note: I just found the writing below in a folder of half-written teacher posts. Since I wrote it in November, I've thought a lot about this moment and other moments when I have not been my best self, and at the expense of one of my students.
One of my teacher mantras is this: Everything is fixable.
I do believe that. If I didn't I don't think I'd be able to teach because I'd be too worried about inflicting irreparable damage on my students. Daily. But I do believe things are fixable - and that oftentimes it's the fixing that can do some of the most profound social teaching.
It's humbling -- and not in a good way -- to put this out here. With a blog, I get the chance to showcase my successes: the moments of awesome that I see in my students every day. But, and particularly in a profession so emotion-laden and isolating as teaching, I think it's important to share the less than stellar moments that we all have.
Here's one of mine...
11 November 2009
Last Friday I was not my best self.
We were getting ready to go to PE: bookbags out and ready in the circle for when we return, the line leader, door holders and caboose in line and ready.
Emma asked if she could call the kids to line up (her job is the "announcer" and that is one of the announcer jobs if we have time.). I reminded her to go quickly; we didn't want to be late. She assured me that she would. I went to stand next to the line and grin at kids. The clock ticked ominiously at me; we had only a few minutes to get there and the gym is really far away.
"Emma," I called. "Let's go quickly, sweetie."
She kept calling. But apparently not quickly enough for my liking. I kept looking at the clock; it was getting later and later.
She was calling them. But slowly. Four were left.
"Emma, honey, come on..."
I looked again and there were still the same four children sitting quietly on the rug, ready to be called. Time was running out; we were going to be late. So I called their names, quickly and distinctly.
Emma absolutely wilted. She was crestfallen. As I sent the line leader down the hall on the start of our walk to the gym, she said to me, "I just couldn't remember their names right then."
Emma knows everyone's face; she remembers details about people. Emma is always there with a friendly word when someone is upset and is one of the most enthusiastic members of our class. She just can't always get people's names to come to her when she needs them. Particularly in a tense situation. Like when her teacher is saying over and over again to call the kids, call the kids, call the kids...
Way to go, me. I basically threw her disability right into her face and waved it around for good measure.
I was appalled at my insensitivity.
As the class continued down the hallway, I took her hand and guided her out of line. Then I kneeled down and looked right at her. I didn't know what to say other than: "Emma. I'm sorry."
She teared up, and I teared up. Then she gave me hug. We walked down the hallway to PE together and about half of the way there, she reached out and held my hand.
Everything is fixable.
Except I think tomorrow I'm going to try for not having to fix something I should have been more sensitive about in the first place.