When my son was younger (think middle and high school age) we would often go round and round about this or that, arguing and fighting about the day’s current crisis, and he would often ask, “Why are you so mean?”
As you can imagine, that question would lengthen our conflict for another short while, but one day it hit me and I answered, “Because you make me that way.” I wasn’t a mean mother and I didn’t want to always be criticizing and finding fault, but his actions and expectations led me in that direction. It was disheartening and very unproductive. Thank goodness that’s now in the past.
I have spent the last thirty-four years as a teacher, and I have truly cherished my career. I feel that it is a calling, and I trust that I have served well. The students, their progress, my professionalism, varied learning opportunities, competent colleagues – all have enriched this journey and I can honestly say I would have never been as happy doing anything else. I have thrived as a teacher. I am thankful.
Yet currently I am constantly discouraged by practices and beliefs that continue to astonish me: unending assessments, judgments of students on data alone, lack of trust of teachers, scripted lessons, political power plays, reading wars, teacher evaluations dependent on student scores, and impossible demands placed on classroom teachers.
And so I have found myself being in a bad humor, criticizing, and finding fault almost daily. Not because I want to be that way – not because that’s who I really am. But it seems I am always just a little bent out of shape, always slightly miffed about the latest educational concern. The current state of things is making me mean again.
I seem to think that pointing these things out will bring about a change. I’d like to think that is true, but there’s not much history of that. And it’s spring (almost) and there’s only 44 days left in this school year, and so…
I am choosing to be positive.
This isn’t going to be easy. It is going to have to start as an intentional act, but I am hoping that it will soon become a habit. And to get started, today, I talked with a parent of a child who has gotten lost in the paperwork of assessments. I told her that I would add her to my reading group, and we would work on making her a stronger reader. That made me happy. (It made her mom happy too.)
I’d much rather be the bearer of good tidings rather than being mean all the time. So I’ll start with that, and look forward to finding the good in the days to come.