The Life of Bon: Because I'm not perfect

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Because I'm not perfect

I know how you feel, bud.
Something has been weighing heavy on my mind all weekend long.  I thought it would wander off once the work week started back up, but instead it has trailed close behind and followed me right into the week.

Sometimes I'm a bad teacher.  Sometimes I can't reach students.  Sometimes I am not understanding enough/ I don't explain enough/ I expect too much/ I don't sympathize enough.

The entire year I have had a student who has been "difficult" for me.  She doesn't come to class much, when she does come she is late, and when she is in class she has no idea what's going on.  Making up work is impossible because she insists she can't come before or after school due to family circumstances.  She has told me that she has "problems" at home.  My ear translated that into "Excuses."

I have made what I felt like were "several" exceptions for this student.  So when she asked for another exception on Friday, I put my foot down.  No more favors, honey.  We are done with this charade.  You've got to shape up or ship out, pull your weight like the rest of the class, come on!  She had tears in her eyes, but I was certain it was just another tool to manipulate me. 

Aren't I the sensitive one?

Frustrated, I went to ask a vice principal  (also the same man who once lectured me for having death threats to Justin Beiber at our school) for advice.  "Ah, yes, the teacher who hates her!" V.P. said sarcastically when I brought up the student's name.  Apparently she had found the V.P. first to compain about me.

V.P. filled me in a little bit, recounting many of the details of her home life.  I was shocked at the life she was living, the things I did not know, drugs, abuse, foreclosure, she was enduring hell.  V.P. asked that I have a little more compassion on a child who has grown up in an environment completely opposite of the one that I grew up in.  He gently told me that I needed to be more...well... gentle.  V.P.  wisely counselled me to make every exception I can for her.  "She's not trying to con you, she's trying to survive."

Resolved, I went back to my classroom determined to have a better attitude about the student.  I got back to my teacher duties, and when I went to put in the roll for her class period, her little picture had vanished into thin air.

Translation:  She dropped my class.

I was devastated.  I sat down in my oh-so-special teacher chair on that Friday afternoon, with a pounding headache and a smoker cough quickly taking over my body.  I was upset and frustrated with myself that I hadn't tried harder with this student.  I had failed her.  I had been hardlined and unmerciful.  I had refused to see her unusual circumstances, refused to help her, and refused to make a positive difference in what was already an extremely troubled life for this teen.

When I recounted the story to Hubs I asked him what I should do.  I have an intense desire to have everything perfect all the time.  "I need to make things right!"  I panicked, "Should I write her a note apologizing?  Should I hunt her down in her new English teacher's class and pull her out and explain?  HOW DO I FIX THIS?!?"

Hubs looked at me with that "You're-half-insane-and-I-don't-understand-you-but-I-for-bad-for-you-in-this-crazed-state" look.  "Bon," he said gently, "I don't really think you writing a note and trying to explain yourself is going to fix it.  It's done..."  And then he added, "maybe this just needs to be a learning experience for you."


So that's what it is, I suppose.  A learning experience.  To learn that I'm not perfect, that I make (big) mistakes, that as a human being I can fail to see other human beings who need help, even when they are literally standing right in front of me begging for my help.  It's a wake up call to be more aware of my surroundings, more alert to those who are struggling.  Less severe, more kind, more tender, more compassionate.  Because I guess we all need a little more of that.


  1. Amen. Being a teacher is hard. But I know you're still doing so much good!

  2. I love this post. I have been doing a little bible study on mercy and I know there are areas in my life I could be a little more merciful too. You sound like a great teacher. Maybe the opportunity will arise for you to get to talk to this student and apologize. She could probably use someone on her side who knows her situation, even if your role in no longer her teacher, but friend.

  3. This is great, I need to learn this myself. It's so hard trying to figure out who is trying to take advantage of you and who actually needs your mercy. It is hard being a teacher!

  4. This is great, I need to learn this myself. It's so hard trying to figure out who is trying to take advantage of you and who actually needs your mercy. It is hard being a teacher!

  5. This is a tough one, if this happened to me I think I would be a little hard on myself too, but the fact is that it's very difficult to differentiate excuses from real issues, especially when SO many excuses float around high schools :/

    I think your hubs is right, chalk it up to a learning experience, and don't be too hard on yourself. I'm sure I would have done the same thing.


  6. I wish we teachers could save the world but in reality we can't yet we can do the best we can!

  7. This is training for future parenting. We all make horrible mistakes that we would give our right arm to take back. Sorry you went through it. I do think you need to take some kind of action to resolve the situation. It will help you get over it as well as the girl. Let her know that you'll be there if she ever needs anything. A small gesture would be nice.

    I would have done the very same thing had I been in your shoes.

  8. From a fellow teacher, I don't think you're in the wrong here, the school is! I worked in a school in a very deprived area and only found out such info AFTER I sought it out, often after a situation (much like you describe) had gone wrong). Now, I'm in a school where I'm really well informed about my students so can make much better judgement calls. What if you had 'let her off' and she wasn't genuine? What message would that send to the other kids you have to manage. If the VP knew all this and knew your teacher/ student relationship was on shaky ground, how crap of them as a leader to just allow it to happen, leave your staff in the dark and then make a smug/ sarcastic comment after!

    Rant over. Sorry, but this made me really cross. Don't beat yourself up because somebody else was a weak leader. If anything, perhaps find the student and have a chat, explain you weren't aware of difficulties and know, knowing them, you appreciate the effort they must have taken just to turn up at times?

    Anyway, defo NOT your fault. Rx

  9. Thanks for leaving a comment for me over at Mo.

    I think we are kindred spirits. I used to be an eighth grade teacher and left the field for social work. Both are equally awesome and sucky. You had no idea what was going on with her life and that could only be part of the picture. We all are still responsible for ourselves. Her included. Cut yourself some slack and know that you are doing the best job you can.

  10. Bon, you did the best you could with what you knew. You don't need to beat yourself up.