long struggle.
You’re nothing more than a PTSD trigger, Mr Rose. I hear a certain comment, catch a glimpse of someone that resembles you (or your smirk), cop a whiff of someone’s terrible aftershave, pass by a high school, and there you are … again … taunting me with your cheap shots. But you no longer have the power to humiliate me. You can no longer torture me throughout the night. There is no one there to laugh at your stupid jokes. Your sting is blunt and ineffective.
I stopped hating you a long time ago, Mr Rose. It’s been decades since I stopped caring about what you thought of me. My only regret was that I never spoke up. I never told anyone what you did to me, Mr Rose. There was so much going on then … I had a lot of problems much bigger than you … you were forgotten about, until an occasional trigger slapped me in the face and once again reminded me of you, Mr Rose. I’ve been wanting to write this letter to you for about twenty years. This afternoon, I finally could.
Despite your attempts to crush my soul, I became a writer, anyway, Mr Rose. You did not dull my passion for books. You were unable to cool my ardor for perfectly crafted words. Your stinging remarks did not deter me from spending time in libraries, theaters and cinemas all around the world. Yes, that’s right, Mr Rose. Despite your small-minded little snarks, and in spite of my own struggle, I became the exact opposite of what you so vocally predicted for me in your class room, much to the amusement of everyone else. You, sir, however, remain to be the worst English teacher I ever encountered.