I Couldn’t Hate Them If I Tried

Something I’ve learned many times before but continue to learn every day is that nothing in education will turn out as expected. The “solid gold” lessons won’t be received as you imagined (or hoped), the “total crap” lessons will hit some just right, and the emotions and break-downs and fights you expect will not happen when you expect them.

My first term as a high school teacher just ended in December and nothing went as I expected. Kids I thought would throw fits over failing didn’t, kids I thought would fail pulled it out at the last second and some that I thought would pass lost their momentum too soon.

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Overwhelmingly though: I am continually floored by how much I love these kids. How much I want to hug them when they cry and tell them it’ll work out even though it feels terrible right now.

I push them hard every day, nobody is allowed to take the L. I expect greatness from everyone, no one is mediocre. I don’t hand out good grades until they’ve been earned. I get called mean on the regular, I’m always “extra” and “doing too much.” I get mad sometimes because CAN EVERYONE STOP TALKING OVER ME?

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But still, when they celebrate, I celebrate. Nothing is better than seeing that smile they tried to hide when they find out they passed.

And when they cry, I cry. Nothing is harder than seeing the despair they’re trying to hide when they find out they won’t pass.

There was this small part of my brain that thought I’d feel justified and righteous handing out failing marks to those kids that have blown off the work and made bad choices. Because I’m teaching them lessons in social studies but I’m also teaching about consequences and professionalism. I thought somehow it might feel good to give a well-earned failing mark.

I was surprised at how much it hurts me when they hurt, even when the pain is necessary.

I’ve known these kids for three months, but something clicked in the hall with Elle while I held her and let her cry through my sweater. Something clicked when Steven laughed out loud at the news of passing my class and couldn’t stop grinning. Something clicked when Kam came in late to study hall and begged me to let him finish his work and pass, and his relief when I let him.

These kids are magic. And I am forever honored to be connected to them in even the smallest way.

Best of luck.

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7 thoughts on “I Couldn’t Hate Them If I Tried

  1. Since I tried “student teaching” while I was only an 8th grader myself, I’ve know that it takes a certain and special kind of person to select teaching as a career. I guess that’s why I still love my post-college roommate so much, a special friendship that has endured across the miles and the nearly 50 years since we first met. I’m sure that’s why I’m especially drawn to the retired educators I have met over the past three years in the very special local adult ed program I have become involved in since retiring. I’ll close by thanking you and all of them for making the risky and I trust equally rewarding decision to be a teacher.

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  2. “Loving the kids” is a synonym of “being a teacher”.
    You seem to me to be absolutely suited for the profession from everything I have read.

    But one word sticks out:”Failing”

    Kids don’t fail. We fail them.(Not in the sense that we do our jobs badly, but in the sense that we put an “F” on their report cards.)

    For not being able to reproduce the randomly selected points included in a test even though this is no measure of what they actually have learned, only what they have not.
    For not knowing something in the moment it is asked and then knowing it again 10 minutes later. Like we all do.
    Because we fear that if we pass them, then the next teacher they have will judge us.

    Kids love learning until we teach them to stop loving it. Tests and stress and “F’s” are the best tools to achieve this.

    All this is said from my cushy position of not having to test or grade, and I realize that you have to work within a different system. But please don’t convince yourself that you are doing any kid something good when you fail them. It is never motivating.Save the F’s for those who are never there, never do work , don’t try at all, and have no reason for doing so.

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    1. I would typically agree with you except that I work in a very different system without letter grades.
      We use a system that simply rates whether a student has acquired a specific skill in the class or not using many mediums throughout a term. I find it much easier to figure this out than to assign random numbers. This would of course be much improved upon if there weren’t time constraints with changing terms because I really do believe that a student should be allowed to acquire skills at a rate that makes sense to them. We’re not there yet.
      I think there is some value in failure in my school because my students, who are required to have been left back twice before ninth grade to be part of our school, know what uncaring failing looks like. We show them that failing a class doesn’t mean you’re stupid, usually it means that you didn’t turn things in. We’re doing a lot of rehabilitating school buy in and sometimes that’s through class failure. But nothing about our grading or class system is random or unfeeling.
      Disagreeing or agreeing thank you for reading, I always appreciate your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There is a lot of new information for me and a lot to think about in your response. For instance the phrase “uncaring failing” really stuck out. When I talk about teaching, I am always going on my own experience, which is my own American education (1960s- 1980s) and my teaching career, mostly here in Austria (1980s to present). In other words, I know that I don’t know what all you are dealing with – AND YET – I love the fact that you use the word “love” when talking about your students.

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