Writer’s Workshop: I Never Raised My Hand


But teachers know everything!! Write about a time a teacher disappointed you.

I’ve been disappointed by teachers a number of times.

But this time hurt.

I was in college and taking a course on health and nutrition. Mr. Fields was a Dr. Oz WannaBe who ate mixed greens and drank vegetable concoctions while he lectured. He was spunky, energetic, funny, and extremely intelligent.

I took the class with my roommate/teammate and we had a friendly relationship with Mr. Fields who happened to be a big fan of volleyball and sometimes watched our games. This man’s passion for nutrition changed everything I thought about the way I ate. I lost 15 pounds after taking his class because he helped me see what I was doing to myself with some of my food choices.

I had respect for him, which made what he said so difficult to hear.

My step-dad, Bob, had been diagnosed with cancer earlier that year. My family was devastated. I stupidly thought I had paid my dues in the cancer department after my Dad died when I was in second grade. Bob’s diagnosis was the last thing any of us saw coming, but I wanted to stay positive.  Times had changed since my Dad had died and SO many people survived cancer. We were going to fight this.

Bob had just begun a round of chemotherapy after some failed treatments and my family wanted to remain hopeful that this would do the trick.

Mr. Fields, of course, knew none of this when he decided to direct a lecture on nutrition into a lesson on our bodies ability to fight disease. He spoke excitedly about our immune systems and blood cells and how everything works together. He talked about different diseases and what they do and then he got to cancer.

And I’ll never forget his words that day when he said, “oh man when you get on chemotherapy you’re as good as dead…haha…they don’t give you chemotherapy until you’re about to kick the bucket…man I tell ya, chemotherapy is poison…you’re on your last legs when you’re forced to put THAT into your body!”

He laughed and carried on and I stared a hole directly through my notebook, willing myself to speak up. To say something.

How dare this man refer to my stepdad as being on his “last legs”. How dare he use a slang jocular term like “kick the bucket” to refer to the painful process of losing a life. How dare he not consider the fact that there might be students in his class holding onto chemo with both hands. How dare he take that hope away.

Someone needed to tell him. Someone needed to say something. Someone needed to make this guy feel like an ass for being ignorant and insensitive and inconsiderate.

My teeth could not have been clenched tighter.

I never raised my hand.


  1. says

    Seriously, that guy was a jerk. I wouldn’t have been able to say anything for fear that I would start crying and then the whole scolding idea goes out the window!

  2. says

    What an ass is right!

    I hate it when words have the power to make us feel so powerless. I am a strong believer in karma and let’s hope he got his.

  3. says

    I wouldn’t doubt that he is sitting somewhere on chemo, hoping and praying it works and I am sure he would have wished he bit his tongue!

    Chemo worked for me! I’m living proof! =)

  4. says

    I heard some of the most horribly negative and disheartening comments from people when my dad was dying of cancer.

    It’s not a good time to tell how painful or lengthy someone’s illness is – far better to just say you are sorry that they’re going through it, than to get rid of the last shred of hope you had.

  5. says

    Regret is the hardest thing for me to deal with, and I’d definitely feel the same way if I’d been in your situation. This made me tear up a little–lots of sad cancer stories in my family.

  6. says

    This made me cringe. Mr. Fields definitely sounds like he was lacking in the clue department; I wonder if he even realized how insensitive his words were. How awful for you to have to sit through that.

  7. says

    How hard that must have been. With enough family & friends who have endured cancer (some survived, many not), that took my breath away.

    Some people get tunnel vision and apparently his was on the nutrition runway and he couldn’t or didn’t look up and around him to think about how far reaching his words could or would be.

  8. says

    This story makes me sad especially as he took a very serious subject and tried to trivialize it… It also makes me sad that you didn’t speak up. It would have helped him recognize how important it is to be careful with our views about things. I understand you were very hurt by his lack of sensitivity, I just wish you had spoken to him after class… easier said than done.
    As an educator, I am always reminding myself that words have enormous impact and in a classroom there is a power dynamic that must be handled with care… I can relate as in the post I added from my blogger blog above, I mentioned a nasty incident with a teacher that make me switch colleges.
    As I get older, I truly believe we must speak up. It helps clear the air and everyone learns from the exchange… 20 years ago, I would have said something; albeit with great fear in my heart. Today I speak up and try to do it with love. I dont always succeed but I believe we should speak up anyway.
    Have a great Thursday!

  9. says

    Sorry about the sentence typo…
    Correction:I can relate; in the post I added as my blogger blog entry above, I mentioned a nasty incident with a teacher that made me switch colleges.

  10. says

    What? What are people thinking?

    Obviously, they’re not. I was subjected to a few insensitive comments about my mother’s cancer – but they were all from people I deemed certifiably crazy… not someone I looked up to.

    Let’s find him on Facebook and yell at him a little bit.

  11. says

    I had someone say “those look like funeral flowers”, regarding an arrangement that had been delivered to my hospital room after my mastectomy. Seriously bitch? Yeah, here’s your friend card back! Not subscribing any longer.

