Sunday, February 18, 2018

A Hole In My Cape

I believe teaching is a difficult profession, yet one of the most important and rewarding. Children sit in our classrooms today and tomorrow will be the ones leading us, taking care of us, and making decisions which will impact all of us.

That is a humbling thought.

Many people see teachers as super-heroes.  If this image is accurate, then my cape got a hole last week.

Without giving too many details, I was verbally attacked by a group of students.

I was in the middle of working with them through a difficult text, and they were not doing their part in the learning process.  Because of their behavior, I stopped teaching and had a conversation about the importance of learning, graduating high school, and finding a good job in order to support themselves.  I told them it starts in sixth grade.

I am sure many of us have had similar conversations at some point with our students.

Sadly, they took my words, twisted them, and spit them out with a "strong dislike" for me, teachers, and school in general.  They became enraged and took that rage out on me.

The next day, I talked with the dean of students, and I requested that no suspensions be given.  However, I assured him I would stand by the consequences they thought would be best.

Later that day, a few students came in and said they owed me a thank you for not getting them suspended.  Another one asked why I would do that.

A third one, who was not involved in the incident but is a student in the class, quietly replied, "Because she is nice."

I didn't do it because I am nice.  I did it because after much thinking, I felt it was the right thing to do.

  • I want them to know they have a voice, but that doesn't mean their voice needs to be disrespectful or full of hate.  Suspending them would only send a message that their words don't matter to me. I want them to know they have a voice in my classroom.
  • I know suspending them would not lead to the results I want.  I want a community of learners who listen to each other, who question perspectives, who discuss problems, and who collaborate and work together to find solutions.  Suspending them would not get me those results; it would only feed the anger.

I know that I need to learn from this experience as much as they do. Reflecting back on that day, I have questions of my own and answers to find.  Why do they dislike school so much?  What can I do to teach them how to handle disagreements? How do I show them to use their voice in a positive way? How do I rebuild those relationships? How can I get them to understand that literacy is the key to opening up their world to all that is possible?

But the most important question I have from all of this is where do we go from here?  I have a three day weekend to think about how I will handle things on Tuesday afternoon.  
Yes, my cape got a hole last week, but thankfully, I know how to sew.  I will wrap that thread up in resilience, compassion, and respect.  And hopefully, we will patch that hole up together.


  1. Oh, these kind of days are hard. And I think now more than ever. I love that you are thinking about how to teach them to handle disagreements, to speak and voice opinions without hate. This was something I worked on with my College Prep lit class last year. I kept telling them that "he who's loudest is not always right" and made them back up opinions with facts. It was hard for them, but they learned I would respect their opinion, even if it was different than mine.

    Here's to sewing up that hole in your cape :)

  2. I'm sorry you had such a rough time. Thank goodness for (long) weekends, and having a bit of a breather to recuperate!

  3. I keep going back to my word for the year....Persist. As you have read, I am in this club right with you. Mark

  4. You are doing the right thing, and one day these same students might just thank you for all you did for them.

  5. I admire you for reflecting on such important questions. It can be tempting to give up or blame the students when times get tough. I definitely think your students will respect you in the long run.

  6. Thankfully, you know how to sew. It seems you've already picked up your basket of thread and gotten started. I understand your reasons for not wanting suspension. What does that do in the long run? Especially when our objective is one of cooperation and respect. I also applaud your bravery in writing about this.