cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by CarbonNYC
In my last post, I felt it necessary to share my thoughts on handling students in turmoil. One of my points was to not take the actions of our students personally as it often has nothing to do with us.
Sometimes I finish a post and then realize some things are much easier said than done, and often far more grey than they are black and white. Life has a way of throwing things back in your face and that definitely happened to me.
It is easy to say “Don’t take it personally” but it is impossible to actually do completely. We care about our students. We go the extra mile for them. We spend our own time coaching their teams or directing their plays. We spend our own money making sure our classrooms have everything they need. We plan extravagant and thought-provoking lessons for them. We do everything it takes to make sure their experience in our classrooms is a rewarding and life changing one. And then they throw it back in our face…
AHHHHHHHHHHH! Ok so it wasn’t THAT bad, but trust me I learned my lesson a mere one day after that post. I found an AMAZING documentary to show to my students, about a group of young brothers who travel the world and “Through one on one interviews and real life encounters, the brothers are awakened to the beauty of the human person and the resilience of the human spirit.” It is a great film that really speaks to the ideas of altruism and volunteerism and really gives you perspective on how lucky we are to have what we have and to live where we live. I was very excited to have my students see this film and experience its message, and I was really hoping to have one of those lessons during which the teaching transcends curriculum and really gets to the idea of humanity. Not so much…
About 20 minutes into the movie, 80% of the students were involved in their own conversations, stealthily (or so they thought) using their cell phones, throwing things around the room, sleeping or simply tuned out. I tried a couple times to refocus them but it wasn’t happening. I was crushed. I had previewed the film, found myself at times in awe, other times in tears, and was moved by having seen it. I was so excited about the impact it would have on my students, and they acted like I just showed them a 1950’s black and white film on photosynthesis. I couldn’t help but take this hard, as my anticipation and enthusiasm was at an all time high. Funny how only one day earlier I had the audacity to tell everyone not to take things personally and yet here I was beside myself with my students.
Now I am no idiot, I know that this wasn’t a collective effort to try and drive Mr. McLean to early retirement. I know these students did not have me in mind when they ignored the film and spent time on other less productive endeavors. I misread the impact the film would have on them. I was wrong about how they would react to its content. I am sure some were turned off by having to reflect on how good they have it when others have it so rough. I know others may have been burned out by previous classes, by the events of their lives outside of school or their relationships with family or peers. But, it doesn’t mean it isn’t hard to take.
This timely reminder has made me reconsider my earlier statement and rephrase it this way…
TRY not to take things personally when kids treat us like garbage, because the more of your time, energy, enthusiasm and interest you give to your students, the more you open yourself up to experiencing difficult days and situations that feel like you have had your heart ripped out of your chest and stomped on by adolescent feet in skateboard shoes… to vent little.
You want to be a caring, compassionate, dedicated and electric educator that gives everything he/she has to their students? Great! You will be a testament to the profession and change the lives of young people throughout your career. BUT, if you do, you have to remember that sometimes they won’t respond to your kindness and dedication the way you would expect them to. They will break your heart, but they’ll come back the next day and put it back together. That’s life as an educator, and its hard, but its also pretty great.