    Some people are daft, they don’t have a filter, and they are insensitive pricks. Professor Jackass needs to wise up or risk having exlax dropped in his hot cocoa….just sayin’. :)

  12. says

    Wow, that must have been awful and I hate those situations where you know you need to say something but you don’t and then forever after you are thinking of all the things you *should* have said.

  13. says

    Wow! Some people just don’t think before they speak. Very insensitive!
    I’m sorry to hear that you lost your dad when you were little. How did you stepdad pull through the treatment?

  14. says

    Chemotherapy is the only reason my MOM is Alive today!!!! But, ya, it did almost kill her…
    BAD STUFF, it is, but in a good way. She had stage 4 Melanoma and was told to go home and get her affairs in order after her last bout of chemo left her riddles with sores and under 100lbs on her 5’8 frame.

    Boy she showed those “know-it-alls”……almost 15 YEARS LATER she’s still around to drive us all crazy (oh, and love us too!)

  15. says

    So sad you had to go through that. That was extremely insensitive of that professor. I’m willing to bet you were not the only one in that classroom whose life had been impacted by cancer. Never a laughing matter.

  16. says

    That seems very insensitive that he wouldn’t have considered that cancer might be affecting students in his class. Boo to him. I’m sure it changed how you felt about him forever.

  17. says

    I’m not sure I would have said anything either, but I would have wanted too. I hope someone did so he never made that mistake again with another class. Those statement were wrong for so many reasons. Past, present and future. What a dumbass.

  18. says

    Some people live inside a place that’s all their own and I don’t think they can see or feel or be human in any way:) My mother died of Cancer and I meant many aliens like your professor, during the process of her death.

    I wouldn’t have raised my hand either:)

  19. says

    Wow. Hard to believe how insensitve and clueless people can be until you actually experience it. And we’ve all had those moments we wish we could get back and say what we really wanted to say.

  20. says

    Oh, Kathy. That just squeezed my heart…in a bad way. I think I would have burst into tears right on the spot. I really wonder sometimes what goes through people’s brains when they say things like that. Not only was he spouting his opinion as fact which is just wrong in general but even more wrong in a teaching environment, he didn’t give a thought to the people he was talking to…or at I think is a better explanation. Honestly, I would send him a letter still…

  21. says

    It’s one of those moments that you wish you could have back … I’ve stayed silent at times I should’ve said something … however, I’ve said things when I should’ve remained silent too …

  22. says

    It’s amazing that a teacher would say such a thing as chances are at least one child in the class have a relative, be it a grandparent or parent, aunt or uncle, who has or is going through chemotherapy treatment for cancer. I cannot imagine what it was like for you having to listen to that teacher so insensitively prattling on.

  23. says

    It’s such a shame that an individual like your teacher could be so health conscience and yet demonstrate such ignorance regarding such a sensitive health matter. I hope that he has been thoroughly enlightened since then.

  24. says

    Wow. What a horrible, insensitive thing to say.
    Like you, I probably wouldn’t have ended up raising my hand, but I would have been seething. That’s such an ignorant thing to say.

  25. says

    People just don’t realize the weight their words carry. Cancer is a scary thing, and what works for one person may not work for another. My own mother is dealing with cancer right now, as well as an acquaintance of mine. It seems that cancer is inevitable these days – what does that say about our environment and lifestyle? Everything these days is toxic and unnatural – it’s a shame.

    Michelle ;)

  26. says

    People don’t realize what is coming out of their mouths sometimes. He would have felt like an ass if you pointed it out to him and perhaps he would have been more aware when he gave that lecture again.

    I had a nursing instructor tell me I should stay at the nurses aide level. While I wanted to rip her head off at the moment that I was sitting in her claustrophobic office, in the end it gave me the drive to succeed because I wanted to have one up on her in the end. And when her life fell apart right after we all graduated? Well, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get some small piece of sick gratification at the time, but now that I look back on it I can realize she was just a miserable human being who needed to tear others down instead of building them up because she couldn’t handle her own life.

  27. says

    Yeah I woulda had to stomp him into a mudhole. Period. I loathe self righteous people who seem to think it is okay to make medical statements like that when they are not even trained in it.. grrr

  28. says

    Darn it! I was hoping you were going to say you did say something to make him feel like a jerk for saying that. I hope he realized it later on.

  29. says

    Wow, that’s so not where I was expecting that post to go. Yes, that was definitely crass and uncalled for – regardless of his personal feelings on the matter. Oh if we could only go back in time!

  30. says

    People like teachers and professors, in a position of authority, should think well before they speak. Tha’s horrible. Do you ever wish you HAD spoken up?

  31. says

    What a horrible experience for you! It’s hard to react quickly when you’re shell-shocked. I went through a similar experience with a doctor not many years ago. Don’t you just wonder what creates that short in the brain of otherwise intelligent and educated people?

  32. says

    Argh! It angers me to hear about teachers that do not treat their students with the respect and dignity they deserve. And, by the way, I read your posts below and caught up a bit. I would be good friends with you. I can’t stand sounds and mouth issues. UGH! :) Thanks for hosting the link.

  33. says

    I hope you’re considering sending this to him. You were so respectful to him even in your honesty. Seems like he is the kind of a guy who would want to earn that respect consistently.