Thursday, June 8, 2017

Teaching By Correspondence

Yesterday, a kid beginning day two of his English final said that two pages of it were missing. I looked for the pages but couldn't find them. He went pretty much ballistic after that. He's an eighth grader and has a lot to learn. Today, we found the missing pages and I wrote this letter to, as I'm calling him, Frank:

June 8, 2017
Yesterday, you and I had trouble. You said part of your final was gone. I said if I couldn’t find it, I couldn’t give you credit. Tough situation. We had options. We both chose poorly.
I started well, searching for your pages. I never want to mess with or lose a student’s work. Responsibility matters to me. In twenty-two years I’ve lost maybe four papers. When I didn’t find yours, I suggested you write them again. “I’ll keep looking, but this way it’s no problem.”
You chose to get pissed. “I’m not doing it. It’s your fault,” you said again and again. I tried not to let you get under my skin. I failed. That’s when I stopped looking for the pages and you said, “you don’t care about me.”
I wonder, Why would you want me to care about you? You seem to despise me. You treat me like crap you’ve stepped in. Why do you want me to care for you when you despise me?
And why you would expect me to care? You work to annoy and piss me off, ignoring all I say. Why would that lead me to care for or respect you?
Besides, whether I care or not doesn’t matter. My job is to help you learn. I lead horses to water and hope they drink, but it’s their choice. I neither like nor dislike you because that’s not my job.
My advice yesterday was to “take care of you.” That means:
  • take responsibility for your actions and happiness; don’t act like you’re a victim of circumstance and others control your fate,
  • don’t be a burden on others,
  • and when bad things happen, take care of yourself instead of crying over it.
Today, a guy asked, “whose papers are stuck to mine?” They were yours. “These were a big source of misery yesterday,” I said. “Thanks for finding them.”
If I was out to get you, I would have shredded those pages and smiled while failing you. No one would have known. The perfect crime. I didn’t do that, but not because I’m nice or like you. It’s because I’m serious about my job and taking care of me.
Quit worrying who likes you. Take care of you. It’s not too late for positive change.

Brian G. Fay