Student Begins Transitioning in School But One Teacher Refused to Accept The Changes

Transitioning brings challenges as people align their identities. Janet*, 15, navigates hurdles, such as changing her name and gender at school.

a great start

school building

Transitioning brings challenges as people align their identities. Janet*, 15, navigates hurdles, such as changing her name and gender at school.

Janet’s school was more accommodating than most. With her family’s support, she sat down with the administration before the start of the school year and talked through the necessary accommodations.

It Went Fairly Smoothly

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For the most part, the process was “pretty easy,” writes one of Janet’s high school teachers.

As a gay man, the teacher felt especially concerned about the school’s handling of the situation. He was quite content with the way things were going.

Avoiding Any Uncomfortable Situations

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Janet did not have to worry about locker rooms and agreed to use the single-stall restrooms located in the school clinic and main office.

Things turn complicated

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When it came to Janet’s name, however, the school hit a bit of a snag.

Janet was born Jacob. With the gender transition came the new name—except the name was not yet legally recognized.

The School Could Not Change The Name Without Legal Recognition

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“The way the law worked in our state, students’ educational records (which our grade management system was considered a part of) had to be in the student’s legal name,” the teacher explained. “We could not change ‘Jacob’ to ‘Janet’ without a new birth certificate or legal name-change document.”

They Found a Way Around It

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The school found a way around this. They included a note in Janet’s digital file with the name change. This would be visible to teachers, administrators, and staff, but was not part of the student’s official record.

The note read: “Jacob wishes to be known as Janet, please refer to her as such in all communication and interaction.”

Everyone Seemed to Be Adjusting

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School started and the note worked as expected. Janet’s classmates made the switch easily.

Teachers adapted with “minor hiccups”. The older teachers lagged behind, occasionally misgendering or misnaming Janet, but they would apologize and make corrections.

Happy Ever After?

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“Janet was happy. Her parents were happy. Everything was good.”

 Then things changed.

The Old Crabby Teacher

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The spring semester arrived, and Janet switched to a new elective course. The teacher, Mrs. Jones, was considered a “notoriously difficult woman to have to share oxygen with” by her peers.

Mrs. Jones was old, about “five minutes from retirement and ten minutes from the grave”. She was stubborn and against change.

There Was No Way She Would Change

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She flat-out refused to use Janet’s new name and referred to the student as male. Any time Janet’s classmates would correct this, Mrs. Jones would “wave away the ‘mistake’ by saying that she just forgot and would ‘try’ to remember next time”.

Janet endured this for weeks.

They asked for help

teen students chatting

Eventually, students went to the administration to complain. When the administration reminded Mrs. Jones of Janet’s transition, Mrs. Jones used the usual excuse. “I’m trying,” she told staff. “But I’m an old lady who can’t change habits easily. I’ll try, but it’s just an honest mistake.”

Janet’s main teacher shared that he might have bought the excuse, were it not for what happened later.

A shocking revelation

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Behind the closed doors of the teachers’ lounge, Mrs. Jones got comfortable with another teacher and revealed that her forgetfulness was feigned.

She proudly boasted, “He was Jacob for years and the system says he’s Jacob, so that’s what I’m going to call him.”

When Janet’s teacher heard about this, he decided it was time to get some revenge. There was nothing he could do about Mrs. Jones directly, so he got creative.

Getting Revenge

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Over the holiday break, Mrs. Jones had gotten remarried. Her new last name was Smith. She took great pains to change all the forms and computer systems. Clearly, the new name meant a lot to her.

“As a gay man, it’s especially personal to me when LGBT students get disrespected. But, since [Mrs. Smith] wants to play, I’ll play. From that day on, I only referred to her as “Mrs. Jones,” instead of her newly married name of Smith.”

Students Respond

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He made sure to do this loudly and in front of students. Whenever the new Mrs. Smith corrected him, he’d shoot her own words back at her. “I’m sorry,” he’d say. “It’s just habit. I’ll try to remember next time.” Much like Janet, Mrs. Smith found herself without much recourse to stop the misnaming.

Everyone In The School Was So Forgetful

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The other students took to the cause with gusto. “Pretty soon, half the student body ‘forgot’ that [Mrs. Smith] had gotten married.” They always promised to try to remember next time. When Mrs. Smith complained, the principal said “Well, I’m sure it’s just a mistake. No one would intentionally call someone by the wrong name.”

The misnaming continued all the way up to Mrs. Smith’s retirement.

Teacher Earns Praise from Social Media

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Social media users praised Janet’s teacher for getting back at Mrs. Smith in such a simple, but effective way and for protecting Janet.

One parent wrote, “Thank you for being the hero we need. You are an amazing human being.”

Another user commented, “You are the kind of teacher every kid needs. Thank you for calling that old bag out on her bull****.”

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Final Thoughts

transgender person

Janet’s teacher provided a safe space for the student. In a time where bullying constantly makes headlines, it is beautiful to see the way Janet’s peers came together to defend them too. Perhaps Mrs. Smith will learn a bit of empathy after spending years enduring what she dished out.

This article was produced and syndicated by TPR Teaching. Source.

Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.

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