I was taught, as many children are, to respect their elders. I carried this perspective into my schooling. In junior high, I was all about getting straight A’s. I respected my teachers because I thought it was the right thing to. As I started high school, my grades dropped tragically. I lost all respect for my teachers; getting an education just wasn’t important to me anymore. I didn’t feel like getting good grades was going to get me anywhere in life, and besides having respect for your teachers classified you as a teacher’s pet.
During my transition from junior high to high school, as well as my transition from high school to college, I have noticed that the respect students have for teachers and professors has drastically declined over the generations. Towards the end of high school, I began to realize how important teachers really are and how helpful they are. Teachers are there to help the students. Teachers want to see all of their students succeed, which is why some teachers are such hard-asses. Challenges are the only way to improve; teachers understand this. It took me a long time to understand that for myself.
Now that I am in college, I realize what an education can do for me. If I want a decent job, I am going to need a college education. Many workplaces aren’t hiring anymore without experience, and in order to get experience I need to have an education. I can do anything if I am well educated. All it took for me to realize this was someone telling me I could be anything I wanted to be. All it takes is an education and ambition. I now have immense respect for all my professors because I understand that they want nothing more than to see me succeed, and without their help and knowledge, I would not receive an education that prepares me for success in the future. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize this in eighth grade.
It is eighth grade. I am in my last hour class. Our teacher hands us big manila envelopes with our first and last names printed on the front. These are the envelopes that bring joy and fear into the faces of our parents, envelopes that hold our acceptance into high school. Report cards. We are told to wait until school gets out to open them. I eagerly take mine and stuff it in my backpack with many loose papers and heavy books. Other students rip theirs open regardless of what the teachers said. The last bell rings and I run out the door, down the cement steps, out to the parking lot where I wait semi-patiently for my mom to pick me up.
As she pulls in, my insides tingle with excitement. I just know she will be so proud of me. I just know that I will come home with straight A’s once again. A blue van crosses the street. I start to jump up and down. The blue van parks. A single hand comes out the driver’s side window and waves. I run over to the van, open the door, and sit in the passenger seat next to my mom. We both know. I pull out the envelope and open it. I read each letter out loud: A, A, A, A, A, A, A and A, no wait… B. B I couldn’t believe it. Almost instantly, tears begin to flow from my face. They are never-ending. My mom tries to comfort me and let’s me know that a B is still very good. She is lying.
The bell rings for my first class. Freshman biology. Mrs. Grantham. High school sucks already, and it just started. I walk to class and my eyes fall on Lauren and Claire. My best friends. Maybe this won’t be so bad. We sit together. Class starts and so do the notes. Except the only notes I write are to Lauren and Claire. Mrs. Grantham quickly catches on, and I find myself on the opposite side of the room. No longer able to ignore my teacher because I now sit right next to her. While she isn’t looking, though, I throw balled up pieces of paper to my P.I.C.’s (partner’s in crime). For some reason, this is not okay either, and by the end of class I am sitting in the counselor’s office listening to her tell my mom I am not only a disruption to the entire class, but I am also disrespectful to my teacher and the next time something happens I will be suspended from class. Apparently telling the teacher to shut up and she is stupid is considered disrespectful.
In eleventh grade, I found out that you need good grades to get into a good college. Crap. Someone should have told me this earlier. I work my butt off my junior and senior year and manage to pull my cumulative GPA up to a little above a 3.0 by the end of my senior year. I stay an hour after school every day to do extra work with my teachers and to get help in the subjects I need. It is hard to do this with some sport going on all year long. Fall: volleyball. After volleyball: basketball. Spring to the end of school: soccer. But I manage. All of my teachers are so proud. I have never heard ‘you used to have such the attitude’ or ‘my how you have changed’ so many times. At graduation, teachers and faculty come up to my mom and tell her how much I have grown up. I am one of the sweetest girls they know, ‘how she has changed,’ they say.
I guess somewhere along the way I realized that I didn’t want teachers to refuse to give me letters of recommendation. I wanted to be the best that I can be, and I found out that teachers and professors can help with that. Teachers and professors are so knowledgeable. They are there for me to listen to and learn from. If I am going to go to school then I might as well make the best of it and receive the best education I can get.
I know now that I am responsible for my own education. I am in school, but that doesn’t mean that I have to go to class. I hear my roommates and my own alarm go off every morning, but I don’t have to get up. I make my own decision to get out of bed in the morning. I don’t have to finish my assignments on time or even turn them in at all. My professors can’t make me do my assignments and papers and make me study for my tests. Dan Harrison or Karen Levan can’t follow me to my dorm room and make sure I use my time wisely. The most they can do is teach me. My professors can tell me everything I need to know, everything I need to do; what they can’t do is do it for me. I am responsible for going to class. I am responsible for my assignments. I am responsible for my grades. I am responsible for my own education. Teachers and professors want to see me succeed, but it is my job to achieve that success.
At this point in my life, I feel I can relate almost perfectly with Richard Rodriguez in his essay, The Achievement of Desire (597). In this essay, Rodriguez discusses how he spent hours in his room as a boy studying. He was devoted to his school work. He wanted to bring home shiny trophies like his brother and sister did. He understood that his teachers wanted him to succeed. “My earliest teachers, the nuns, made my success their ambition” (597). He wanted to learn because he knew where an education could take him. “Always successful, always unconfident. Exhilarated by my progress. I became the prized student- anxious and eager to learn” (598). He realized early on that an education was important and he wanted one more than anything. While it took me a while longer to realize this same thing, I find that I can relate to his thinking throughout his essay. “A primary reason for my success in the classroom was that I couldn’t forget that schooling was changing me …” (598).
Earlier on, during my eighth and ninth grade years, I laughed at kids who were labeled a ‘teacher’s pet.’ Now I find myself being the teacher’s pet. In every class, I try my hardest. If needed, I stay after class and talk, ask for help. I try to use them for all the resources they have. I have begin to deal with the fact that I am a teacher’s pet. I am a teacher’s pet. It is a stretch, but I feel like I can relate to Nancy Mairs in her essay, On Being a Cripple (333). She labels herself as a cripple because, for one reason or another, that is her label of choice. She wants to make people a little uncomfortable, “People wince at the word cripple. Perhaps I want them to wince.” (333). Sometimes, I want people to know I am a teacher’s pet. I want other students to know that I care about my education. I want the slackers and the students that don’t give a shit to become uncomfortable around me when they realize that I am eager to learn, that I want to be at college getting the best education I can. When you make someone uncomfortable, it gives you a, sort of, upper hand. They do not feel quite right around you and that gets them off guard. They are now confused and do not know what to say or how to act. I like that. I am comfortable with myself and who I am, a teacher’s pet. Mairs knows she is not society’s standard of normal and even though it may not be fair, she is still okay with it. She accepts it, and she works it. I think Mairs puts it best when she says, “As a cripple, I swagger.” (333)