Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Both Sides Now

I came home to let the dog out, grab some lunch and, mostly, feel sorry for myself.

I've just had my third disconcerting run-in in recent weeks with colleagues and administrators. The details aren't important. Let's just say that it isn't difficult to undermine a teacher's self-confidence. We are pulled in so many directions at once by so many constituencies and have so little control over our work ~ I could probably find half a dozen incidents in any given day which I could allow to eviscerate my self-image if I were so inclined.

Usually I'm not. But sometimes ~ sometimes the critiques just go to the heart of who I am as a person and what I hope to accomplish with my students. Those are the killers. I can set aside parental demands for As, and administrative demands to teach attentiveness, self-discipline, co-operative discussion, history, and writing all simultaneously in the same forty-minute period, and student pleas for attention now see me now aren't I wonderful right this second, but it's much harder to respond with diffidence to words that imply that what I have to offer as a human being is pointless.

I need to take these feelings and use them for someone else's benefit. Late yesterday afternoon, a student nearly sobbed as she pleaded with me to explain why nothing she does for my classes ever works out. (Not exactly the case, but hyperbole is a frequent feature of adolescent self-expression.) I was able to make some suggestions as to how she might approach her work to obtain more productive results, but as we talked it occurred to me that the most important thing that I could do for her was just to sit with her and let her wail.

And today I realized why. She felt just the way that I do right now. She poured her heart into a thesis that wasn't, and spent an hour studying for a quiz via a method designed to ensure disaster, and she feels that her grades reflect something about her as a human being.

If only that were all there is to it. If only the value in presence were more recognized.


Judith HeartSong said...

oh, a big virtual hug my friend.... it is amazing how badly others words and deeds can hurt us.

You are an amazing person and I think you are something very special.

Globetrotter said...

Teaching adolescents is tremendously challenging, let alone the pressures of dealing with parents and administrators, too.

When I had my ballet school, and we prepared for a performance,the girls were so hard on themselves that it was pitiful. On the other hand the parents and board of directors were so hard on me that it was pitiful!

So I can relate to what you are saying, and I'm sure that girl appreciated the fact that you paid her the ultimate compliment of just listening to what she needed to say.

Lisa said...

I'm sorry you had such a brutal day. But don't let them get you down. I know you have the self-confidence to undertand that you're a great teacher and your students are lucky to have you.

Carly said...

((((Hugs darlin))))

You are doing something so special with your life...you are special. Hang in there, better days will be here soon. I absolutely believe that.

Always, Carly

Paul said...

The secret is to have such an overblown ego that you can't be bothered, and to be so thorny that no one even considers messing with you. You know, like me.

Carol said...

These are the days that try our very being. But simply reading your entry tells me that you are indeed a talented teacher and I'm sorry that there aren't more like you out there.

Celeste said...

I am a firm believer in the fact that everyone expects too much of the teachers. Parents need to be involved more,. Thay are the ones that are suppose to be teaching things like disapline, manners, morality. Parents need to help with the homework. And the office jerks need to back off.

Lisa :-] said...

Your assessment of the pitfalls of teaching sounds like every job I've ever had. People out there in the big, bad world seem not to know any other way of criticizing besides being as personal and hurtful as they can be. It's one of the reasons why I'm not out there in the big, bad world anymore. Lisa :-]