#7. Looking Problems In The Eye
I have slow reflexes. I am afraid of confrontation. I want my relationships with my students to be smooth and easy without any special effort on my part. Disasters come about because of these tendencies of mine.
One disaster that will haunt me forever is James, a student I had a few years ago who almost drove me to quit teaching. The thought that I would ever have a student like James again made me feel that teaching is impossible.
However, after taking a bit of time off to reassess my commitment to my job, I realized that there will be more students who, if not exactly like James, are at least as difficult. And I realized that I can learn how to handle them. Not only that, but learning to handle them is good for me.
In some cases, like that of Khawar, a student relentlessly demands that I handle him. Because of my slow reflexes and desire to avoid confrontation, such a student is in fact a gift. I have to deal with him, because otherwise he won’t go away.
A student like Valerie is far more difficult for me. She had no desire to connect; in fact, her goal was to hide what she was doing, and it was not only up to me to address the situation, but I knew I would meet resistance when I did. (At least in James’ case, he clearly wanted me to pay attention to him.) These problems keep me up at night, plotting strategy and practicing monologues and stewing. I HATE this crap.
One of the greatest revelations of my teaching career, however, is that I have to do this crap. I have to confront it, I have to walk through it, and once I do, I’ll feel better. I’ll feel better because I’m not stewing any more, but most of all, I’ll feel better because I’ll know that I did the right thing. Not that I did it right, necessarily. But that it was right to do it. These students need my attention. They may not like it, and I may not like giving it, but we both need something other than silence.
Looking back at Khawar, Valerie, and other troubles I met with this past semester, I feel pretty satisfied. There are always a few doubts, but for the first time in…well, maybe the first time ever, I can’t think of anything serious that I left undone. I probably missed some cues or mishandled some moments, and I certainly don’t think that every single student left my classes feeling validated and inspired. But when it came to real problems, I did what I could. Effort, as opposed to solutions, is what I ask of myself, and for this term, I give myself an A.
Previous Wonderful Things:
#4: Harry Potter
#3: Early Mornings
#1: My IB Students
Image by Andrew C.