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Annie's Mailbox

Is he a challenging teacher or a bully?

Q. I’m in seventh grade. Last year, my homeroom teacher was really mean.

I know he means well, but his actions to motivate his students were awful. At least once a week, I would walk out of that room in tears because of him.

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He always told us he would give us F’s. He threatened that we would never make it to academically advanced classes. (I am in a gifted class.)

Once he forced my sister and me on a field trip that our parents had not signed a permission form for. We had no money to buy lunch, so if our friends had not bought us lunch, we would have gone without food for more than 12 hours.

I am now out of his homeroom, but I still have him as a teacher for one class. I have stopped crying about him, but I am still scared — not for me, but for his new homeroom.

I have friends in his class now, and if he made one of them cry (as he made my friends and me cry last year), I might explode into a ball of preteen fury. I just want to make sure he doesn’t hurt anyone else the way he hurt me, but I don’t know what to do. What is your advice?

A. Some teachers are mean bullies, and every student knows it; some teachers are tough and challenging, and students don’t like it. There is a big difference between the two.

Keep your ball of preteen fury under wraps for now, and instead of acting out, give yourself a pat on the back for surviving this challenge.

If this teacher bullied you and other students, the most appropriate thing to do at your age and stage is to take your concerns to your parents and also to the school counselor and/or principal.

Your teacher should not have insisted that you and your sister go on a field trip without parental permission. This places you and the school at some risk, and your parents should notify the appropriate person.

Q. When I was 18, I dated a wonderful girl. We had an amazing relationship, and I thought that we would always be together. Unfortunately, she broke up with me when she went away to college. She moved on to dating other guys, and I had trouble adjusting to life without her. This was nine years ago.

I hadn’t spoken to her in five years when I found out that she got married last month. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, but it really saddened me to learn that she got married.

I’m not sure if I’m sad because I’m still single, struggling to find a teaching job and living at home. I guess I always hoped we would get back together. I look back on our time together, and it brings a smile to my face. It was such an innocent and romantic time.

Can you please help me figure out what I could be feeling inside and why? Is it common for people to feel sad when they find out an ex got married?

A. It’s extremely common to feel sad when an ex gets married, even if years have passed since you’ve had contact.

The thing that makes your situation different is that you have been ruminating about this previous relationship for such a long time and are stuck in place.

Your situation — back at home and feeling static in your own life — means you are going to have to work harder to heal. However, this situation presents an opportunity for personal growth. I hope you can embrace this challenge as a way to force yourself to move forward.

Send questions via e-mail to or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.
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