When I was child I was bullied by my classroom teacher. For 3 years she hated me with a passion so deep that I ended up switching schools and leaving everything behind. I was different, having been taught English at a young age, and she did not like anything about me. She stopped friendships, singled me out whenever anything went wrong, and once kept me in a closet. It was extreme, and not something many students thankfully ever have to experience, but she made a difference in my life. She taught me how exactly not to treat a child. How exactly to make a child feel unwanted, unloved, and like an overall outcast. She taught me many things.
Another teacher thought that I just wasn’t trying hard enough. Every conference, he would tell my mother that I was smart, but…obviously, I thought school was a joke. He thought my essays were too dark, too long, too sappy. He thought my witty comments in class were not so funny. No matter how hard I tried to emulate the students he did like, he did not like me much. I never got the good jokes or the extra remarks. He taught me to believe in myself even if someone didn’t get it. He taught me it it is ok to be too sappy or too dark as long as it is not all the time. He taught me that my mother believed in me no matter what he said.
And then there was my music teacher. Oh, for two years she thought I was a musical idiot. Although I asked her for help when it came time to compose, she offered me the same explanation over and over again, hoping that this time it would make sense. It didn’t and what I composed sounded crazy, yet, I had no idea, because I didn’t know how to play it. I scored high on performance but crashed in music theory and composing, leading me to abandon being a music teacher. She taught me to explain things properly to my students, and not in the same way but in a different way. She taught me to listen when someone explains why they do not get it and not just jump to conclusions and move on. She taught me that I am supposed to believe in the abilities of my students and not box them in.
There were others. Others who didn’t get me, didn’t believe in me, or lost me as a student. Thankfully there were many as well that liked me, supported me, and nourished me. All of of my teachers shaped me into the teacher I am today, however, those that harmed me somehow shaped me more. They taught me what not to be, provided the example of how not to teach, how to shut out and disillusion. So when we speak of making a difference in our students lives think of what type of difference we want to make. Do we want it to be of negative consequences or positive? Either way, we make a difference, but it is up to us to decide which type. I hope you choose wisely, after all, these are just children.