Important things, Teaching

Not knowing what’s right.

I have a student in one of my classes that transferred from a remedial class. I’ll call him Jacob. Jacob is a very sweet kid and I’m glad to have him, though he can be a bit of a distraction. He loves making others laugh and is generally a delight to have. We have a pretty good working relationship. Unfortunately today I’m pretty sure I severed that relationship.

Jacob brought a speaker to school – one of those bluetooth things. It started playing music during class. Now I’m pretty chill about things like that. I don’t take a phone away if it rings as long as it’s the first time and the student puts it away. So we laughed together and I told him to put it away. Then it happened again. So I told him, obstinatea bit more sternly, to make sure I didn’t see or hear it again. Guess what? I did. So on the third time, I told him that if it happened again I would take it. Lo and behold, the speaker announced itself once more. It was five minutes until the bell rang, but I had laid out a consequence. So I told him to bring it to me. My plan was to return the speaker when the bell rang, a whole five minutes later. Problem is, Jacob didn’t give me the speaker.

Jacob started explaining to me that it was an accident and the speaker didn’t even belong to him. Why should he have to give it to me if it was an accident? The conversation became more and more serious until I finally told him – If he didn’t give me the speaker, I would have to send him to the office for defiance. right thingHe continued to try to explain himself and I could see that he was fighting back tears. In one last attempt for peace making, I told him he could hand over the speaker and I would give it back at the end of the day. He still tried to convince me I was wrong, so I wrote him up and sent him to the office.

After he left, I cried. Did I make the right decision? How could I know? I value the relationships I have with each of my students. I especially value the relationships I have with struggling students, but what could I do? If I didn’t follow through, I would be inconsistent at best and a liar at worst. Now that I have though, I’m afraid I’ve ruined our relationship. Any sort of respect he had for me is probably gone.

I have always adhered to the biblical philosophy of letting your “yes be yes and your no be no” (Matthew 5:37). The problem is that it’s easier to passively change your mind. I do it every day (think “my diet starts tomorrow”). I suppose it’s good practice for when my son one day grows to adolescence. But I hate it. I want to make my kids like me so that we can work together peacefully. Teaching is Hard

Remember when we were kids and everybody told us that the right decision is often the hard decision? It never stops being true. And it never gets easier. Pray for me, y’all. I want to always do the right thing.

That is all.

Important things, Teaching

Practice makes… practiced.

Okay. I’m gonna be honest with you. I had almost half of this post written when I realized it was all wrong. I was going to write a heartfelt confession about my failure to be at peace with life. But then I started grading papers.

I recently assigned my kids an easy assignment – write me a haiku. It’s a short poem with a set number of syllables. I came across this little gem and I thought I had found the best one of the bunch.


It’s funny right? Hilarious actually. This kid is awesome. He’s quiet but so so clever. When I think of students I enjoy, he’s right up there at the top of the list.

But then I found this.

IMG_3243 The student that wrote this isn’t one of my trouble kids. He isn’t a behavior or academic problem. In fact, I know very little about him. He’s relatively new to my class and we haven’t spoken much. This didn’t come as some great reveal about how my most frustrating kid is having problems at home. This kid is actually a pretty nice kid who has friends and laughs a lot. I would never have known that his heart is breaking.

I guess the lesson to learn is not that I need to find some sort of inner peace and not beat myself up about mommy guilt and all these other things I already know. It’s that as long as I show up, I’m doing pretty good.

I’m not saying we should aspire to mediocrity. In fact I think that “parent” is the most important title we have and we should be striving to do our best. But I think we should bear in mind that what our kids need from us the most is not a perfect zen environment or Pinterest worthy snacks or sagacious advice or the best products available. Our kids need us to show up. If my students have taught me anything, it’s that no matter how mature they seem, no matter how independent they want you to believe they are, they want support. They want love. They want their parents.

adequateWhile it is true that I feel like I know nothing – often I feel like I’m just a kid myself and that it’s ludicrous that I am entrusted with a tiny human and a car payment – It is also true that I have everything I need to be a successful parent. Even just typing those words seems odd, because I, like every parent probably, struggle so hard with feelings of inadequacy. But you know what? I’m a good mom. And as long as I continue to be present and work hard to love my kid in the best way I can, then I will be doing a good job. As long as I continue to work on my marriage instead of walking away; as long as I choose to come home and be a part of what’s going on in my family; As long as I don’t give up, then I’m doing my part. And every time I feel like somebody else could be doing it better, I can rest assured that the most important part of being a parent is being present. Everything else will work itself out.

That is all.