Did you ever have a dream come true – but not the way you thought? It didn’t happen the way you thought it would happen, it didn’t look the way you thought it would look, and it didn’t turn out the way you thought it would turn out. But still, your dream came true . . .
Or did it?
When I began teaching 17 years ago, it was after I’d been out of school for many years and teaching didn’t look at all like I thought it would look. Not that God hadn’t called me to it; He most clearly had in ways that were undeniable. But teaching looked and felt so different than what I had expected that many times I would’ve quit – had God not made His call so clear.
But still, when I began teaching high school English and found that 10th and 11th grade students couldn’t tell a noun from a verb from an adjective – nor did they care to – I was upset. But, I thought, just hold on till next year. It’ll be better then. But it wasn’t. By the third year of “I don’t know, don’t care, and don’t care to know,” I had a moment of truth: it was always going to be this way.
Livin’ the dream.
Of course (some would argue), if a teacher is a good one, she’ll make kids want to learn. However, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him write an essay. (Or something like that.) Nevertheless, they might be right. Back in the day when I was in school, teachers made us want to work. I think their paddles might have had something to do with that.
Today I guess I’m reflecting on all of this because four things happened last week to make the point. Not, unfortunately, that last week was all that unusual.
Monday I noticed a student crying. She wouldn’t say why but another student told me that there’d been a suicide in her (extended) family. What do you say to that? I told her how sorry I was and tried to coax her to talk to me, to somebody, but she wouldn’t. I didn’t ask her to do any work but I had to wonder why she’d come to school. Maybe it was just better than being at home . . .
Tuesday I went to a house to tutor a student who, by the way, doesn’t do any work. And he’ll tell you that. He told me that – twelve times. And he’s been not working for several months while being home-tutored, but next year he’ll be in the next grade anyway. Why? Because in this country, we have this wonderful thing called “social promotion” (which I could write a whole post on); this means that students are promoted through school based on age and facial hair – no lie – and not on mastery of skills. Of course, mastery is such a ridiculously archaic idea. Ever wonder why the United States ranks behind a hundred other countries in education? That’s why.
Wednesday I had a kid arguing and yelling that he would most certainly not put his cell phone on my desk, and when I suggested he then go to the office and explain it to them, he declined that offer, too – only louder – in case I didn’t hear him the first time. Of course, I insisted (how mean of me) but still, he didn’t see my point of view. And from there it went. Eventually, he left but informed me on the way out the door that he would not, despite my recommendation, leave his phone in his locker next time.
Thursday, a girl in study hall had a major meltdown because another teacher had given her a lower grade on a project than she thought she deserved. There was much yelling and the throwing of books and threats of bodily harm to the teacher. Attempts on my part to do negotiations failed miserably. Oh, well. She’ll probably end up with the completely effective deterrent of home-bound tutoring where she’ll be forced to sleep in and play video games all day except for the two hours she’d be rudely interrupted to be tutored one-on-one. So sad.
Why am I venting like this? To make a point: there will be days when “the dream” is just not behaving itself. There will be disappointments, perhaps tears, maybe even a failure here and there. You might even hear yourself saying some version of, “Why did I ever want to do this???” But then, right when you’re ready to get the eraser and re-write the dream, you feel a little nudge and hear a quiet whisper, “You know why . . .”
And you do.