Announcing: The Teachers' Collection!
(Me and my friend Richelle, at our high school grad in 2001. By this point, I had developed a slight "fuck you" chip on my shoulder, as seen by the hard expression on my face.)
It was early in 2001, and I was in Grade 12. I was just about to graduate from high school, and was excited (and terrified) about the prospect. Only a few months left, and then I was free!
Among the details of finishing up high school (prepping for grad and final exams, whew), there was one detail I didn't want to deal with. The Greystone Scholars Society. Yep. It sounds fancy, doesn't it? This society was based at the University of Saskatchewan, and was established for Grade 12 students who maintained a 95% average or higher...a society to join when they went on to post-secondary at the U of S.
Now, I had a consistent 93-94% average throughout high school. I did well.
Despite that average, I thought I was dumb.
(Yeah, you read that correctly.)
The reason? Two of my classmates that had slightly higher averages than me. One of which was my twin sister. For some reason, I thought their slightly higher averages meant that they were much smarter than me. By default, I was dumb.
(I know, I just want to go back to my Grade 12 self and give her a hug and tell her that grades don't mean everything.)
So when the topic of the Greystone Scholars Society came up, and my teacher Mr. R informed the class that he was nominating the top two students in our class (not me), I was devastated. My worst fears were confirmed.
This "smart kids" society, that I desperately wanted to be part of, so I could just belong somewhere...I wasn't good enough for it. I distinctly remember the hot flush that rose in my face when Mr. R made the announcement: I wanted to cry (my typical reaction when I was overwhelmed back then), but I held it together. "Don't cry, choke it down Amanda." I was mortified about not being good enough. Falling short by 1 or 2 percentage points was somehow worse than falling short by 10 or 20 or 30 percentage points, as shown by the lack of interest from the rest of my classmates.
Like I did with most things that bothered me back then, I ignored it. I ignored the shame and the embarrassment. When classmates joked that "your sister is the smarter one" I laughed along...if I didn't show how much that hurt, they couldn't get to me. I buried that shit deep down, so I wouldn't have to face what I believed to be true: that I was dumb.
I remember being angry at Mr. R. I didn't know what to do with my feelings, so I partially projected them on to him. He doesn't seem to care that this hurts my feelings. I know he's following the 95% average rule...but ouch. (I was so sensitive back then. Hell, I still am...now I know how to use it to my advantage.)
About a year later, I was home one weekend for a visit from university (the same U of S where I ignored the "Greystone Scholars Society" posters I occasionally saw around campus). I was deep into my first year of Arts & Science classes...trying to figure out who I was, and what I wanted to do. I was talking with my Mom as the snow melted outside...Mom always had (and still has) good advice. Somehow, the topic of the Greystone Scholars Society came up.
"You know Amanda, Mr. R told me that he wished he had nominated you too, for that society. That your average was so close that he should have just included you too. He probably saw it upset you," Mom told me.
With her words, I teared up. My past hurt from Mr. R faded. Oh. He's human. He has regrets too. He did actually see me, and maybe how much that rejection hurt.
And that is why Mr. R is one of my favorite teachers: because he's human. In that moment, with time and space, I truly understood that he's kind and compassionate and was doing his best. In fact, he was one of the most patient teachers I ever knew. He taught math and the sciences to a bunch of kids that didn't really care about math and the sciences, and he provided a solid foundation for our future studies. Plus he could tell a good "dad joke" like nobody else.
To the teachers out there: THANK YOU. You have an incredibly difficult job, and you are faced with external factors (parents, the school board, on and on) while trying to do what you think is best for your students. You have the power to lift up or crush a student, and you likely don't even know to what degree you influence their lives (because they often don't even tell you). That's so much responsibility. I can't imagine what it's like. You are champs. Thank you.
This is why we created The Teachers' Collection. It's our way of saying thank you to teachers: not only those in our school system, but also in every day life. The coaches, the mentors, the bosses...we are all teachers, and we are all students. We hope these decals can brighten up the days for teachers...to remind them that they are amazing, and that they truly are changing lives.
I bow down to the best teachers out there...the ones that, like Mr. R, know that they're still learning too. It helps us students be more human too.
Big awkward hugs to all my old teachers,
PS. Want your own pack of Teachers' Collection decals? Click here...they're bound to be popular (we've had lots of requests for this collection) so get yours before they're gone!