She tells me that she hates my class. She hates coming. She hates what we are doing. Waits for my reaction, after all, aren’t those fighting words? I take a breath, quell my shame, and ask, “How can I help? What can I do?”
Nothing, she says, and she looks away. This conversation is over.
I carry the words with me wherever I go. I am the teacher that a child hates to have. I am a teacher whose class a child hates.
It happens to all of us and yet we feel like, surely, we must be the only ones who have ever been told just how awful we are. Just how miserable we make coming to school, just how we make this child feel. In the past, a long time ago, I would have gotten mad. Angry at the words. How dare you and do you know what I do to make this class great? Don’t you know just how much I care? Don’t you see all of the kids smiling, having fun, investing in our class? Don’t you hear their declaration of love?
Surely it cannot be me but you that is the problem…
Now I know that the words are not meant to hurt, but instead, inform. To help us realize that what we are doing at the moment is not what this child needs. That their lens of our classroom needs to change, that somehow, somewhere our connection has been dulled or frazzled and that it is in our power to now do something about it.
Because that’s what those words are; an invitation to repair. To have a deeper conversation. To say, what can I do instead of what have you done? To reflect on our actions, on our interactions, and question how we are part of the problem before we get to the solution. It starts with us, and it starts with asking, after all, not every child will have the courage to say it straight to your face.
So on Monday, take a moment to ask your students or even your teachers, do you like our classroom, do you like our school, do you think I like you? Ask them to trust you with their truths and put their names on the answer.
Take a deep breath before you read the answers.
Don’t get angry, get quiet instead, think for a moment and then approach the kids, or the adults, and thank them for their honesty. For their truth. Then ask, how can we make it better? How can we change this?
Because we cannot change what we don’t know.
I am the teacher that a child hates to have. I am a teacher whose class a child hates. But it is not all I am. It is not all I have to be. If only I have the courage to ask. I can change that, we all can.
If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child, out August 2017. This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block. 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.