What My Teacher Taught Me

by Alison L. Aubrecht

when i was just starting out
a child surrounded by
those who bow to sound
you put me in front of the class
and mandated that i speak
your excitement plausible
and the faces in front of me
smirking or puzzled or pitying
you gave me a super sticker
a pat on the head and beamed at me
all afternoon

you taught me that
i was as good as my willingness
to use my voice
even when others didn't understand me
even when i couldn't express myself
you taught me that communication
is one sided

when i was plodding through
struggling with puberty
you forced me to sit in the front
and spoke to my interpreter, facing her
you said, "Tell her she can stop anytime
if this assignment becomes too hard"
you watched the signs pass through the air
and when motion became stillness
glanced at my forehead then walked away

you taught me that
leaving someone alone in humiliation
is acceptable
you taught me that i was
somebody you couldn't connect with
a thrift-store underwear kid
and you taught me that
it's okay to give up

when i was a young adult
starting to understand the intricacies
of perspectives, attitudes, and behaviors
you told me i couldn't succeed without your help
that if i didn't let you revise my paper
i'd fail and when i aced anyway
you told me i cheated
and then you spoke in front of me
but when i asked you what you said
i was brushed off, "Oh, it's not important"

you taught me that i could never
live up to the potential that i felt
burning inside me
that someone else controls
whether or not i have a chance
you taught me that i didn't
have the right to decide for myself
what was interesting or important

when i was almost done
creeping close to the day i'd
endeavor out into "the real world"
i reported the abuse i saw
and you told them i was mentally ill
that i was out of control and crazy
(forgetting i could filter
the poison that falls from your lips)

you taught me to cover up
to lie and cheat to stay in the game
you taught me that it was wrong
to fight for those weaker than me
and right to squash them along the way

those are just some of the smaller lessons,
dear teacher
just some of the lighter bruises
the slighter scars
that i write of today

you put them there
hidden deep where no one could see

you taught me, teacher
to bruise back