The bond of trust between a teacher and a student is something that cannot be easily formed. It is often impeded by the pupil’s inability to receive information or the lack of communication between the two people. A teacher must give enough of herself in order for the student to have confidence and feel comfortable in learning, but she must also protect the student by drawing lines in their relationship. It is a difficult equilibrium but once balanced, the trust between the teacher and the student can last a lifetime.
Teachers are essential in middle school and high school, when teenagers are beginning their search for their identities. As someone who graduated from Albany Middle School three years ago, I personally know of the impact a compassionate and open teacher can have on an impressionable adolescent. There are times when we trust our teachers more than our parents. They lead us, not only as instructors but also as mentors, into an unprecedented stage of our lives. We view our teachers as examples of adults we ourselves could become.
When that bond of trust is broken, perhaps the most searing pain comes from the emotional betrayal. When that bond is broken, a student is rendered unable to trust. School becomes a foreign place; how can one learn if one cannot trust the nature of the teacher? Isolated, they suddenly learn that they are alone because they are unable to trust anyone after that act of betrayal. Students begin to doubt themselves, other teachers, and other students.
When I first learned of this case, I was, to put it mildly, stunned. But after further contemplation, I became furiously angry and deeply hurt. It hurts to think that this could have been me. This could have been my best friend. This could have been my sister. To think that I had this woman as my teacher and trusted her! How can we even call the teacher a “victim”? She who broke the trust of a child, how can we defend her?
Do not only view this woman as the beloved, much-respected teacher she once was thought to be. Think about the real victim, the unnamed heroine who returned to a place of abhorrent memories, who is only asking for the protection of future generations of Albany children. Will we deny her a voice? Will we not listen to her story? Albany students, parents, community members, let us open our minds and hearts to this courageous woman.
We must become a community that puts the safety and well being of our children first, regardless of the cost. The slower we are to act, the more predators will take advantage. It is my firm belief that regardless the outcome of this particular trial, the trust between a teacher and her students has been broken beyond repair. Rather than being concerned about what if the teacher will ever be trusted, we should worry if the students will ever trust again.
To quote the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you”. The act of violation itself is shocking enough, but the fact that we, as students, cannot trust our teachers is much more chilling.