A Class to Remember

We remember in blurry bits our first days of kindergarden, or  grade primary (whatever you call it). We remember how scary our teachers were and wondered how hard the class was going to be. We all felt similar feelings again in middle school, and then in high school. That anxiety can crush us and leave us shaking as we scramble to find a good seat. Now that I’m in university I didn’t expect I’d need to fear my professors. Obviously some classes are harder and there’s a lot of work that goes into a lot of the courses – that’s a given. What I didn’t expect was that my professor would make me feel alienated, fearful, and angry. I came out of that Political Science course not knowing what to do. Why? My professor made it very hard to feel comfortable. Here’s what happened:
A guy in the class made an innocent joke and spoke out slightly. Did he have a disability? Maybe. That’s not something I feel I have the right to disclose, even if I knew for sure. It’s obvious he had trouble settling down, but honestly, we hadn’t done much else other than do attendance. It was the first day of second term. We’re back from Christmas break, and we’re not exactly in survival (learning) mode  yet. He asked the student if he needed to see a doctor, if he had a disability, or if he had papers. Which let me add, is not okay. The professor kicked the student out, who then begged to stay. The professor, didn’t care. He continued on. At that point I wasn’t angry yet. I was a little confused and thought “Wow. Okay this guy’s going to be a hard teacher. Be respectful. Button up”. I wasn’t afraid of him, yet. As a person who’s recovered from not one, but two mental illnesses I was shocked by his reaction, but I carried on. After all if I major in Political Science (like I want to) I’ll need the course, and he’s the only professor that teaches it.
A few minutes later – a girl who was in tears raised her hand and told the professor “I don’t know if you’re aware, but I think he has a disability.” I admire her courage. I wish it was socially acceptable for me to walk up to her and hug her. This is where the professor, who’ll remain unnamed because I honestly can’t even say it without scoffing, really gets out of line. The professor asked the girl first, if she had a mental illness or disability (again, NOT COOL). After she replied with no, he proceeded to say that having a disability and a paper for it is not an excuse for bad or rude behavior. He then went as far to say that if you can’t function ‘properly’ in public – you should be in an institution.
Personally I believe that we are all entitled to our own views and opinions – however what this man did was a violation of the right to a safe and comfortable learning environment. If he wants to be a jerk in his own home, good for him. In a classroom when he’s the professor? No. We’re not babies here, but we’re certainly not above feeling isolated by a position of authority. After all, who is?
I want to commend all of the students who immediately left the classroom after these comments. I didn’t. I stayed and I waited for the end. I don’t know why. Maybe I was afraid of what he’d say? Maybe I was offering him a respect he didn’t offer me. Either way, I’ve written a 2 page letter to the school about it. I don’t know what else to say, I just hope no one else has to experience this kind of behavior. To every one who has struggled with a disability, mental illness, or any other issue – stay strong. Not every one is as closed-minded as this jerk.

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