This having been Teacher Appreciation Week and all, I’ve seen some really nice comments throughout social media, and received some kind gestures from my bosses at school. How fun! It is humbling and sweet to be remembered, although I must say I feel “appreciated” quite often in my job, because I’m surrounded by nice people: my students, their parents, and my colleagues, family and friends. I hope all teachers experience that support.
Still, I think we all feel like we’re in a thankless job from time to time, whether we’re teachers or truck drivers or office workers or homemakers. When one feels unappreciated, one can resort to unhealthy means to get by. In a teacher’s case, maybe it’s been a bad fit for years (and by “bad fit,” I mean you weren’t cut out to be a teacher, or you hate kids in general), and that adds to the misery. It’s a vicious fight in those cases, and we’ve all seen them.
I read a disturbing collection of teacher horror stories last night. Ouch. It did make me think of a bad experience of my own, back in high school.
I won’t give the teacher’s name or the subject he taught, but one especially stressful day at school, I was late to his class, which met after choir. I had a late pass from the director, and upon entering his class (I was no more than a minute late), I whispered “I’m sorry I’m late,” and gave him the note.
He looked at the note, crumpled it up and threw it away, and said, “Young lady, you may be the star of the musical this year, but I assure you that you are no star in [name of subject] class, and you know what I’m talking about. You’re no more important than anyone else, so get here on time from now on!”
I felt everyone was laughing at me, even in the dead silence. Now everybody knew I was a below-average ______ student. I was completely humiliated, and spent the rest of the class trying (unsuccessfully) to choke back tears. That experience stuck with me — to this day, it’s stuck with me.
When I started teaching public school, I swore I’d never do to any other kid what was done to me. That’s why I will go out of my way a hundred times to not single out a student who is struggling with the music, or to not get angry or frustrated and pass harsh judgment on a kid who enters class late with a pass, on account of his interrupting rehearsal. Not saying I’m always successful in that effort, but I consistently try to put my students’ feelings and situations in a healthy perspective. You never know what someone else is going through.
Choose kindness first. I try to live by that, although I fall down from time to time. I try never to pull the “teacher is perfect” routine, although I’m sure some of my students see me as a tyrant. It’s all a work in progress, you know? I’m never done learning.
I’ll end this rambling treatise with a memory of my favorite teacher from my childhood. And while you’re there, read some of the other tributes in the comments section. Excellent bunch of memories.