It’s not about you. Or is it?…

It’s been the longest day. So long that by the time you get home you can’t quite remember what mood you left the house with in the morning, what you had for lunch, or how the first lesson of the day went. No detail, no fine lines, just one big smear of the day. The smear caused by something that happened in class that looms dark and large. By the time I reached my front door tonight, I had complained, got frustrated, felt disrespected, poured my heart out, tweeted for help, got comforted, made action plans, blamed myself, found fault with students, realized where I’d done wrong, sulked, felt ashamed and sorry, chastised myself, and finally cried.

I am spent. It’s tough, but I know I need to write about this whirlwind here.

I’ll go backwards and start from the end. As I walked home and replayed the class in my mind over and over again, it hit me that I’d cooked my own bacon right there.

When students were chatting off-topic in class, I took it to mean they were not focused – but were they challenged enough to keep their focus on task? Did the task mean much to them? Did I myself believe in the task I was offering?

When students’ poses during group discussion time looked “too relaxed” to me and suggested indifference – did I consider that’s how those students are, in general, as people? Relaxed.

When their answers to my question “How was your discussion?” didn’t match my expectations, did I acknowledge their responses as viable at all? Did I give them a chance to be heard? Was I ready to hear them, whatever it was they had to say?

Was my view of a good discussion different from theirs, but I stubbornly insisted on mine?

Was I mean to them at any point? Was I patronizing?

Did I praise them at all in this class? Both those who seemed to care and worked hard, and those who didn’t *seem so*?

Could I possibly have imagined some of the attitude? Didn’t I succumb to the negative I saw/imagined, let it control me, and spend the rest of the lesson day with my vision blurred and judgement clouded?

 

The realization that hurt me the most was that I’d acted against my own beliefs (does that mean they are fake?…). Something I talk about with my colleagues a lot – that students are people first and foremost and people are different; that they made a choice to come to my class and that can be appreciated in itself; that they have a right to not enjoy this obligatory class; that we don’t know what’s happening in their lives outside of our class, which is exactly when their whole life is happening; that it’s me as a teacher – and hopefully a grown-up – who is in charge of making steps towards a positive environment.

I forgot to empathize. That’s what made me cry on my way home – and now as I’m typing this.

 

I know I can’t change my reactions, what’s done is done. Surely it was both of us, me and the students, but I know my ego blew it out of proportion. I got defensive, but I’m not sure what I was fighting for so fiercely mattered that much. In retrospect, I sincerely hope nobody other than me got hurt by the blow.

The response to my emotional message shared on Twitter and Facebook was overwhelming, both online and in real life. I’m thankful and amazed at how kind people are to me.

I will try to be that, too.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

 

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6 thoughts on “It’s not about you. Or is it?…

  1. Marc says:

    Anna,

    I might be good at Twitter advice, but I actually suck at taking my own advice!

    The curse of obligatory classes!

    Take care of yourself, Anna.

  2. Hana Tichá says:

    Wow. Thanks for this honest post. I’d like to say that I know EXACTLY what you’re talking about here but that would sound like a cliché. Moreover, how could I possibly know? I wasn’t in that class after all. Still, I think I’ve experienced this many times before. The situations might have been a little different, but I can definitely relate to the emotions you describe. What I hate most is the guilt which creeps in and builds up after every failure (or what I define as failure). I usually tend to blame myself first. Also, like you, I tend to ask myself millions of questions. It helps me when I scrutinize my emotions from a rational point of view. I like to see the feelings disconnected from what (I think) happened. Because they *are* actually disconnected. What I feel may have nothing to do with what actually happened earlier in class. I don’t know whether what I’m trying to say here makes sense to you but the way you (I) feel may only have 1% to do with what originally triggered your (my) discomfort. So while it’s surely helpful to try to find out what went wrong, it’s simply devastating to blame yourself for it, I think. Because you’re not the one to blame. Nobody is, actually. We just learn from the things that cause discomfort. I apologize for sounding a little patronizing but by writing this I’m in fact giving advice to myself. 🙂

  3. My dear,

    I hope you can also find compassion for yourself. It was hard. You did what you could at the moment.

    You are such a loving teacher. The fact that you were willing to look at this from an introspective perspective says a lot. So many teachers jump at the chance to blame the students. I know I have! It’s tricky.

    And I wouldn’t say you were emotional. You are human. A beautiful human who isn’t afraid to express her truth. Honor that. I do.

  4. JeroenRoot says:

    Thank you for having the courage to share and caring enough to reflect so deeply.

  5. Justin S says:

    Heya, I’m new here, so I hope I’m not out of line…

    I’ve been teaching for almost a decade, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt winded thinking about where I messed up in a class. Your insights and considerations sound a lot like how I felt teaching my first high-school class. I was so wrapped up in “teaching” that I didn’t take time to think about the students. It was my way or the highway, and… no one learned anything in those classes.
    That was a bad year. I’m happy to say things are better now, and they will be for you too.

    Take a deep breath, and remember that even if you’re alone in front of the class, you’re not the only teacher who knows what you’re going through.
    Stay strong, stay spirited, stay awesome.

  6. […] for a storm of emotions that I might have to go through. One such time it hit me pretty hard and I blogged about it. I didn’t really want to give up on them and all of the various issues I found myself experiencing […]

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