An Open Letter to my Year 11/12 English Teacher.

Dear English Teacher,

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I doubt you remember me, but I certainly remember you. It’s been 7 years since I last set foot in your classroom. 7 years since I sat at that desk. 7 years since I lost all passion I had for words. To say I’ve been carrying some baggage from your lessons is an understatement. It’s not healthy, so I’m going to get some things off my chest.

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I used to adore words. Every letter danced around my skull gathering more letters until words formed and exited my pen. I found writing stories intoxicating in a similar way to musical composition, I found poetry to be pitchless music and for a time I even found joy in analysis. Then senior school happened.

I don’t know what happened in your life that ruined your ability to teach. The two years before you had fostered a greater love of the written word, but when my white uniform yellowed, you ceased to be a teacher.

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I was a musician. I L-I-V-E-D for constructive criticism. I wanted to dissect my craft, and paste it back together to create a beautiful collage. Instead I was met with an uncaring dictator, endlessly explaining all the ways I was sub par, all the ways my writing wasn’t good enough. Essay upon essay completely rewritten, without any evidence that I had written it at all, coupled with instructions to memorise, despite the fact the question on the test was most likely unrelated to the practice you provided.

Do you remember when I stopped writing anything that wasn’t attached to a grade? Your class which I had once treasured became a fruitless waste of my time. So I stopped. Words were no longer an art form accessible to me.

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If only you could see how I cried. Anytime the expectation to write formally or to write well was placed upon me I would collapse into a wet ball of anxiety. Your words echoed endlessly around my head. I was not a writer. I would never be a writer. I shouldn’t write, couldn’t write, mustn’t write.

I still feel these sentiments. Less so with every passing year, but still, your influence and voice hangs in the back of my head. It sticks to every word that leaves my hand.

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My greatest fear as an educator is to ruin my craft for a student the way you ruined words for me. I do everything in my power to foster the creative energies in my pupils. The baggage your classes left me with made me into a better educator, and for that a small part of me is grateful.

If by some unlikely chance you read this I want you to know I found my words again. It’s taken me 7 years to regain confidence in my writing. I still can’t write fictional stories, I fear that’s an art I may have lost forever, but poetry, prose and non fiction have made their way back into my head.

If you’re still teaching I hope whatever made it difficult for you has passed and that you’re better able to teach the students in your care now.

Hope you’re doing better,

Jen.