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.