My Econ prof–if you’ve read about him, you understand, but my Econ prof was a wildly conservative, sexist, racist (though he didn’t know he was either–that’s usually the way it goes). Many have heard this story but it remains one of the “accomplishments I’m most proud of”–along with surviving cancer and having my child. That Econ prof served on Reagan’s economic board. That Econ prof took one look at me with my blue eyes, white skin and blond hair halfway down my back and he laughed at me. He laughed when I said single mothers were on welfare because it was a better deal than working. He laughed at me when I said nobody wants to be poor. He laughed at me when I pointed out social injustice and the way it shapes the population. He laughed when I said sociology is the field to study if you want to change the world.
I got weak after so much laughing. I called my mom and told her I wanted to drop his class–clearly, he was biased against me. She listened and said, “do what you need to do. Only you know how much you can handle.”
The next school day, I went in and got a drop slip. Those of you in college or teaching know what I mean. I needed his signature. I’m sure he would have happily given it.
But, that night, I got my mail in my one bedroom apartment. It was one card from my mother. It said, “I know you’re having a hard time, but I’m here to help you get through it”. That’s what the preprinted card said. Underneath that, she’d handwritten, “don’t you dare drop that class! You show that male chauvinist pig what you’re made of!”
That was the only encouragement I needed. I stayed there. I blew the curves on his tests and wrote my final paper on gender discrimination in education and the economic repercussions. I didn’t care. My mom (who remembers none of this by the way), made me strong enough to speak up to him.
He gave me the first A he’d given in 6 years and spent the rest of my college career asking me to change my major to economics. He’s since passed on, but I think maybe one of the best things about being a teacher, is knowing you made an impact. First A in 6 years? I had other profs in all departments congratulating me for getting through to him. I got there before he left this earth. I’m proud of that.