Dear Mrs Smith*,
You probably don’t remember me. I was in your class when I was in Sixth Form over a decade ago. But I remember you.
I was 17 years old and my mental health problems had well and truly kicked in. I was struggling to come to terms with my sexuality, I was being bullied, and things at home were less than perfect. I was self-harming every day – I constantly had bandages on my wrists. Life was really hard.
So the last thing I needed was the way you treated me.
I struggled in Sixth Form. My mental illness meant that my concentration had gone to shit and I had no motivation whatsoever. I couldn’t keep up with the classwork, let alone the homework.
And so it began.
You took to humiliating me in class when I didn’t know the answer, or when I scored badly on one of your weekly tests. You would constantly compare me to other students who were doing better than me. You made me feel like the idiot of the class. I hated myself enough – I didn’t need you adding to it.
I started skiving. I barely attended your class because I was terrified of being humiliated again, but the more I skived, the less I could keep up. You started grilling me about my absences, angrily thrusting the register in my face to show me all the absent marks next to my name. You asked me if there was something going on. I burst into tears and said yes. I was relieved. Finally, you were going to listen to me. But no. You sighed, and said, “Talk to the people at home about that”.
I offered to come in and do some extra lessons to catch up, but you said you didn’t have time for that.
I knew things weren’t going to change. So I carried on skiving. Avoiding you.
Then I was called into the Head of Sixth Form’s office. She told me you wanted me kicked off the course and out of Sixth Form. I was devastated. I told the Head of Sixth Form everything that was going on outside of school, and luckily for me, she was incredibly understanding. She fought back on my behalf and kept me enrolled on the course. I limped through to the end and came out with a D grade A-Level. That, coupled with my B and D grades in two other subjects managed to get me into university. I made it. No thanks to you.
You may have been known as a good teacher but you failed me. You almost broke me, and I still carry the emotional scars of the way you treated me. So I decided to write this letter. A letter you will never see. But I needed to get this out of my brain and out of my life. I’m done thinking about your criticism. I’m done remembering how bad you made me feel. I’m done with you.
*Teacher’s name changed to protect their identity.