Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Tale of Two Teachers by Sydney Salter

Mrs. Muth was long beyond retirement age when I first took her senior-level Great Novels class as a junior at Reno High. Other than Moby Dick, I can't remember what we read, but I remember the feeling of those lovely afternoons listening to Mrs. Muth speak about writing--and life. I took her classes again as a senior. Oh, how I loved her. Some of my friends found her old and forgetful, but a misplaced name here and there or a repeated anecdote never bothered me. Mrs. Muth pushed me to be a better writer, but mostly she believed that I could BE a writer. And she actually told me that! No one had ever voiced my deepest, most secret dream to me before.

Tardiness and spelling continued to be an issue for a few more years...

At the same time, I took junior-level Honor's English from another teacher. WOW! That woman did not like me. One day she slapped down my well-written paper and said in a snide, awful voice, "Wonder Woman strikes again!" BAM! That comment continues to sting and hurt--I can still hear the exact intonation of her voice today. A few years ago, I bought myself a necklace repurposed from an old Wonder Woman lunchbox in an attempt to claim that wrenching experience for myself--and hopefully, exorcise the pain of that moment from my mind.



I didn't understand why a teacher would root AGAINST me. I now have a better inclination about why… *saves plot for future novel* But what matters more than the actual truth is the story we tell ourselves. I told myself that this teacher resented the fact that I succeeded in a more advanced class--that she thought I was overstepping my bounds and wanted to punish me. I learned to fight for my dreams, no matter what other people do or say to discourage or hurt me. I don't need to believe in other people's limits for me.

I'm almost as grateful for that mean teacher as I am for Mrs. Muth. Both taught me lessons vital to my writing life today. Also, I never stress about my daughters' teachers. I know that they'll learn just as much about life from the bad ones as they do from the good ones.

2 comments:

  1. "I don't need to believe in other people's limits for me."--This just went off in me like a gong. Such a powerful statement. And so true.

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  2. It's amazing how we can carry the memories of both compliments and cruelty around for years.I love how you tried to reframe the memory with the necklace.

    Yvonne

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