By: Reba Phelps
As I sat there with a racing heart and a nervous sweat in full motion it seemed to take forever for my high school English teacher to deliver her first graded paper of the year. Like most teachers, their reputation proceeds them. This one was known to be tough as nails and seemed to take great joy in the power that the red ink pen in her hand evoked. Rumor had it that she rarely gave a grade above a C and she did not put up with any humor or shenanigans in her class. The best of the best students barely skated by and warned every student that came behind them.
Simply put, she could fail you and you would have a repeat Senior year or a summer school enrollment. I knew without a doubt that I had poured my heart and soul into this paper. This would be the paper that would set the tone for the entire year and I had full confidence that I would earn the C that appeared to be her best grade.
I sat in my seat and looked straight ahead trying not to use my peripheral eyesight to see her exact location. Breathing in and out just trying to stay alive… she then appeared out of nowhere to slap the paper down on my desk. It was face down, and she gave me a very stern side eye at the very same time. There appeared to be something on her mind as she walked away. Not being able to wait for another second I flipped the paper over to see a large red “B” on the top of my paper with a small handwritten note beside it.
It was a blur of teary eyes and pure joy as I clutched the paper tight and celebrated my victory. Everyone around me was silently comparing their grades and I proudly showed off my kill. I had the highest grade within a two-seat radius and I wasn’t even concerning myself with her handwritten note until all of the high fives were delivered. My new pride and confidence radiated for the rest of the day.
There were not many occasions where I was actually proud to show my parents my work but, in this case, I knew they would be thrilled. When I handed the paper over to my mother, she applauded the hard-earned grade but she had a look of concern and advised me that my teacher was accusing me of cheating.
Keep in mind, at this point, I still had not read the handwritten note. I was too mesmerized by my grade.
My mother read the note out loud, “You are much smarter on paper than you are when you speak”.
Well, I just perplexed at my mother’s doubt and unbelief and I had no clue because she was being a negative Nancy. I knew I did not cheat and I was well aware of the man hours that went into this paper. From that day forward I chose to tell myself that I was a good writer. So much so, that the world’s biggest critic thinks that I can do this.
What was probably meant as an, “I have my eye on you comment”, truly made me feel as though I could write good sentences. And, sometimes even put them together to make a decent story. I completely chose to take her words as a compliment and build on top of it. From that moment I ventured out and started believing in myself and my abilities.
There is no doubt in my mind that my teacher’s words were seeds planted that eventually grew into a love of writing. It would have been so easy to be offended by her words and then make the decision not to learn and grow in her class. In our daily lives we are faced with so many decisions on a daily basis. The perspective we choose to respond with can change the trajectory of our lives. If you are always looking for and expecting the worst in people, you will surely find it. If you are always looking for and expecting the best in people you will find that as well.
“Your perspective will either become your prison or your passport” – Steven Furtick
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable…. if anything is excellent or praiseworthy…think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8