Dear Teacher: Here's What You Didn't Know When You Stood Up for Me in Class That Day
I remember you, when you defended me in front of the new class that day in seventh grade. When I thought, things are never going to change. I remember looking up from my painting and seeing the smirks on their faces. I remember their cruel words and thinking, “I’m as hard as a rock, nothing can hurt me.” But it did hurt.
I remember how hot my face got when I realized you’d stood behind me and had heard what they said. Then, you got angry. You got so angry, the whole class went absolutely quiet. Nobody dared to even whisper a word. Everybody froze as you shouted at that boy and demanded he apologize to me. I was sitting there, hardly able to breathe, my pencil shaking in my hand and I didn’t understand what was happening. I’d hated you and suddenly you were protecting me. That boy turned to me and apologized in front of the whole class.
Dear teacher, you had no idea what you’d done. You’d returned my trampled-on, broken, shattered dignity to me in one minute. You didn’t know I thought I deserved all of this. I deserved my parent’s words about me being too stupid for this and that. I deserved being kicked and laughed at on the bus. I deserved that nobody ever helped me when they held me on the bus at my stop. I deserved that they pretended I didn’t exist. I deserved when they painted on my clothes and my skin with a permanent marker. I deserved when they hid my books or imitated everything I said, ridiculing me.
Dear teacher, you didn’t know the day before, at only 12 years old, I had stood on that bridge above the railroads, thinking it was better to jump and yearning for peace so desperately that death seemed better than life. That day you took my hand and pulled me away from the abyss. You put hope into my heart. You’d seen me. You’d helped me. You hadn’t looked away.
Dear teacher, remember all the years when you were trying to conquer my trust? You put your warm hand on my arm and with your other hand you took one of the bricks out of my walls. I looked at you angrily. How dared you take away my walls? I needed them! I pointed my weapons at you. You just smiled at my anger and spoke kindly to me. My weapons tumbled out of my hands, useless in the face of your kindness. You disassembled all of my walls. When I stood in front of you, defenseless and vulnerable, you stepped next to me and defended me.
Dear teacher, I remember that day I looked at you standing in front of the class. You no longer were just a teacher. You’d become a human being and I wanted you to be happy. I wanted to defend you. Then, I did, two years later in front of the whole class and ever after.
Dear teacher, that day was 25 years ago and you’re not here anymore, but your kindness is. Everything I am now is because of you. Before you came, I was failing school. Then you came and I graduated from high school, college and university. Before you came, I was an outsider. Then, you came and taught me to trust again. I found true friends. I had you.
Do you remember that evening we stood on the stage side by side and everyone was clapping? You had no idea what that meant to someone who’d been bullied for three long years. Before you came, I wanted to die. Then, you came and my life turned into magic because you filled it with everything worth living for, love, warmth, joy, wisdom and trust.
Dear teacher, I’m so glad I didn’t jump.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.