So, I was really sad about the whole The-Charmer-hates-my-school-and-teachers-in-it-for-generally-good-reason thing. And while I had (sort of) come to terms with him hating the three teachers he’d mentioned, he had two other teachers. When I’d sent him to class after our talk, I’d asked if he and I could have lunch the next day to talk about this further. He agreed. So the next day, I got him from the cafeteria and we got back into it.
“Okay, what about your other teachers? I thought you liked them. I thought you thought they were good teachers.”
Reluctantly… “Yeah, they’re pretty good.”
“So it’s not everyone.” Honestly, I felt better just hearing that he didn’t think EVERYONE sucked.
“I guess not.”
I kind of wasn’t sure where to go from there. I didn’t feel like I could just let this whole thing go, but I also didn’t really know what to say. These were my colleagues he hated, people I talked to regularly, people I joked around with, people I grabbed drinks with, people I considered friends. And he had a right to hate them, based on his perception.
Here’s the thing. Although I think every single one of the teachers and administrators he complained about has many fine qualities, it doesn’t matter. At all. Because my perspective as a teacher is totally different from the perspective of a student in the class. And my opinion does not matter.
I’ve heard teachers complain before about the whole teaching as customer service thing, and I get that. A lot of teachers already have to deal with crazy helicopter parents, obsessing over every little aspect of their child’s education and freaking out if their kid doesn’t get an A. I have a friend who teaches in a very high SES area, very different from my school, and with every.single.assignment he gives, he gets numerous emails asking where the rigor is in that assignment. Emails that he then has to respond to, rather than use his limited time to grade or plan. And, wow. I can’t even imagine how frustrating that is.
But, um, we kind of ARE customer service reps.
If someone works for TicketMaster (which I did, back in the day….ooh, terrible job), they have a job in order to sell tickets to people. Sometimes they can’t sell the tickets because the tickets aren’t available or the person has already purchased too many, but those are the exceptions to the rule. As teachers, we have jobs in order to educate children. Sometimes home lives or other issues get in the way, but if we’re not educating them, WE SHOULDN’T HAVE JOBS.
The Charmer felt he wasn’t being well educated. Based on what he’d told me and what other kids had told me, he wasn’t wrong. Some of his own issues are getting in the way, but that’s not the whole problem.
But there’s more to it than that. This is a kid who doesn’t trust people. Just….doesn’t trust them. He trusts his mom, and two of his friends, and sort of his brother, and sort of me. Not 100%, but sort of, and only because I’ve earned it over the past two years. This is also a kid who is smart, and funny, and talented. He sees through the fronts people put on to the truths inside their souls; that’s not something that goes over well, particularly when the person who has that capacity sometimes uses it to sneer at and judge people. Which he does. I’m not saying he’s not an asshole, because he often is. I just think there’s more to him than that. If he leaves my school, he’ll still be an asshole, he’ll still push people past their breaking points, but then he won’ t have anyone on his side. Am I helping him at all anyway? I don’t know. But at least he has someone who believes in him, who challenges him when he’s being a prick, whom he respects and who treats him with respect. I’m not sure he’ll have that (at least not at school) if he leaves. Maybe (probably) I’m giving myself too much credit here, but I just couldn’t give up yet. So even though I couldn’t argue with his current perception of the school, I had to try something.
Finally, I decided to address the following year. “I get that you’re unhappy with your current teachers, and…I don’t disagree with what you’re saying. I wish I could, but I can't. But I truly believe that the eighth grade has some incredible teachers.”
“I’m not saying you have to come here. That’s not my choice; you and your mom have to make that decision, and maybe this ISN’T the best place for you. But…” I paused again. “I guess I just think you should keep your options open. I know you’re unhappy right now, but you might feel differently later.”
He shrugged again. “I guess. It doesn’t matter anyway. I already missed it.”
As previously mentioned, the Charmer doesn’t live in my enrollment area and he’d missed the deadline to choice in. “I know. But I told you that I’d let you know if it opens back up again.” Sometimes the district re-opens the opportunity to choice in, if a school isn’t full, and I’d told the Charmer I’d keep track of that for him and let him know if it happened. I’m doing the same thing for two other kids who moved out of our area but still want to come back. “Here’s the deal. If you choice in and you want to come here, you can. If you decide you don’t want to come here, you can always decline and just go to your home school. But if you DON’T choice in, you can’t change your mind. You lose the option. Again, not saying you have to come back. But do you still want me to keep you posted?”
For a minute, he didn’t say anything. Finally, with another shrug, “Yeah. I guess.”
More to come…
(Hopefully we do a better job at working with our students than following the above photo. Credit to Here’s Kate, http://www.flickr.com/photos/thedepartment/85386723/)