I walk out of my school everyday with even more on my plate than the day before. More deadlines, more assignments, more things-to-do that must appease my school, district, alternative certification program, and Teach For America. The more I get, the more I am frustrated. As much as everyone detest teachers giving out busy work, I feel like I receive a lot of it.
It’s not even that the work is difficult. It’s not that I feel above it. (Okay, maybe I do if I’m honest with myself.) It’s just that there’s so much of it to do and I feel like it repeats itself over and over again. The redundancy makes me wish there was an exit ticket that would excuse me from attending another session on how to read data or how to write a daily objective. If I have demonstrated mastery of the skill once (or heck, repeatedly), mark me as having mastered the objective and move me on. Check on me every now and then. Likewise, if I have not mastered the skill, challenge me. Support me. Help me become better.
This is how I have been feeling lately for the last two weeks and why I have refrained from writing. I have held such emotional and mixed feelings at the aforementioned pieces to my life that I have feared writing something that I would later come to regret. But today, my perspective and attitude has changed.
Why? Well, as embarrassing as it is to admit… I started to notice that my resentful attitude started to affect my teaching and the people around me. I was in such a resentful and pissed off mood at the things outside of our classroom that were keeping me from my kids, that that negative energy came seeping in.
I noticed it most obviously today as I was scolding one of my lowest performing students for not having his behavior tracker signed for the fourth time and demanding that he explain to me why he was not meeting expectations. Everyone else was so why wasn’t he? After a lot of talking at him, he finally spoke and told me that he could not have it signed because his mother was in the hospital. Awestruck, I could only think to ask about his father who — no surprise — has been with mom by her bedside. He wanted to get it signed, he told me in his soft Spanish voice, but he could not. Dad came home really late and mom was still at the hospital.
He was in near tears as he explained this to me and I just wanted to cry and slap myself for being so stupid. Granted, there is no way I could have known his story but I just imagined him at home, alone, not wanting to fail me, so desperately wanting to have it signed but knowing that was not a possibility given his circumstances. And me, speaking to him in a foreign English like I knew him while simultaneously demanding him to not fail me again when it truly was outside of his control. I was stupid. Pretty foolishly downright stupid.
So what did I do at the moment? I can hardly recall. All I remember doing is giving him a hug, apologizing, and asking for his forgiveness, and retelling how I care about him but cannot help him unless he talks to me. And yet, I did not feel any better. I still felt so frustrated with myself because that’s precisely the kind of thing I did not want to be guilty of. How could I assume that because we come from the same place and share the same skin color, I knew his story? After mulling over it for six hours and debating a lot back and forth, I called his house and asked to speak to him.
I apologized to him, again, and relayed how it was not in my place to have scolded him the way I did. I then proceeded to speak with mom who expressed to me such love, care, and concern for her child that I heard the voice of my own parents. They, like her, sent their child to school for eight hours a day, approximately 180 days of the school year in naive and vain hope that their child will come home better than the day before. How could I have hurt that trust? Created a crack in our safe place? From the look on your face to your tone of voice, children remember everything. Regardless of whatever age.
For Michael*, I hope he came home today positively — not negatively — impacted from our conversation. I hope I healed wounds. I hope he harnesses a positive memory and builds one as the year progresses. But at least I think I am getting through to him. As we neared the end of our conversation, his mother shared with me how Michael* says, “he can’t give up because both I and his teacher will not let him.”
I can’t give up on you Michael. I’m sorry for having done so today.
* Name has been changed