And Yet We Grow…

“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.

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.

And yet…

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.

13 thoughts on “And Yet We Grow…

  1. Thank you so much for your posts regarding student feed back! I surveyed my 7th and 8th graders as I do every semester and received a similar negative response. It hurts so much! After 20 years of teaching, I was so sad to recieve the “bad” feedback. Especially when I thought the year had gone so well and that students and I had such good chemistry. When reading the results I thought of you and thought you must never get what I got from one student this year! Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. All I can think to say, Pernille, as I dry a tear from my eye, is that you are awesome. I pray Adam continues to have wonderful English teachers in his years to come. You’re doing an amazing job, please know that.

    Thanks also for the summer read ideas. I always bring a book to the beach. 8)

    I hope you enjoy your summer holiday and come back rested and full of even more creative ideas to engage our middle schoolers!

    Thanks again for everything you’ve done for Adam and the other students. Beth

    • Thank you for sharing this post. This is the first year that my co-teacher and I participated in the GRA. We love you and model a great deal of our book choices, strategies, and ideas from you. We stumbled across your survey idea several weeks ago, so we developed one modeling from you. Many of the responses made our hearts grow, but we too had a few that broke our hearts. We told ourselves that we would use the responses as a way to grow and improve for the next year. Your words are exactly what we needed to hear. Looking forward to the GRA in October 2017!

  3. Thanks for writing and sharing this honest and powerful post. I deeply admire your dedication and determination and your ability to share your vulnerability and learn from each moment in your day–even the painful ones. Thank you for sharing.

  4. One thing I have found, especially at the intermediate level is that kids will often say hurtful things, not because they mean them, but rather because you have somehow managed to tap into them. They use those words like armour. I had a student tell me “I hate you, you are crazy”. It was about 10 years ago and I have never forgotten those words or the situation in which they were said. Funny thing is, I see this individual as an adult in my community now, and he greets me with a hug most times. Those words were never meant for me, I was just the sounding board and I know that. Chances are, those words weren’t meant for you either. I always enjoy reading your posts Pernille! Please come back to Canada when you get a chance, my colleague and I never got to see you in Winnipeg!!

  5. Thank you for sharing this post. This is the first year that my co-teacher and I participated in the GRA. We love you and model a great deal of our book choices, strategies, and ideas from you. We stumbled across your survey idea several weeks ago, so we developed one modeling from you. Many of the responses made our hearts grow, but we too had a few that broke our hearts. We told ourselves that we would use the responses as a way to grow and improve for the next year. Your words are exactly what we needed to hear. Looking forward to the GRA in October 2017!

  6. It is so true that it’s so easy to look at teachers like you and hold you on a pedestal. Thank you so much for sharing that you get responses like we all see from our students. It makes such a difference to know that even amazing teachers that I admire don’t get complete adoration from every single student every day of the year. (It’s so easy to imagine I’m the only one.) I also loved hearing what happened when you followed up with the student. I tend to do the evaluations on the last day, and then there’s no opportunity to follow up with the student and hear more. You’re getting me to rethink how I might have kids give me feedback. Thank you.

  7. I can’t quite get past this. It’s just bugging me. I can’t exactly put my finger on, just that it keeps turning around in my head. “They shrugged and said they didn’t really mean it. They were just angry and resentful toward English.”

    There’s a level of irresponsibility there. Granted, it’s a “child”, but at what point do we learn it’s not okay to discharge our frustrations onto others in the form of blame? At what point do we learn to take responsibility for our feelings – explore them, understand them, be productive with them? And from whom do we learn to do so?

    Again, these considerations are just stuck in my head/heart. We seem to be a society with too many ready to direct our own uncomfortable feelings towards others. At what point, and how, do we learn to look inward for our answers?

    As can be discerned thru your posts, you do a fabulous job. You love your kiddos and give so much to them. I’m sorry those words conveyed by that hurting student came into your heart and stung. Best to you!

  8. Thank you for sharing your inspiring response to and reflection on this student’s comments. I can relate, for better and for worse.

  9. Thank you for sharing this. It hurt me too reading this. Your blog inspired me so much and you posts were one of the reasons I decided to change career and go (back) to teaching next September after 16 years in a big company. It hurt because I could help but think “not her”! So, thank you for insipring us so much, thank you for being so honest and please keep doing what you do, which is being so humane. The world needs more humanity.

  10. Thank you for sharing this. I had a student tell me the same thing today. I am going through the same reactions. Vow to improve, to reach every single one. Dare to care! Jenny Murphy

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