Friday, June 26, 2015

An Apology to My 11th Grade English Teacher.

I disliked my eleventh-grade English teacher very much.

She was exactly what you'd expect of an English teacher. Her first name was something out of a 19th-century British novel; her last name sounded too French. The only thing I could imagine her doing in her free time was sitting on a patio overlooking some woods, drinking red wine and reading the Classics.

She was always in disbelief of something that I found quite believable. She was always speaking authoritatively about things that I didn't think she understood. She was the type of adult who said things like, "When I was in high school, we didn't have the internet."

I had an attitude that year. I remember fighting her so hard. Little invisible high school me, actually inciting disagreements and tangents in her class, like some goof-off kid.

Once, when we were studying Native American literature, she started talking about the way they viewed the world. How time isn't necessarily linear, how everything is connected, the past and the present all muddled up.

She asked for comments, and a precocious boy near me raised his hand.

"Oh yes, I've felt that way before," he started, imbuing each word with a sense of wonder. "When you're standing in a field, and you just think about the earth under your feet and how long it's been there. And you can picture all the people who've ever stood on that spot where you are, and you can see in your mind's eye what they did there."

"The Apache," photographed by Edward Curtis, c. 1907-1930, Smithsonian Institute

My teacher nodded heartily. I fumed. What kind of pretentious affectation was this? Who would feel that way? The world is where it is now. There is no great wisdom that the wind shares with you when you stand in a field, basking in glow of your own feigned maturity.


Recently, I was driving home from work, and I noticed the trees lining the street.

How long have those been there? How many cars have driven by in their lifetime? Who planted them? What did those people do with their lives? Where did they live? What was here before these trees? 

The truth is, I feel that way all the time. Like the past and the present are all muddled up, like I yearn to see every person who has ever stood on the exact spot where I'm standing. 

Maybe I'm as pretentious as my eleventh grade English teacher now. Or maybe she was right about at least something.


  1. Love it!!! She was actually right, although it's hard to admit

  2. Maybe the "truth" and/ or the lesson should have been not to be so ethnocentric, and to avoid jumping to "that's not true because I haven't experienced it!" when presented with another (particularly marginalized) culture's worldview.