When you start a new class, you choose what kind of student you plan to be. I like to actively participate in conversation, but stay clear of becoming the obnoxious voice. When I strolled into my first creative writing class sophomore year, I expected a fun semester. Little did I know, that wasn’t going to be the case.
Just like any class, going over the syllabus was a breeze. “The instructor seems cool,” I thought to myself. “Reading every night, reflections and a final writing assignment. This will be a cinch.” During the first real class, I noticed how much reading and writing go hand in hand, and the nerves started to knot my stomach. I love writing, but reading gets tedious.
As the weeks continued, reading became second nature. My speed picked up and it became a tool to improve my writing, like the instructor wanted us to learn. But when the midway point of the semester came, a bomb dropped. The instructor ignored all my questions or didn’t answer them. As we sat on the floor in the hallway waiting for class to begin, I asked my classmates about my instructor’s weird mood. We all came to the general consensus I was too nit picky.
New topic: Doctor Who. Leave it to English majors to nerd out on the subject . We gabbled on about the plot, character development, who is the best companion, etc.. The instructor walked up in the middle of our heated debate between Rose and Oswald and asked, “What are you guys talking about?”
I looked up and said, “Doctor Who!”
“Oh!” the teacher replied pleasantly, only to turn around with anger and say, “That show is stupid and a sad excuse for fiction. How that show is so widely popular, I will never understand. UGH.”
We all stared at each other trying to hide our anger with giggles, and believe me, the thought of skipping class crossed all of our minds. We strolled into the classroom with 30 seconds to spare when the instructor exclaimed, “I don’t know how a bunch of writing majors could go on about such a terrible show, unless you were discussing how bad it is.” Instantaneously, we all packed up our bags and left.
The semester continued and a girl named Amanda and I left class together one afternoon. She began to explain how she noticed that the instructor gave everyone positive feedback on their journal entry except me. I noticed too, but I told Amanda that it was all constructive, right? I brushed it off and tried not to lose sleep over it. I had just turned in my first draft of a short story and I felt proud of it.
Then, on the dreaded day back from spring break, the instructor placed my draft on my desk, looking like someone was stabbed while grading it. You know the time old joke, what’s black and white, but red all over? My paper looked like the new butt to that joke.
Devastated, I sat there as the instructor began lecturing. As she lectured, I raised my hand to ask a question. My hand sat in the air for a while, until she called on me, or so I thought. A voice behind me started to talk. After the student asked her question, I cleared my throat, and the instructor said, “Put your hand down, Ms. Theofan.”
“Excuse me? I have a question,” I thought to myself. But I’m too goodie good to stand up and burst in anger toward the instructor.
The next day I went to office hours, hoping to confront her, but my anxiety muted the tiger inside that wanted to roar. “This story is a very cool concept. I think you have a good talent for making unusual, thought provoking stories,” my instructor said.
“Then why did you bleed negativity on my paper?” I asked, confused.
“Well, I felt like it. And there’s a lot wrong with it. You will have to do a lot of work if you want to be taken seriously as a writer,” she said.
Rather than letting that tiger out, I go to my advisor. After explaining to her the situation, she said, “Why don’t you wait outside?”
Anxiety built up in my chest. I looked down at my watch that read 4:32. As I sat on a bench outside the advisor’s office, I wanted to cry or scream, or both. At 4:33, my advisor finally asked me to go back into her office.
“I’m going to have you go to the department head to discuss this,” she said. My advisor escorted me to the proper office where I shared the entire story with the English department head. The department head assured me that I did nothing wrong and that the situation would be under control.
After that, the teacher stopped giving me outward trouble. Sure, there was the occasional eye roll or frown, but for the most part things smoothed out. In hindsight, ignoring the situation was the wrong thing to do, but I worked it out. I just needed that final straw to be drawn.