I know what it feels like to be a balloon and to have the helium sucked out of you, because that’s what going back to work did to me today, only with joy instead of helium. As of Sunday, I felt nearly completely joyful. I felt as if I could conquer the world. I could literally feel myself beginning to be positive about many things. And then I went back to school today, and everything was the same as it always is, and there was too much to bear.
My day began with the computer cart I had reserved not being plugged in for break, so all the computers were dead. I resorted to my backup plan, because I always have one of those when I am supposed to use technology in a lesson. Everything turned out fine, but I was, for some reason, still annoyed.
My day continued with one of my students pretty much straight-up lying to another teacher about whether or not I make them do citations for my class. Luckily it was my lunch, so she had me come over to her room to put the citation information up on the board for the students. He tried to weasel his way out of it by playing it off in his clowning sort of way. It didn’t work.
My day continued to continue with one of the counselors telling me that some of the students think I am mean this year, not at all how I was last year. My response was to ask her if the students realized that their behavior was part of the reason their teachers can be grumpy. Basically, I played it off on them, like a jack ass.
Finally, I finished my day on a positive note playing racquetball with Celeste, which is always a great time. When we play, it doesn’t matter so much who wins or loses, but we talk, we do the dozens, and we let our frustration. And somehow, though she likely doesn’t know it, I always learn from Celeste. I always leave a little more calm, with a bit better perspective.
While I was making fish stir fry for dinner, I stopped…
and thought about how I have been with my students this year, and how I have let my anger creep into everything I do.I have been shorter with them, and I could make excuses, but there really is no excuse. I thought about how I have short-changed not only my students, but also my friends, my colleagues, and my family because of my bitterness with God, and my general anger, though I still cannot pinpoint the source of the anger that overtook me.
I thought about how my first response was to blame my students, my 12 to 16 year old (well, a couple of repeat offenders who are 17) students for my shitty behavior. They are children, young adults, and my behavior, as a grown woman, should not be dictated by their level of participation, their willingness to think that English is the best subject ever. (It is, though.) My behavior should come out of, or, to use a really bad creative writing phrase, it should flow from my own moral and ethical belief system, which is not to take my anger out on those around me.
I’m not above being all “Hallelujah, Jesus Freakish” when I say that since I’ve reevaluated my Christianity (and added in some Buddhist thought, too) I am ashamed of some of the ways I’ve behaved while I was out there in the wilderness (yet again, damn I wish I’d learn one time). The biggest shame I face is the fact that I have treated people in a way that nowhere near resembles Christ’s love, but it, instead, resembles the “GOTCHA” mentality that is so prevalent in our culture, where people just sit in wait for others to screw something up, so they can call each other out on it. There has been no cheek turning for me, unless it has been me turning my cheek and hiding my mouth behind my hand, so people can’t hear what I am saying about them. Seriously, it’s been bad. I needed that reality check today.
So, today, I am asking you all for a little bit of accountability. I want to be filled with God’s grace, sharing it with all those around me, especially my students. And I want to follow that old saying from Eleanor Roosevelt: “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” I want the words of my mouth, and the actions of my body to glorify God. I no longer want to conform to the patterns of this world, but I want to be transformed by the renewing of my mind. I want to be the teacher my students remember for being loving and gracious, and if I’m lucky, they’ll remember some of the language arts I teach them, too.
Corby, would that we all recognized and called ourselves out in this way. I understand where you’re coming from, and appreciate your candor. Still–and I say this only because I know how hard we all work when we teach–I think it is important to recognize that the students ARE responsible for their behavior, and that their behavior affects their learning. No, they don’t need your anger, nor do smart-ass (read, mean) comments from the teacher instruct, however clever they may be. Nevertheless, you can’t beat yourself up for what the students do, nor worry about what they say. Your responsibility to the students is to teach them to learn, and to expose them to the marvels of literature. Your responsibility to God is to show the face and demeanor of Jesus as you teach. One you do beautifully. The other we all suck at. My guess is that you show more of Jesus than you realize–at least that is always how I’ve seen you. You look like such a rebel, but within 30 seconds, any idiot knows you are a woman of integrity. By which I mean the real meaning, as in integer, oneness, wholeness, keeping body and spirit and mind in balance. (And by the way, English IS the best subject, you silly goose! It is! It is!)
One more thing. I do get what you’re saying here, and it is a valid point. You happened to hit one of my knee-jerk responses, the same one that kicks in when I hear about all the business-model methods for deciding who is a good teacher, what constitutes a good school, etc. It’s art, not science. You excel in that sport!