"Question Everything" and Other Lessons From Mr. Mann

Write about a class or teacher who challenged you.

When I was in the eighth grade, I took the infamous Gifted and Talented class taught by the even more infamous Mr. Mann. Picture my first day in this classroom: the four walls were absolutely plastered with nonsensical posters and paintings and a random assortment of maps, post cards, and calendars. Between those walls, desks in classic rows were sat upon and inside of by a group of raucous, slightly obnoxious, pimply, and yet still more-than-intelligent young teenagers who hollered in a cacophony of gossip while tossing schedules and packs of gum through the air. Then, in the middle of it all, in the eye of the hurricane, I sat in the center row, clutching a worn-out copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone to my chest and fingering a neatly-folded copy of my own schedule, feeling insecure and overwhelmed and out of place.

Of course, I already had some suspicions that this GT class might be my undoing. While I had participated in the GT program since beginning elementary school, those GT rooms were quiet spaces where chess was practiced, algebra was learned, and advanced vocabulary words were studied. They were safe and predictable and, while challenging intellectually, never took me outside of my small world of books and...

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