I always did really well in school. I was studious, performed well, and brought a lot of outside knowledge to the classroom. I was good at classroom debates and almost always got on well with my teachers.
Except… when I didn’t…
Maybe growing up on Harry Potter emboldened me to confronting bigoted and incompetent teachers, because as early as age 10, I was ready to fight my instructors when they tried pulling shit. I had to drop out of the advanced placement program because my 4th grade teacher in public school forced us to pray to Jesus before lunch and evangelized daily in the classroom. We almost went to court because the school district didn’t care and wouldn’t do anything about it, even though that teacher was really creepy and used to invite ‘special’ students over to his house. When I switched to a different teacher, he stopped using my name and referred to me as “student number 12” and implied to my former classmates that I had died.
Seventh grade science teacher was a Creationist and refused to teach evolution, the Big Bang, or anything related to it. He told us that there was “content in a certain chapter of the textbook” that we could read on our own time, but we would not be held accountable for knowing anything in it. I harassed him with questions about it anyway.
Eighth grade abstinence-only sex education teacher was super evil and lied continuously about the effectiveness of birth control. Once, she handed a girl a piece of tape and told her to pass it around to every boy in the classroom. When she collected it again, she said, “See how it’s lost its stickiness? That’s what happens when a woman gives herself to multiple men. Each time, she loses value and desirability, until she’s just like this gross, useless piece of unsticky tape.” I trolled her throughout the program, pretty subtly, until the last week. She told us that we could write down any questions we had on notecards and hand them in so she could answer them anonymously. “Just be sure to write your period number so I know which class to answer them in!”
I took my notecard home and spent the afternoon researching different statistics, birth control options, and all kinds of sexual health information. I wrote down everything I could fit on the notecard, and asked, “How do you morally excuse yourself for lying to impressionable preteens and endangering us with false information? Don’t you think you should have to tell us that the state of Indiana doesn’t require you to tell us factual information about sexual health?” I did not put a period number on my card.
The next class, she was livid. She answered everyone else’s questions first, and then, hands shaking with rage, held up my notecard. “Does anyone know who wrote this?” she asked. I can’t remember exactly what she said, but she ended up shouting and nearly in tears. But she did read the card… and all the information on it. To every class she had. Everyone knew it was written by me, but no one ratted me out… just exchanged knowing glances. I might have been at odds with most of my peers, but even the most obnoxious 13 year old doesn’t want to be lied to about sex. Congrats, teach - you got played by a child.
That same year, my social studies teacher was a racist, homophobic, xenophobic asshole. He hated me as much as I hated him, and everyone could tell. Even kids I didn’t get along with would comment on how weird it was to see a teacher single out and bully a student. He preached to our classroom that America is a Christian nation and Muslims want to “chop off our heads, rape our women, and slit our Christian throats”. My best friend that year was my Turkish Muslim neighbor, so I gave him as much shit as I could over it. I’d write down comments he made in class, fact check them, and come in the next day to bring up the fact that he’d lied (ex. he claimed Sirhan Sirhan was Muslim). He’d slam outdated dictionaries on my desk in the middle of class and say, “Hey, Ship, why don’t you look up the definition of 'marriage’?” I refused, pointing out that it was an old dictionary made before the legalization of same-sex marriage anywhere and no longer relevant. That pissed him off, and he announced to the classroom, “With morals like that, Ship probably supports abortion!” Once, he cornered me in the hallway, standing over me with his hands on the wall above me, and told me how he was just trying to generate discussion. “Then why do you shout angrily over me and tell everyone to ignore me when I disagree with you?” I asked. He denied that he did it… by shouting at me.
He tried to humiliate me as often as possible… once, we had a mock trial, with the least popular kid in school as the suspect. I was his defense attorney. My teacher stated that if we lost the trial, the suspect would be punished in real life by being made to clean the hallway and classroom during free time. I did my best to defend him, researching everyone’s argument and real court techniques. The prosecuting attorney didn’t even bother reading the script and forgot about the case until we arrived in class, and made up a completely fake new story unrelated to the project and laughed and joked his way through the trial. The jury hated the kid who was the suspect and was eager to see him punished, so we lost the case. My teacher swelled with delight and said, slyly, “As you can see, winning a court case depends entirely on the quality of your attorney. If he’s bad, you’re going to lose.”
This same teacher had a fetishistic obsession with Abraham Lincoln. His entire classroom was covered floor to ceiling with images, masks, cardboard cutouts, and sculptures of Lincoln. On the anniversary of Lincoln’s death, he cosplayed him and then had everyone sit in silence for ten minutes while he stared at Lincoln’s largest portrait with his hand over his chest and swayed back and forth, moaning softly. Even the students who liked him were unsettled by this.
This teacher was born on February 12 and apparently convinced that this gave him a spiritual connection to the 16th President of the United States. Once, I cracked a joke that it was a good thing he wasn’t born on April 20th, or it might be Hitler’s face papering the classroom. He did not appreciate this.
“See them staring at me, Oh I’m a trendsetter. Yes this is true ‘cause what I do, no one can do it better. You can talk about me, ‘Cause I’m a hot topic. I see you watching me, watching me, and I know you want it.”
I love Harry Potter. I know I’m not alone in this but it gets me through some of the worst periods in my life - bullying as a child, depression, suicide attempts, that kind of thing - but every passing year I grow more and more tired on the fandom. The overanalyses, fighting, bitchy put-downs of others opinions, it’s a war. I wish it could go back to how it was when I was a kid reading the books in the 90s and proud to call myself a Potterhead.
I’m a real life Wiccan. I read Harry Potter growing up. I know that some people condemn the series for ‘promoting witchcraft’ or whatever, but I feel like people in the fandom flame people of my religion (and it is a religion) trying to defend themselves to those people. “I never believed that witchcraft of any kind was okay” or whatever. Pagan, Wiccan, self identified witches, we exist. It’s hurtful to see that stuff in nearly every fantasy fandom I’m a part of, this one in particular.
My first tattoo. Take right after it was finished. The deathly hallows symbol with all 7 horcruxes incorporated into it. With the words all was well underneath. Growing up harry potter was a huge part of my life and my grandmother and I bonded over it as well. Ive been designing this for about 2 years and I finally went through with it.
Done by Ray at Hold Steady Tattoo in West Warwick RI
“Growing up sucks. Not all kisses are magic, and most boys do not live up to your expectations, but there are those times when everything, I mean love, romance, relationships, it all falls together perfectly and it’s incredible. It’s those moments, no matter how depressingly few and far between, that make growing up worth it.”