This is something I talk about in my book ("The School Year from Hell" chapter) but also something I see and deal with a lot. Even those kids who just piss me off and make me want to rip out my hair have some good inside them somewhere. It is our job as teachers to find it.
Do I gripe about my lazy students sometimes? ABSOLUTELY! Because, as teachers, if we don't gripe sometimes and let off a little steam, we will explode (not in a good way -- hmm, is there a good way to explode?). However, whether or not people hear me say it or see me write it, I do try very hard to make sure I can find at least one good thing about each of my students.
For example, earlier this year, an anonymous person told me I was mean spirited and nasty and a disgrace to teaching because I had the nerve to say I was upset with one of my second graders for not giving a damn about his education. I said then and I say now, if that makes me mean, I will proudly be mean!! What people don't know is that I found a lot of joy in this kid's sense of humor. Don't judge based on half a story and always try to find SOME positive is why I'm trying to say.
So fast forward to today. Summer school. Section CD, my last group of the day. There is a young lady whom I already know is going to have a hard life: her family has taught her it's all about being "tough". The first day of school she said "well I'm bad so I probably won't make it all summer". She didn't say it with attitude. She said it matter-of-factly. It was life a knife in my teacher heart.
Today she came to class with an adult--one of the advocates in the building who work with more troubled kids. I know this child has issues. I know she doesn't always get along with everyone, but she has NEVER given me lip or tried to pull one over on me (I'm not a moron, I would know of she tried--I was raised by a master manipulator). So this girl is at least coming to class to get her work even if she doesn't stay in the room. This "advocate" (and I use the term loosely) says, right out loud when I asked her something about this child "well she's my ring-leader, I have to sit and babysit her now".
Cue my mouth dropping open. We all say (or at least think) things about our students like that....but generally not with them sitting there! I couldn't believe it. This is why she thinks she's bad! It was so hard to listen to that. Other kids were there so I couldn't tell this "advocate" to shove it.
I did however tell the young lady that I had never seen her behave like that and I wasn't going to believe she was like that. Even though this kiddo wants to maintain her "tough girl" persona, I could see a glimmer of gratitude in her eyes. She just wants to be safe--and have someone who sees inside her and understands her need to be tough but really gets that she isn't bad. She just needs love and trust. It's too bad the flippin' "advocate" can't see that and provide it.
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