During my student teaching, I taught four different classes. Three of the four classes were great—good energy, fun kids, interesting conversations. But one class still haunts me. The kids in this class were rambunctious with low-skill sets. They had all kinds of behavioral issues that didn’t get better with my lack of experience and inconsistent method of trying to discipline them. The class was a perfect storm of my inability to teach and their lack of motivation.
One particular student would say terrible things, behave horribly, and try to intimidate other students—a regular bully. The other teachers told me that his father was equally rude and that they’d called home with little to no effect. This student was a thorn in my side each and every day. I couldn’t wait to be away from him and on the vacation I’d planned.
While I felt a pang of sadness at finishing my student teaching with my other classes, I started to count down the days with this class…”Only seven more to go. Six… Five…” But a funny thing happened the last day of school. That little bully came up to me with a hand-made card and shyly shoved it to me before running off. It said something like, “Sorry I was so bad. You’re a good teacher, and I’ll miss you.”
I showed the card to a veteran teacher, wondering if it were some kind of sarcastic joke that I shouldn’t take seriously. She looked it over and smiled when she saw whom it was from. She told me, “Kids always find a way to win. You can have a horrible experience, but then something like this happens and makes you question everything.”
It’s true. Every year, the difficult students tend to stay with me a little longer. Usually, they surprise me this final week, like the eighth grader who challenged everything I said and eventually moved out of my classroom (her mother’s decision for academic reasons) but came by yesterday to have her yearbook signed. She lingered in the room before coming up to hug me then rushed out the door. Or the seventh grader who could hardly focus—let alone sit in his chair because of so much energy—but hopped up and down telling me he was going to have his mom call the school to make sure he had my class again next year.
As I lock my door for the final time each school year, I usually stand there for a brief moment, have a big sigh, and reflect on the year—little failures, little successes.
What makes you question everything?