When we think of high school, we imagine reenacting the images we see on television and in movies — having the perfect set of friends, attending football games, and generally having the time of our lives. But often, we find ourselves not living out these high school tropes. Instead, we’re drawn to other experiences and relationships that change our lives in better ways. For me, I wouldn’t be where I am today without one of my high school teachers.
This is the story of my platonic teacher crush.
I was a sophomore in high school when I first met her. The new kid in town. I felt like the stereotypical newcomer — and the tiny town that I had moved to certainly didn’t make things better. My classmates had all gone to elementary and middle school together, so trying to find my footing there, halfway through our high school careers, seemed foreign and ill-fitting. Now, I wasn’t at the point of eating my lunch in the bathroom alone, but not having a specific friend group or knowing exactly where I belonged did take a toll on my confidence.
This time was pivotal for me because I was becoming more aware of how I was different from my classmates — namely when it came to race and gender identity.
As a young Black woman, I was aware that I was different from those who identified both similarly and differently than me, but I didn’t exactly have the tools or language I needed to navigate those spaces anyway.
I was caught between wanting to fit in and stand out — a wavering confidence that needed to stand on solid ground, but I didn’t know how to lay down the first brick.
The first crucial step for building my own confidence was signing up for a new class being offered by my high school — it focused on social justice and identity.
I entered the classroom full of familiar faces from other classes and the lunch room — but the atmosphere didn’t feel nearly as judgmental, and my own shyness didn’t feel as stifling. It wasn’t like the other spaces at school. I was almost comfortable there.
My teacher — we’ll call her Ms. Robinson — dived right into that discomfort that we felt as students.
As we begrudgingly moved our desks from the traditional row formation to an intimate circle, I found myself drawn more to Ms. Robinson. She was the first teacher that I’d have during high school who would push me to challenge the ideas that I had about myself, about the world, and how I fit within it.
During the rest of the semester, our class completed exercises that challenged our comfort levels. We grew closer as a group. Instead of feeling like complete strangers bonding over the oddity of high school, we felt almost like a family of misfits moving along to the next phase of our lives. One of the girls that I met in that class is one of my closest friends today.
I cared about Ms. Robinson in the same way that I cared for any other strong female role model in my life. Though she was a middle-aged Jewish woman with big, black curly hair and two children that she fondly talked about during class discussions, I felt myself relating more to her than any other teachers I’d had before.
She was one of the first figures in my life that pushed me to question the world that I existed in — to push for my own kind of identity and way of life.
In that class, I was exposed to the importance of social justice.
I had the language, in a textbook, for some of the experiences that I thought were solely mine just because I was a weird Black girl.
When I read the stories of those affected by similar and different forms of hardship, and I heard Ms. Robinson’s encouraging support for us to explore solutions, I knew that I’d found something that would change my life for the better.
I would end up taking another class with Ms. Robinson my junior year, but not senior year. And though we’ve been out of touch since I graduated from high school some years ago, I’m grateful for what I felt for Ms. Robinson.
Without her, I don’t think I would have gained the courage or drive to explore making the world a little better. Years later, I’m using my voice to speak about my own experiences — and hopefully — to inspire others to do the same.
After all, crushes may come and go — but they leave us feeling a little bit better about the world and ourselves when we leave them behind.