Don’t Speak

Holding my breath.  Willing myself not to speak.  I have absolutely nothing to say to him.  Breathe.

Don’t speak. He’s old.  He thought he was teaching me a lesson.  Breathe.

You can do this.  Not a word. Ignore him.  Don’t give him the satisfaction.  Breathe.

You have nothing to prove to him.  Don’t speak. Breathe.

Dead silence.

Now what?  I’m trapped with him.  For God knows how long.


You know what?  Fuck it.  I’ve held it inside for two decades now.  I needn’t hold it for even one minute more.

You know what? No. You don’t get to speak.

I was barely eighteen.  You were well into your 50s.

I was a student, you were my senior English teacher.

I missed far too many classes, from equal parts boredom from your teaching, rebelliousness, disinterestedness, and illness.  You were nearing retirement, likely reflecting back on your accomplishments, or lack thereof.

I saw your class as optional.  You didn’t.

Three weeks before graduation, you informed me that you were failing me.  My final grade by your subjective calculations? 68.8.  I needed a 70 to pass.

It all came down to a single moment.  A moment where you sat, pen in hand, and decided to fail me.  To teach me something.

You failed.

I took a correspondence class and earned an A+ and received my diploma on the same day my classmates did.  But, I couldn’t march in my own graduation ceremony.  I’ll bet you were satisfied.

I went on to attend college, making the Dean’s List every semester.

I succeeded because I am intelligent and curious.  Driven and tenacious.  I had a professor who believed in me, who cultivated my desire to be challenged, to be pushed beyond where I was at any given moment.  He opened the world to me and told me it was mine for the taking.

I went on to graduate school and graduated summa cum laude.

Summa cum laude.  Did you?

Both of my degrees are in English.

And neither had anything to do with you and the lesson you so smugly believed you were teaching me.

Your moment to shine would have been earlier on.  Perhaps when you saw that I was bored out of my mind…maybe when I began disengaging?

I earned those degrees neither because of you, nor in spite of you.

And when I went on to become an English professor, I remained cognizant of the fact that the most important part of my job was to make a connection with my students and see how they learned, what they needed, and how I could help them to succeed.  Their education wasn’t about me.  I was merely a steward.  I didn’t sit back, closed off and sanctimonious.

But you did.

Don’t forget to breathe.

This post is a response to the following prompt: “Think of a person you don’t like, and describe what you might say if you had to share an elevator ride together. Then describe what happens when the elevator breaks down. For six hours.”


  1. naturegirl21

    Ta daaaaaa! Hey, you got it done :)

    I really love how this is structured. There is no actual mention of the other person or the surroundings but you instantly get it. Plus no need for a lot of annoying punctuation like quotations :) It's so different. Did I mention I love it?

  2. Alexandra174

    Oh, yeah.

    This was wonderful b/c it brought up my feelings from the same moment in my life….wonderful prompt, and wonderful prep work for it.

    I also had an ahole in graduate school. He was fired the next year.

  3. That is awesome for you! About you getting your degrees in English no less! And ofcourse, another well written post!

  4. I have these conversations, sometimes, with people who do not understand how badly they were screwing things up.

    I found a lot of satisfaction in this one.

  5. Cheryl @ Mommypants

    Sooo….you do have some anger after all! ;) Well said.

    I liked this part: "I earned those degrees neither because of you, nor in spite of you."

    Love how you took the power back!

  6. BringUpBee

    Oh how I can relate to part of this, minus the not being allowed to walk part. There is no way I would have been able to write about it this well though :)

    I got a D in Freshman English. Had to retake it via independent study my senior year, while taking Senior AP English (odd, huh?) That teacher gave me C's on many of papers. Out right told me there was no way I would get higher than a 1 on the AP test. Never taking the time to TEACH me how to be better.

    I got a 4.

    At least she gave me an A for Freshman English.

  7. Nichole

    Thank you so much.
    It just came out kind of stream-of-consciousness.

