“I don’t think you were a good teacher to me and you did not help me this year at all. I don’t think you should be a teacher here. This year of english is the worst year all.”
Three lines that cut deep.
Three lines that can crash your world.
Three lines that can make you question every single thing you stand for and everything you believe.
We pride ourselves on the difference we hope to make. On how we try to make our classes more engaging. On all of the ideas we try, hoping to make school somehow better.
For some, it is not enough.
For some, you are not good.
For some, you shouldn’t even be a teacher.
I will admit there were tears. Embarrassment, after all, am I not supposed to have it figured out? Perhaps even confusion. I didn’t realize that I would elicit such a strong response from anyone, but I did.
And yet in these words, beyond the surprise, beyond the hurt, there is also a truth. A truth that must have taken a lot of courage to share, to write, knowing that I would see the words and also see who wrote them.
So rather than wallow, or lick my wounds, or at least not for long, I asked the child to tell me more. To help me better understand so that I could prevent this reaction in future years.
Their answer was to the point; I just hate English, it is not really you, but the class. When I asked if they were sure because it sounded like I was a part of the problem, they shrugged and said they didn’t really mean it. They were just angry and resentful toward English.
I thanked them for their honesty and vowed to do better.
I share these words tonight because they still hurt.
They still are embarrassing.
They are words I would rather hide and pretend I never read.
And yet, within these words is a careful truth, one that is beyond the obvious of being a teacher who seemingly failed a child; we are not perfect. None of us are. I am not perfect, not that I have believed that for a long time. I am still growing. I am still learning. And yet sometimes we look to others and think they have it all figured out. That in their classes all kids love what they are doing. That every child must love them as a teacher and we look at our own classrooms and wonder why we cannot seem to reach that pinnacle of perfection.
So see these words and know; they hurt, but they are not the full story. One child’s reaction will never be. Your story will never be told in just three sentences so do not diminish yourself to three sentences or less.
There may be days where I feel like I figured it out, but there will always be days where I know I haven’t. The most we can do is to keep coming back and try again. To reach out again. To keep asking our questions even if the answers hurt.
We grow because we dare to ask. Because we tuck our pride away and take the words that are delivered. I don’t ever want to stop asking.
If you like what you read here, consider reading any of my books; the newest called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like to infuse global collaboration into their curriculum, was just released. I am currently working on a new literacy book, called Passionate Readers and it will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.