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You can’t always get what you want

March 13, 2014

Teacher Musings:

Last week I hit a new low. One of my students left my class to go to the restroom, and came back with pot in his backpack. I knew something was up, but by the time I called student support and got someone into my class, the bell had rung for lunch. By the time students support caught up with the kid he had passed the drugs along to someone else, and there was nothing to be done. The only way I know what happened for sure is from other students, and my own (albeit weak) sense of smell. While I have had problems with students and drug use before, I have never had a student blatantly bring drugs into my class before. Definitely a low point. I was down about it for a few days, and when I was reading student responses and doing planning from home, part of me wondered “why bother?”  I know that isn’t fair or right, but that sense of “why bother” was still tickling around in the back of my brain, no matter how hard I tried to shut it down.

This week I stayed later at work on Monday and Tuesday than I planned to.  Why?  Because students stayed after school to improve their analysis paragraphs about Night. Two students who have struggled so hard this year stayed and worked with me one-on-one. They didn’t come in with a “let me just get the words on the page so I can get my grade” mentality.  They truly worked at it to make sense of the passages they were analyzing. Additionally, on Tuesday, students discussed the end of Night and had a rich discussion about the merits of learning history from personal perspectives rather than textbooks.

After the pot incident, what I really wanted was that kid to be caught. I wanted it to be abundantly clear to all students, that bringing drugs into school should never, ever, ever be considered acceptable (let alone gotten away with).  What I wanted was to feel in control of our classroom space so that I could make sure all of my students felt safe in that space.  What I wanted was for the pot incident to have never happened, or to be dealt with so swiftly that it was obvious that it would never happen again.  I didn’t get these things. But what I did get was a reminder that my students want to learn. I got a reminder that no student is so behind that he/she can’t recover with some effort. I got some validation that what I am doing matters and is helping my students learn and consider important issues in the world. I got examples of what amazing thinkers my students are.  I got enough of this so that the “why bother” voice shut down.

It’s true that you can’t always get what you want.

But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.

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  1. Management and Control | English Teachin' Vegan

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