In which I inspire

This was a really fucking rough day. I got through my third and fourth hour basically by deciding that I was blind on the left side of my body. I have been keeping track of the swear words I hear for the last few days, and I’m averaging around fifty a day, and generally half of those or so will be the N-word. It’s still not impossible that I end up back in a classroom again next year, but it’s getting less and less likely with every passing day. I’m just completely exhausted with all of them at this point, and I don’t want to do this any longer. If that means I need to ignore fully half of one of my classes so that I can concentrate on the group of them who still have a modicum of interest in receiving an education, well, fuck it, that’s what I’m going to do, and I’m well beyond feeling bad about it.

And then as I was walking out of the building, our social studies teacher stopped me and asked me how one of our … more troublesome students had done in my room today, and by “troublesome,” I mean “has 74 office referrals so far this year, and is somehow still allowed to be attending school despite having not the slightest shred of an academic agenda.” I thought about it for a moment and realized that not only had I not had to put him out– I’d had to speak to him a couple of times, but not especially seriously– and that he’d actually turned in his work, which given his current 11% class average (and that’s his third-highest grade) is not a common occurence.

She has a student teacher this semester– and, God, of all the years to be student teaching, you couldn’t have chosen a worse one than this one– and he’d had to put this kid out of class himself today, and he was having a really hard time with it. Ed school fills your head with all sorts of nonsense about how it’s always the teacher’s fault if you can’t “reach” any of your students, and the notion that for one reason or another certain students might be unreachable is simply treated as heresy. I don’t even know this guy all that well and I could tell he was beating himself up over it.

And fuck me dead if I didn’t spend the next fifteen minutes talking this poor guy off of a ledge and trying to make him feel better about himself and his future as a teacher. He was always going to have a hard time with middle school– he’s got a prominent lisp among a couple of other, uh, prominent physical characteristics– and he was one of those guys where it’s difficult for one’s first impression to not be “the kids are going to eat you alive.” But he’s putting in the work and he’s doing his Goddamned best and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let a kid who easily ranks in the bottom five percent of students I’ve taught in my career fuck up this guy’s day. And I think by the time I left I had him feeling better, and on the one hand, yay me, and on the other hand I really don’t think anyone should be going into teaching until we have a serious societal reckoning with what we actually want our teachers to be and what we want from our schools, and that reckoning needs to firmly eliminate the word “babysitter” from our job descriptions. Because that’s what we’re doing with this kid, and with a higher percentage of my students this year than I’ve ever seen before. These kids have no interest and no business being in school other than fucking up the educations of the kids who want to be there, and any vestiges of patience I might have ever had with it are simply gone at this point. A completely honest accounting would have involved telling this guy that things weren’t going to get better because in the last twenty years nothing has ever gotten better in education. That trend isn’t reversing anytime soon.

But hey, I got him off the ledge. And if I go to work tomorrow, it’ll be five days in a row. Baby steps, I guess.

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Luther M. Siler

The author of SKYLIGHTS, THE BENEVOLENCE ARCHIVES and several other books.

4 thoughts on “In which I inspire

  1. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, did you really do the student teacher a favor?
    “Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies
    Tell me lies
    Tell me, tell me lies
    Oh no-no, you can’t disguise
    You can’t disguise
    No, you can’t disguise
    Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies”

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