no more being mean

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.

4 thoughts on “no more being mean

  1. Wow! You have expressed my sentiments exactly. I feel like such a Debbie Downer this year for the exact reasons you mentioned, which is NOT who I am. Thanks for this perspective. 🙂

  2. MsWagg says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with you. The negative thoughts that come so easily are basically a bad habit. Breaking that habit is the challenge. You are so correct…it has to start as an intentional act. I’ll join you in striving for that positive outlook amidst a bleak (at times) setting. As a teacher, the first step is to find joy in your interaction with the kids! It looks like you’ve got that step down. Now repeat the process 🙂

  3. tjkfirst says:

    It is hard. But doesn’t it feel better to make someone happy? AND I’ll bet your son is an amazing adult today because you were a “mean mom.” I belonged to the same club…still do!

  4. I think you are nailing something on the head here. I especially connect to the word “mean” and the definition that implies “ungenerous, close, tight, and stingy.” That is what I feel. Lucky for me it isn’t a result of my immediate school environment but more about the expectations put on me by Head Start.

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