  8. Nichole

    It's a power thing, isn't it? Jerks.
    It actually felt cathartic to write it out.
    I feel free now.
    Thank you for your kind words… :)

  9. Nichole

    I've wished for years for the moment when I could tell him what I really thought.
    Happy sighs for having written it out!
    Thank you for reading and commenting. :)

  10. Mommy Lisa

    I really love how you linked it all together it is GREAT!

  11. You know, I find myself sitting here wishing that this were really true. I mean I get that it's a reflection from your past and what you would love to say should the opportunity arise, and I really hope you get it. It's well thought out, and while you point a 100 daggers at him, you manage to stay non-accusatory at the same time, a feat in itself.

  12. Nichole

    Thank you, you sweet thing!
    Those two degrees bring me more joy than I can ever explain.

  13. Nichole

    Me too, my friend.
    I've played it out in my head for years. Nice to write it down.

  14. Nichole

    Catharsis at its finest!
    There's only one other person I'm angry with.
    And I'm pretty sure I'll never write about it.

  15. Nichole

    I love your story. Love it!
    Teach her to underestimate you!

  16. Nichole

    Thank you so much!
    It felt great to get it out.

  17. Nichole

    Thank you so much for your kind words. I'm blushing now. :)
    I have longed for the chance to share my thoughts with him for years.
    This was almost as good.

  18. souldipper

    Phew – I felt that one, Nichole! Great writing, pleasure to read and thank you for not slipping away from your stand. Love women on a mission!

  19. meredith

    this is fabulous. i'd like to flick him in the forehead. just sayin'.

  20. Natalie

    Oh, I wish I would've went this way with the prompt! I have a fantastic one I could've done. I might write it out anyways, just for the satisfaction and release.

  21. abbie

    Very powerful! I kind of wish it would actually happen because I would love hear how someone like that would respond. Sometimes it is good to get angry and be able to spill it all, even if it isn't in real life.

  22. kris

    One time? I sent a message out on Twitter asking if there was anyone else out there who had a person who they would just rub from the surface of the earth if given the opportunity.

    No hurting. Just make that person gone.

    Because I have someone like the person you describe here. A professor. And even today?

    When I think back on that moment in which he decided to harm me? To teach me a lesson? I am still angry.

    So your words struck home with me.

    A little bit.


  23. I love this! You took that prompt to a different level. As I was reading this, someone definitely came to mind. Maybe I should write it, so I can release it.

  24. Nikki

    I had a chemistry professor in college who made it his main goal to belittle me in class. I truly believe this to be the case. I wish I could see him today, and wipe that smugness off his face. Great post by the way!

  25. Momma Drama

    Love this post. So powerful! And I especially like the part where you clarify you didn’t do it in spite either. That’s usually people’s reasoning – “I did it to motivate you, even if you end up hating me”. Very well done :)

    P.S. I love good teachers. They all need a raise!

  26. Paige Morgan

    This post is so amazing because it could be applied to so many situations. We have to spot potential in others, we have to help them be their best, not make them feel like their worst. I have gotten in the habit of telling my children "I just want you to be the best [name] you can be". When they are misbehaving, I asl them if they're being their best selves. Then I encourage them to be their best.

  27. @sogeshirts

    Awesome post. The best revenge is success and you definitely got that revenge. Looks like it motivated you a bit too.

  28. Nichole

    I love when my words truly reach others. Thank you for your kind words!

  29. Nichole

    I would so love to see you do that.
    Thank you, my friend.

  30. Nichole

    If you write it out, you'll have to share it with me! I'd love to read it. :)

  31. CDG


    Raunchy humor and real rage all in one week!

    Love it!

    Seriously. I love it.

  32. Nichole

    My mind always goes back to the fact that his choice was truly made in a moment.
    I will always believe that his choice was cruel.

    I marched in both of my college graduation ceremonies and they tasted oh so sweet.

