I was not a popular kid in high school. I had problems at home, I was overweight, and if I had had any inclination to see a doctor about what I was going through, I likely would have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Even though I loved to learn and had a flair for the more creative side of the curriculum, I still struggled with some of my schoolwork because of the personal side of things and how some of the other students would make fun of me. I felt like I was invisible, and even though that was lonely, it was still far less painful than when I wasn’t. I didn’t like to stand out because when I did, something would happen or someone would say something to make me feel belittled. For the most part, high school was not a fun time for me.
I had always liked Mr. Power. English and Language Arts had been my best academic subjects, and I found that he directed the flow of his lesson plans to leave some room for creativity. We went outside as a class to a pedestrian tunnel under the roadway to get a feel for the Greek theatre as we read parts of Antigone aloud. We made movie posters with images and a quote to advertise scenes from Macbeth. We discussed psychology and herd mentality evidenced in Lord of the Flies. He made it interesting, and I felt stimulated in these projects.
One week in Language Arts, we were all tasked to write a first-person narrative essay. I think I was a bit rushed because I had forgotten it was soon due. Whatever had been going on in my head at the time, I instead wrote a short story entitled “The Dawdler from Green.” However, only after I had submitted it did I realize my work didn’t fit the required criteria. I’d made such a stupid mistake in one of the only things I was good at in school and I beat myself up for it, dreading the effect on my final mark.
The day that Mr. Power announced he had our essays graded, he said to the class, “Before I give them back to you, I want to read you all something.” I turned bright red as he read my story to my peers, stopping to openly admire one or two vivid uses of imagery. When he was finished, he put the paper down on his desk, paused for a moment, then asked the class in a certain tone of disbelief, “How do you grade something like that?” The other students knew I’d written it. A couple of them asked me, and I could only nod. Others asked Mr. Power what he did grade it, but he said he couldn’t tell them. When I did get my paper back, he had only docked me 2 marks because it didn’t quite meet the criteria of a first-person narrative essay.
I want to thank Mr. Power for two things. First, I want to thank him for teaching us how to think abstractly alongside how to follow the academic guidelines. I believe the kind of approach he used stimulated his subjects, not only for me, but for many of his students. Second, I want to thank him for praising something I did and putting a brief, unblemished spotlight on me during a time when I truly believed I was unworthy of it. I stood a bit taller that day, had a little more confidence in my creativity and, best of all, I smiled. It didn’t get better all at once, but every story has a beginning—and I think that one was mine.