Some kids are oblivious. Some are deaf. Some are obnoxious. Some are loud. Many are lazy. Most are ungrateful. Several are rude. Notice that all of these kinds of students are the ones who make my job difficult. They're the ones who stand out (as opposed to the on-task, focused, quiet, hard-working, grateful, conscientious ones). So they're the ones who affect me the most in terms of discouraging me and making me question my path of employment.
One student in particular is just mean. He has been this whole year. He just says mean things. He likes to blame his failing grades on me. Last week, when I said, "You guys are going to have to teach each other. Don't talk at the class! You think I'm boring? Wait till you teach each other!" This student called out, "You kind of ARE!"
Wow. Thanks. I let it roll off my back, and I didn't cry or get upset about it at all. But I do remember it. I will forever. Because I'm a blue.
I have always tried to be patient with this kid. I can tell by his attitude, his way of thinking, and his demeanor in general that he has a pretty rough life. There's always a reason behind people's actions. Plus, he is not stupid. He is lazy. It's hard for me to be patient with the clueless or oblivious ones. It's easier to be patient with the rough ones. Anyway, I really have never been mean or rude back to him.
This student started saying last week that he is going to add me on Facebook. Lots of students try to do that. I ignore the requests. Even if it didn't put me in a completely inappropriate position with my students, why would I want to be friends with 14-year old kids? Why would I want them to know about any personal part of my life? No, thanks. I thought it was funny that this particular student would want to add me. So I started giving him a hard time.
"You can friend request me, but I won't accept it."
"Because. That's weird. And why would I want to be friends with someone who is mean to me? You don't even like me. Why would we be Facebook friends?"
I could tell he was bothered by what I said. Started getting defensive and feeling a little guilty...
After that class, I left my room to make copies and do some things. I came back and noticed a folded piece of notebook paper on my desk, which ordinarily I'd probably just toss in the trash. But I unfolded it.
It said (all errors included as he wrote them. Don't judge me.): "well i don't know how to say this so yah i am mean to you but why do you think i am i like you its weird but its not a bad thing i am sorry for being mean but i do it to get attention from you."
I couldn't help but laugh. I had lots of thoughts go through my head, like, "What does he mean? He has a crush on me? Well, this explains a lot! Oh, [insert name here]. Hm, weird. What the heck should I do in response to this?"
Really, it was just an epiphany for me. Knowing how hard this kid's life is and then having him admit that he seeks my attention made my reaction to it really positive, actually. For this student to let his guard down and leave me a note like that, I really had to acknowledge it! Because he obviously needs the positive attention; so to have his attempt rejected could be a vital error on my part for this kid's future. I had to take this note really seriously; I had to be sensitive to this step he had taken.
I realized after that, that the toughest kids... The ones I think I'll never get through to, no matter how hard I try... The ones who are mean and unappreciative... The ones who I feel like I am wasting energy on... They might just be putting on a show.
If somehow, I've gotten through to this one kid, then how many others have I gotten through to? How many of those lives have I affected? Where have I made a difference? It's not like a majority of them will ever tell me.
When I think that some kids are just lost causes, or just brats who don't care... Or when I think that kids just hate me and my class... I need to remember that there might be that one tough kid who really has been listening to things I said. It's also a reminder to always be loving and patient; it might actually matter to that one kid who everyone else has given up on.
Thanks, student... For letting down your guard to remind me that what I do matters. And that how I treat people matters. And that the things I say matter... Even if it's just to one person.