  33. Nichole

    Thank you!
    I am waiting to hear if you write yours…I would absolutely love to read it.

  34. Nichole

    There's nothing worse than a smug face. Nothing.
    Thank you for your comment…

  35. Nichole

    Thank you!

    Good teachers can make all the difference.
    Poor ones? Truly fail their students.

    I love that you understood what I was saying when I pointed out that my accomplishments had absolutely nothing to do with his choice. :)

  36. Nichole

    Your children are so blessed to have a mother who encourages them in that way.

    I was like a hunk of clay…he could have done so much with my young mind.
    But, he had one way of teaching and if that didn't work on a student, then the student was the problem.

  37. Nichole

    Thank you so very much … :)

  38. Nichole

    Now I'm the one blushing.
    Thank you. Truly, thank you so much.
    I am typically the forgiveness queen, but not in this case.

  39. Nichole

    That makes two of us.
    Whenever I make the trip to my hometown, I always imagine that I'll run into him somewhere and have my opportunity.
    A girl can dream.

  40. Rachel

    Yay!! You do have some spit and vinegar in ya!!! Love ya!

  41. Nichole

    Oh, Rachel, you'd be surprised by just how much!
    Love you too!

  42. Yuliya

    Awesome! And just like my experience with my English teacher in high school…maybe he was the same one?

  43. findmebook

    GREAT post!!! I had an English Prof. that really turned me off to writing. AMAZING how that impacts you – You remember it like it was yesterday.

  44. @BeingMomNow

    As a teacher as well, I look back to the teachers that didn't make an effort to connect with me and I think, "WTF?". I love that you succeeded not because of his lesson nor to spite him, but because it was who you were meant to be. Loved this post!!

  45. Nancy MacDonald

    Amazing story and one that expresses something that happens all too often. There are wonderful teachers out there, but there are a few who have built little kingdoms based on pompous self-absorbtion and mis-guided "lessons" that are not lessons at all. People like that do not deserve the title "teacher." If only we could weed them out! On the positive side, you saw what ISN'T a teacher and became a true teacher, a steward, as you so aptly say, and now you live that out every day with your own children. The classroom is only one place teaching takes place. Great post, Nichole!

  46. Renee

    Oh, very good!
    I have conversations like this in my car. What I would love to say and don't.

  47. Brie

    I had a science {just not my thing} teacher do the same to me. But I got out on a loophole technicality. Feels good. (:

  48. C.Mom

    What a great take on the prompt! The power of teachers—being a teacher myself, we really do blow it sometimes. Love this!

  49. ksluiter

    Ah! This is amazing!
    "I earned those degrees neither because of you, nor in spite of you."
    I love how his asshole move didn't motivate you either way. You weren't earning those degrees to spite him, just as you weren't doing it because he made a difference. This was just who you are and he failed to see it.

    I hope I never, EVER do this to a student. I hope I have the wisdom to know when a student deserves the F and when it's maybe *my fault* that they student earned the F…and then I hope I make it right.

  50. AWESOME! You strike me as an incredibly driven woman. I love that you will pass on that spark to Katie! :)

  51. Ash

    "And when I went on to become an English professor, I remained cognizant of the fact that the most important part of my job was to make a connection with my students and see how they learned, what they needed, and how I could help them to succeed. Their education wasn’t about me. I was merely a steward. "

    Is it telling of my school experience that I've never viewed a professor as someone who should/could be a steward?

    Here's to fabulous English Professors!

  52. andygirl

    you tell him! I have a math teacher I would write a similar letter too.

  53. Aunt Darlene

    I couldn't believe the day that you told me that you still wanted to go to your class graduation, and asked me to go with you for support. You were so devastated, but wanted to be there for your friends regardless of what you were going through and feeling at that moment. That goes to show how unselfish you were even back then. Have I told you lately just how PROUD I am of you.
    I love you Nichole!!!

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