The Whole Story

I wish I was who you thought I was. I wish the image presented here was the complete image. That mine was the story of a young, idealistic college grad who refused to bend or break said ideals in the face of overwhelming adversity and exhaustion. The story of my first year teaching as presented here, however is incomplete. And as anyone living under Pres. Bush for 8 years now knows, partial truth isn't really truth at all.

The truth is I have deferred to my lesser instincts at times. Too many times. I have yelled. I have used intimidation and humiliation and vicious sarcasm in the pursuit of some abstract sense of authority. In short, there have been many times when I emulated behavior I found despicable not long ago.

I can't say for certain why I turned to these inhumane practices - slamming down books and chairs, yelling at the top of my lungs, at one point throwing a student's notebook across the room and ordering him to pick it up. Most likely sheer frustration, both at myself and the students. Probably out of a desire as well to impress my peers and supervisors with a peaceful and productive classroom. These are explanations mind you, not excuses.

And the ironic thing about each of these "practices" is that while they are done with the idea of gaining control, they really belie a total lack of control. Only someone who has totally lost control of their emotions would resort to treating a child of 8, 9, 10 years-old in any similar fashion. Only a teacher who has lost control of their classroom would resort to fear or intimidation to gain attention.

Why am I bringing this up all now? I'm not sure. It feels good to bask in the praise. "Your students are lucky to have you." "You are an amazing teacher." "I'm so proud of you." "I could never do what you're doing." These compliments and their variations feel good, no great. And the way I've bathed myself in this praise is enough to make me reconsider the evaluation of teaching as a "selfless job". There have been times when monopolizing a dinner conversation to talk about the hardships of my job I have felt incredibly selfish.

So again, why bring this up now? Perhaps it's an act of confession. Or to be more true to my own roots, a viddui. I've never claimed this job was easy. But it's been nice to pretend I've struggled through it all without really doing any damage.

I suppose I'm bringing this all to light now, because I hope it's all behind me. I can't say that for certain, knowing that the coming weeks will be some of the most chaotic of the year. But, I know that where I am now is a long ways away from when I stepped into the classroom. I have learned to replace certain emotions and reactions with calmer, more responsible, more respectful, more effective ones. In 9 months I don't expect this metamorphosis to be complete, but at the very least I can say I'm conscious of what I'm doing.

I can imagine some of the things I did might be upsetting to someone whose been reading a censored account of my teaching. The only consolation I can offer is I never crossed the line completely, and often I would offer an apology to an individual or the class if I lost my cool. Nonetheless, there were times this year that I was truly ashamed by my behavior.

The truth is that I've made some mistakes and I will continue to make mistakes long after the last day of school this June. I know that sometimes my practices are flawed, but I will never question my motives. Because even when I have lashed out against students verbally, it came from a genuine desire to teach my students and to help them. I've since realized that no matter the motives, such means are never justified. It would be nice to say that I've made my way through the year, through very deep lows and unexpected highs, without compromising my original philosophy as an idealistic new teacher. But that wouldn't be the whole story.

Comments

hatdog said…
You're honest, and that's huge. I also had a difficult class this year and there were times I yelled and said things I wished I could take back. There have been many days when I've come home wondering if I was doing more harm than good, and I've been told by more than a few people that I'm far too hard on myself - I suspect the same is true for you!
ruben said…
Thanks for the vote of confidence. It's not like those moments invalidate all the good work I've put in this year, but they do trouble me. I can't take those moments back, but I can say I'm going to work my hardest to make sure they don't happen again.

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