Finding the one teacher that understands you can change your life

March 30, 2021 11:58 AM

a crown icon and the words "rising voices award winner"
An illustration of two figures, with one telling the other that, "You can do anything you want." ILlustration by Xochitl Tai-Dawson.

An illustration of two figures, with one telling the other that, "You can do anything you want." ILlustration by Xochitl Tai-Dawson.

Being in any large group of people can make it difficult to have a good relationship with any adult, especially in a school of 2,500 students. I have never been a “teacher’s pet” or even someone who talked to teachers because I never felt seen by any of them. This all changed when I walked into my eighth grade history class at the beginning of the year. My teacher let us sit anywhere, which is always a good sign because when you enjoy the people around you, it changes your mood in the class. Usually history teachers make you do work out of the textbook and never teach anything different from what it says. She was different, which changed my views on learning.

Ms. Arnold gave us an outline of the lesson so we could follow along and to help us study for the upcoming tests, but what made it enjoyable was that she brought her own ideas and thoughts to what we were learning. She always referred to current events so we could have class discussions and share what we thought of what was happening to our world. She let us share and talk amongst ourselves, letting our voices be heard. I had never felt so safe and understood when talking about the political and historical things I feel passionate about. 

Her approach to teaching made me want to come to class every day to talk and learn, which I had never really felt before. This changed my feeling toward history and even made me want to consider a profession in history. She let us talk about things we were passionate about and how we were being affected by the government. Usually, teachers don’t really care how we feel and how we are impacted because they think we are too young to understand what is happening.

We talked about everything that bothered us both in our past history and the history currently being made. We talked about politics and how messed up our government was when the former president was being impeached the first time. These are the things that matter to a diverse group of eight graders, not just what a group of white men did 200 years ago. I know that our history is important, but many textbooks try to erase parts of it to make our country seem better than it actually was. My teacher didn’t agree with how they were teaching us through the book, so she taught us in a better way where no part of history was glossed over.

One of the most important things she showed us was a video in which a man’s wife was detained by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and he was trying to get himself and their son in to see her. He brought along their lawyer and a camera crew filming the documentary. When they got to the officers, the officers grabbed the child and started to pull him, trying to detain him. The lawyer was trying to stop the officers and they slammed the door on her leg, which broke it. This means that the officers were never intended to let him see his wife; they just wanted to arrest him and their son. This video was so important to me because when I saw what the officer had gotten away with, it  made me realize I wanted to help people who were helpless — I realized that I wanted to become a lawyer.

My eight grade history teacher changed my life forever. She gave me a spot in class to share my voice and made me fall in love with history and politics, which led me to understanding that I wanted to become a lawyer and then a history teacher. I will always remember her teaching style and her kindness for the rest of my life. Yes, it is hard to find an adult you can have a good relationship with, but once you find one it changes your entire approach to learning.

Featured articles: