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  • Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover

    2012 - 02.24

    I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was twelve. Because I was such a voracious reader it made me think it was easy to write a book and be published (boy, was I naive!) but a few things got in my way, inexperience, self-doubt, life in general, and several times, words from another person. Sometimes another person can influence a writer in one of two ways.

    By encouraging a young writer, or really anyone, that young person may go on to reach for the stars, touch the moon…live her dream.

    This is the flip side of that coin. Belittling. If only more people understood what they’re truly doing to a young person, crushing their faith, their aspiration, all with their words, perhaps they’d think several times before they spoke.

    In high school I had an English teacher that, for reasons I never knew, truly seemed to dislike me. Oh, she “got onto” other students but I felt as if she zeroed in on me more than most. Now of course that could just have been my interpretation, maybe I already felt inadequate, but that teacher only intensified my own lack of confidence.

    I was terrified of her. Not of her physically hurting me but humiliating me in front of my peers, something that, as an Air Force dependent, I’d dreaded all of my school life. It’s hard to always be the new kid, always having to prove yourself, always praying that you’ll make friends and not enemies because you’re different. But sometimes it’s not the other kids that are your worst enemies.

    “So Gloria, is that how they would answer that out in Los Ann Gee Leez? Is that the way those people in Hollywood pronounce that word? Well let me tell you, this isn’t California and we don’t do it that way here. You understand me? I don’t know what you want to be when you grow up but I sure hope it has nothing to do with the English language because you will never be able to string together the correct words to form a cohesive sentence.” Then she called on another student, one that hadn’t just transferred from Los Ann Gee Leez. I asked to go to the bathroom, quietly, because I was on the verge of tears. I barely made it to the girls’ room before the dam burst.

    When my first book was published, I took a signed copy to her. She was much older but still sharp as a tack.

    TEACHER: What did you say your name was again?

    ME: Gloria Teague. I was one of your English students.

    TEACHER: Were you any good?

    ME: No, according to you I wasn’t.

    TEACHER: You probably didn’t do your homework. I don’t remember you but if I said that, you did or didn’t do something you were supposed to do.

    And she didn’t even remember me.

    And just like that, it was over. The feeling that I would always fail, that I wasn’t good enough to be a writer, that people would put me down for even trying, it dissipated. I thought back to that hot high school classroom and thought, “How much weight could her words carry now?”

    Not only do we need to be more tolerant, more accepting of others, we need to open our eyes and our hearts. When you speak to anyone, child or adult, look into their face and watch the effect your words are having on them. Had I not been stubborn, had I not been working toward my dream to be a writer, that one, solitary teacher would have broken me.

       So take that, Miss W!


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