“you’re a terrible teacher”Posted: April 20, 2012
I’ve been called many things in my very short tenure as an educator. “Bitch” comes to mind, as do “racist”, “weird”, “corny”, and “shiny forehead”. I’ve learned to take it all in stride and even laugh at most of it, but when I was accused by a student last week of being terrible at my job, my world nearly ended.
It was the beginning of my first class of the day, and my students were instructed to review for their quiz on the four types of economic systems. He came in as he always does – just as the late bell rang and with no supplies. When he asked what we were supposed to be doing, I pointed to the instructions on the screen and repeated them to him. That’s when he lost it.
“What quiz? We haven’t even learned anything. You never teach us, you’re a terrible teacher. I don’t learn anything in here.”
I have never felt so ill in my life. I could feel the color leave my face, and my arms felt heavy at my side. I just knew that I was going to either collapse or hit someone. I slowly walked towards him, increasingly aware of the 17 other sets of eyes now watching me, waiting to hear what I was about to say.
“Maybe if you start bringing your notes to class, you won’t feel so unprepared.”
He scoffed and rolled his eyes. This was not how I wanted to resolve our altercation. I tried again.
“What can I do better? How else can I help you learn?”
No response. I waited, but still nothing. At that point I made the decision to re-focus my attention on the other 17 students who were prepared for class that day. After another class with a failed quiz and general disengagement, I sought out the advice of another teacher, explaining what happened.
I hate learning new information. I wanted to be mad at him, treat him like the data-producing robot that the government wants. Now he was human again, and his actions had reasons behind them. Reasons that I don’t know how to solve.
The next day I went to the girls and boys basketball games to support my students who play, and he happens to be one. Both of our teams are really good, and I was particularly impressed with his skill. After the game I spoke to a few parents, complimenting them on their student’s performance, updating them on grades. He had no family there to support him.
The next day in class he came in quietly and asked for help with the assignment. I sat with him and walked him through the online budget simulation. Once he began working, he had no more questions and he finished his assignment. I helped him highlight the sections that will be on his next quiz.
As class ended, I stopped him at the door.
“Good game,” I said.
He stopped. He smiled.
“Thank you,” he replied.