One step forward, two steps back
For the second post in a row, I'm here to share some thoughts after having a challenging week. I guess I've realized that I often put thoughts to paper more often in times of difficulty, because it helps me organize the chaos in my own mind and take a step back and reflect on the situation, once it's written in print on paper, so to speak.
The emotional labour of teaching has been on my mind a lot lately. By nature of who I am, I am emotional and an internalizer. I always have been. An elementary school teacher of mine once told my mom (paraphrased) that I want to fix all the problems of the whole world. I carry the burdens of others as though they are my own in the quest to help them feel listened to, understood and supported. It can be very draining; all the more, I notice, now that I have my own family and children, who I love and adore, who also occupy a significant amount of my emotional labour and time.
Having been in this profession for over a decade, I feel as though I've learned a lot of lessons and grown as a professional. I have made many changes to my practice over the years and continually seek to improve myself. In my opinion, something that I have really grown to appreciate over the past 5 or so years is the power and importance of building relationships with students - namely, building/earning trust and respect. If you have a student's trust and respect, everything else falls into place. Even with the "toughest" kids.
The more I teach, the more I believe the above is true. In the case of teaching, I'd suggest more apt wording would be "the kids who need the most care/support will ask for it in the most uncaring ways", but the general idea is still the same.
Every few years, I find myself in a situation like this. There's a kid who is tough to crack. A kid who is completely resistant to attempts to make a connection... for not days but weeks upon weeks. But usually, with enough time and patience, you can make a dent in that exterior and start to build that relationship - the respect and trust. I work with teenagers so sometimes it requires breaking down years of walls they have built around themselves.
A few weeks back, I felt like I finally had a breakthrough with a student who was doing everything he could to try to present himself as unredeemable. Didn't seem to matter what I did or said, he would shrug me off. But the weeks of persistence and patience, eventually paid off.
For the following weeks, I really made headway. I helped this student get back on track with several courses, including mine, which he had fallen behind on and risked failing at midterm report card.
The problem is, it's never really that straightforward and there always seems to be setbacks in this journey. One step forward, two steps back.
This past week, his commitment to his own academic success took a massive step back. Skipping multiple classes (including mine), not completing work that was due - that had already been extended - (in time for assessment for the teacher report card deadline) and just generally a downturn in attitude.
We had multiple conversations this week about his own role in his success. He literally shook my hand and promised to show up to a work session with me to catch up. Then didn't.
Today, I held him back at lunch and told him we needed to discuss what was going on. When I asked him if he wanted to tell me anything that was going on, he didn't have anything to say. So, I told him that I'm doing everything in my power to help him - to get him back on track - and to reach his own potential and he is not even meeting me anywhere near half way. I showed him the copy of his test in my class (he skipped the review periods) which he had failed and told him I knew he was capable of better results because I had seen his potential. I told him I was disappointed that he wasn't giving his best - or anywhere near his best and that I was out of ideas about how to make him understand that I was doing everything I could to help him succeed and that I can't make him successful - that he needs to want it also. Then I told him that was all I had to say and told him that I really wanted him to take time to think about what I said, and dismissed him for lunch.
I felt ready to break down into tears in my room, overwhelmed with it all, feeling like a failure for not being able to make a difference with him.
Evidently, our conversation struck a chord because, clearly frustrated, he pounded a locker on his way out of the building. *sigh* (His hand is okay).
I decided it was best to give him some time to cool down, but he found himself called down to see the VP because of issues in another class, and knowing that I was trying to mentor him, she called me in to sit in on the discussion.
As I brought him back to his class, I asked him what made him frustrated enough to pound a locker and he said: "myself". I told him that was a very mature realization and that we are ALL in his corner and just want him to succeed. I explained that he would have a chance to work on the test review he skipped this weekend, see me for any clarification on Monday and retake the test he failed next week. I hope that this is a positive step forward, after our steps backward.
So here I sit, again on a Friday night, reflecting on the week, feeling emotionally drained. Running through the possibilities... what I could have done better or differently... feeling, again, the emotional labour of this profession and all the heartbreak that goes along with seeing our kids struggle and knowing that if this was MY kid, that I'd just want his teacher to do everything in his/her power to connect with my kid - while also holding him accountable for his decisions and behaviour, while being patient and showing grace.... to not give up.
So I push forward... optimistic with hope that next week, there are more steps forward than back.
Who am I?
Hi! I'm Megan. 21st century learner and teacher. I am passionate about DI, assessment, student success and #edtech. My blog is where I share what is happening in my classes, my professional learning and sometimes things that are on the outer circle of education. Comments always welcome!