By: Danya Danish
To all my teacher’s pets, burnt out gifted kids and especially to my “you have potential!” students, I trigger warned this for you because this isn’t an easy pill to swallow.
You know that one goody-two shoes in your class, that your teachers always compare everyone to? Yeah that would be me – or at least till I got my first C in math this year (11th grade). I know what it’s like to be adored by teachers, whilst having a really rocky relationship with your year group where they only really talk to you for homework. But regardless, until I started writing this article I never realised that some of what my teachers were doing or saying was gaslighting behaviour. And whether they did it intentionally thinking it’s going to make us work harder or even if they don’t know they did so, it has more impact on us than we think… So, here’re some of the things I’ve heard being said to me or others and why they’re damaging.
- “We did this, of course we did this, how do you not remember?”
Most commonly used by math teachers, this comes in at number one because it completely makes you question your own memory of a situation (which is literally the main trait of gaslighting). I’m pretty sure we’d know if we remember taking something or not, and even if we had and forgotten teachers shouldn’t be so quick to jump at us anyways. It’s not our faults we can’t always instantly recall knowledge we haven’t accessed in years.
- “What’s with this attitude? You’re never like this!”
AGGGHHHH, this sentence just makes my blood boil. For starters, teachers can only know so much about us, which is fine, but not a massive indicator of character. Then, they will almost always tell you this after you breakdown and finally express your frustration with something they’re doing. Once again, teachers are supposed to be a little more patient than to snap at the first given opportunity because in reality there is usually something deeper and bigger at play than what shows, and as a student I wish some of my teachers were understanding of that.
- When they tell your parents the reason you’re failing is because “You didn’t put enough effort.”
This is by far the worst. Especially when it isn’t true. Sometimes you can put your heart and soul into something and still not get the results you wanted to get. This could depend on a multitude of things: you don’t have the right resources, you’ve been investing your time and energy incorrectly, or simply down to ‘this just isn’t for you’. Wherever the truth is, teachers (or anyone for that matter) twisting things to get off the hook isn’t okay. They’re responsible for us for a reason; not to shut us down or culprit us when it’s convenient, but to help us and claim ownership when it isn’t. I’m not by any means saying have a go at every teacher you see, or that teachers suck. On the contrary, I love my teachers (for the most part, though some of them just downright piss me off), but what I am saying is to hold people accountable for their actions. If you know you’ve worked hard for whatever grade you got, don’t let someone else convince you otherwise.
At the end of the day, just like any other relationship you navigate, teacher/student relationships will never be perfectly straightforward “book standard” types. Everyone’s experiences are different, but do keep a sharp lookout for certain behaviours or lines like these, because over time they will hurt you more than you know. Obviously this isn’t limited to teachers, You’re prone to gaslighting regardless if it’s an ‘authority figure’ or not.
Don’t let someone else take your narrative from you,
Peace out – Danya
PS: remind me to make that my senior quote.