Sunday, December 27, 2015
Just a preachin'
I had a terribly rough time at work from two co-workers about twenty years ago.
The situation changed me. At the end of the school year, one of the young teachers on our team thanked me for not allowing it to become a big "stink". How could I drag them into a conflict, and they had no tenure. I spent the year doing what I felt was right.
It was just one of those things in life. The stink was based on how I handled special education students. We had one who truly underperformed. My method of dealing with him was to give him space. There is an emotional aspect for students with learning disabilities. They have been so frustrated in regular classrooms. Sometimes, they don't know how to start. You have to work with them.
When students do not do homework, it is a home life problem. I always told students their parents could write a note to excuse their not doing homework. I told parents this. I never got a note.
The two teachers I had a clash with felt like we should beat the kid down. Another factor at play was my popularity with students. These two teachers were going to bully me into doing what they wanted. I didn't. I did speak to one of the assistant principals. She did not take it serious.
I stopped eating lunch with them and sat with a friend. I transferred to the evening high school the next year. The principal at the school offered me a move to the seventh grade. It may have been better in the seventh grade but I was ready for the night school which I did enjoy working at.
Several years later, I heard that the two teachers who had made it so difficult for me turned on one another. One of them did the other incredibly dirty. I did not get the details. I did get the satisfaction of hearing one of the teacher saying she should have known there was a problem because I had said that we needed to be careful with the other teacher. I had never said that but this is where the thought counted.
The two young teachers with no tenure first agreed with the other two teachers. However, they understood the philosophy I had been taught long ago. My job as a teacher was to move a student ahead by what they were capable. I was the one invited to both of their weddings. The young man became the athletic director for the Catholic high school that opened in the county we worked.
I make myself sound like a wonderful teacher and to some children I was. There are some students I had that hated me. I'm sure my name is still an anathema to them and of course their parents. I told a teacher one time that I liked some people but they would never like me because they did not agree with how I handled their child. She understood. She would never like one of her children's teachers.
The humble pie I have eaten would choke a horse. You would think my sensitivity for students with learning disabilities would be because of my two siblings who are handicapped. I got my sensitivity from a former student working in the meat department at a grocery store. He said he was doing well and was sorry for being so stupid when I taught him. It cut me to the bone; I was so young, dumb and inept when he was in my classroom. I could not undo how bad of a teacher I was for him. I made a commitment to do better.
You may wonder how I got on this topic. I read a preachy blog that quoted the Bible to impart God's wisdom. For Protestants in the South, we all got the urge for that sort of yammer. I get the urge to preach too. That's how I know it is something cultural. I read several blogs that work toward inspiring people and I appreciate their thoughts.
My father said the Bible was a "book of wisdom". Some of it may have never happened or did not happen as it was written in the Bible. I know that is scandalous for someone to say in the Bible Belt.
So as a twig is bent, so a tree is inclined. This proverb was coined by Alexander Pope who is the second most quoted behind Shakespeare in the English language. My dad used to get tickled with people quoting Shakespeare and think it was the Bible. Wisdom comes from many sources.
We all have to define ourselves. We may not agree with one another. However, defining ourselves determines how we react when under pressure. I've never regretted the choice I made. After I left, several science teachers were put with those two ladies. Each got themselves moved, one to another grade and the other to another school.
I would be terribly surprised if that student became any sort of scholar. I have had several former students with severe learning disabilities do well in college. What I do know is school prepares us for life. I was lucky to work with a good principal in the beginning of my career who understood this.
I remember thinking she could handle people because she was a big shot and wealthy. In time, I learned she had guts and defined herself. I've never had the guts she had. But she did teach me well, and I have my moments.