I received a lot of incredible feedback from my last blog post titled, “Silenced.” So many of you told me how proud you were that I spoke up, some of you just gave me comfort by validating my feelings, and some of you suggested I share what I wrote with my teacher. I greatly appreciated all of the feedback, and I did make the decision to share what I wrote with my writing teacher. I didn’t do this because I wanted to make him feel awful, I just felt that he should know how I felt. At the very least to get a perspective that he possibly didn’t have before. That way maybe he’d choose a different article next time he does this assignment, or at least try to have a different discussion. Anyways, I wanted him to know how I genuinely felt.
I was a little nervous showing him what I wrote. Even though I felt good about what I wrote, I was worried he would get defensive. Or that because of how I expressed how upset I was, he would change his opinion about me. Or possibly even change my grade. Of course, I realize how unethical that would be, and if he had done that I certainly wouldn’t just sit quietly and let him do that. But I was still worried. I expressed myself very raw and authentically, but while also trying to not come across as a jerk. I had no clue how he would react. But I took a chance by speaking up for myself.
I couldn’t have gotten a nicer response from him. He told me that he was deeply sorry and that he felt really bad about how I felt during and after his class. He told me how much he appreciated me expressing my feelings to him, rather than staying quiet. He said that he wished I had come to him prior to class and told him that the article made me uncomfortable. He said if I had told him that he would’ve not only given me a different article to read but would’ve absolutely not had me sit through the class discussion. He said that a couple of other students came to him and so he gave them an alternative assignment. He asked that I please do that next time because he would never want to make me feel uncomfortable. He genuinely apologized and felt so bad that I had a hard experience with that assignment and discussion. He was extremely thoughtful and apologetic. He really did feel bad and wanted to make sure that I was okay. That kind of thoughtfulness is exactly the kind of teacher I’ve thought he was all term.
I learned a lot from this experience. I learned that it’s good to speak up and express your feelings rather than holding them in. I learned that people are receptive to honest forms of communication. I learned that I could’ve gone to my teacher when he gave out the assignment and asked for a new one. To be honest, that thought never occurred to me. So if you’re in school and you’re given an assignment that hits too close to home for you, makes you uncomfortable, or causes you an immense amount of anxiety. Don’t think that the only two options you have are to make yourself do it or skip class. Talk to your teacher, express your feelings, chances are they’ll really respect you for speaking up and give you an alternative assignment. It’s a good thing to speak up and stand up for yourself. I’m not saying it’ll always have a smooth outcome, but I do think it’s important to at least try. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself, even in a setting like a school.
You have needs, and you shouldn’t be afraid to get those needs met by using your voice.