When I was in 5th grade, I was lucky enough to be placed in Mr. H’s class, otherwise known as the coolest teacher in the school.
Mr. H was known for acting like your fun uncle who’d let you stay up late and eat ice cream for dinner. He wore Hawaiian shirts and played the guitar.
One of his unique ways of rewarding his students was to hand out paper tickets for outstanding work. You could trade in these tickets for prizes and candy, such as 5 tickets for a sticker book.
I’ll always remember the time Mr. H told us to write about our favorite TV shows and why we loved them. It was a no brainer for me to choose Quantum Leap, a comedy-drama about a quantum physicist named Sam who travels through time correcting mistakes from the past.
Even at 11 years old I was a Life Editor!
When I read my essay in front of the class, I felt like I was giving the speech of a lifetime.
It’s OK to mess up! Nothing is permanent! You can put right what once went wrong!
I was totally in my element, and years later I would become the captain of my high school’s speech team.
When I finally looked up from my paper, Mr. H was beaming and clapping. All the kids were clapping. It was amazing!
“That was the best presentation I’ve ever heard!” Mr. H said proudly.
Without thinking, I asked, “Can I have a ticket?”
Mr. H’s smile disappeared. “No, you cannot have a ticket,” he said. “Because you asked for one.”
I stood there stunned. What? Really? He just said I was the best!
Mr. H didn’t seem so cool anymore.
It didn’t occur to me until much later how harmful his comment was to me and the other children listening to it. Telling a child—especially a girl—that she shouldn’t ask for what she wants is terrible and damaging advice.
Men regularly ask for more money when negotiating their salaries, while women generally take whatever is offered to them.
Men switch jobs any time they need a new challenge, but women are expected to be grateful for having a job at all, even a crappy one.
In Quantum Leap, Sam would be treated like a dim-witted bimbo whenever he leaped into a woman’s body. As a man, he was the hero; as a woman, he was a decoration.
I began to notice how Mr. H favored the boys in the class. He let the boys blurt out answers without raising their hands and seemed to find silly reasons not to give reward tickets to the girls.
Maybe I could have sulked quietly in my chair for the rest of the year, but that’s not the kind of life I wanted.
After every A+ I got (and there were many), I would loudly ask for a ticket. It got to the point where Mr. H refused me so many times that the other kids came to my defense and demanded that he give me my damn tickets.
It wasn’t about getting reward tickets. I never did trade them in for treats.
It was about proving to a misogynistic teacher that everyone deserves to ask for what they want.
So maybe time travel isn’t possible, but I felt like I was righting wrongs in my own small way. I believe the girls in my class (and me) were changed for the better.
And I know Sam would have been proud of me too.
This post focuses on Step 3 of the Life Editing Process, Add Good Habits and Routines. For more about life editing and what it can do for you, click here.
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