Thursday, April 30, 2009

"No one said teaching would be easy or without disappointment"

Last week, one of my students disappointed me.

The funny thing about disappointment is that it is actually worse than being angry. It is a feeling that hits you so deep in your soul, that there is no other word suitable for expressing it. It is disappointment and it is the worst feeling in the world.

I give my kids journals (that I bought myself) to complete every week. They contain daily assignments that are given in class and are all due at the end of the week. This systems seems to work for about 40% of my class. Last week's journal was the source of the problem.

I have this one student who is chronically irresponsible and seldom at fault. Things are always being done to him as opposed to things happening because of him. I tried lecturing him on taking responsibility for his actions. This, clearly, is not applicable when one is never at fault. I know this now.

One of my star pupils was absent the day this student saunters in late with the journal "someone stole" from him two weeks prior. He said he would work on his journal and come back with it the next day. He refused to let me write down what he was missing. At this point, he had taken my star pupil's journal saying he was going to give it back to her. I give all of my students the benefit of the doubt. I believed him.

He took her journal home and copied it. Word for word. Including typos and scribbles. He had already completed the last assignment in the journal on a separate piece of paper. I told him not to worry about doing it, and he still copied it. Word for word.

I had no idea until my star pupil came in the next morning and asked for her journal. It was that moment that my little teacher world came temporarily crashing down. I apologized to the student and she left to find him to get it back.

I sat there. Not mad. Not upset. I was disappointed. Thoroughly disappointed. This kid lied to my face and stole his classmate's journal. I believed he was going to give it to her. I truly did.

When he arrived later that day, he turned in his journal. I got the star pupil's journal and sat there and calmly compared the two. When they left, I RAN to the copier room and photocopied both his journal and the journal of the kid he copied. I wrote a note home and CCed his advisor. I gave him a 0% for the work he still did not complete. Then, I sat.

Before that day, I'd never experienced the utter defeat that comes along with being disappointed. It hits you at the center of your being. Throws off your equilibrium. Reduces you. This student, whom I love so dearly, lied, cheated and stole to make up missed work. He lied to me and I didn't see it. He stole from his classmate who works HARD and has done all of her work. He cheated. Blindly copying word for word and really thought he was going to receive credit for it.

When I told my supervisor, he said to me "No one said teaching would be easy or without disappointment." He's been in education for 40 years and I am sure he has had his share of disappointments, but this was not something I was prepared to handle.

For as much as I love them, some students will cheat. I have to make sure I am ALWAYS on top of my game. I know this now. When it happens again, I'll be ready.

1 comment:

  1. I've been teaching for about 8 years at the university level, and the disappointments build. Had a lot of them this semester and now that we're at the end of a semester, I'm raw, agitated because of the disappointment. To the point that I'm actually having "pull to the side and be painfully REAL to the student" conversations with some of my more serious "disappointers". I feel grateful that next year I get to take a break from teaching to start my Ph.D. because I've been burned out for a few years now.

    At the end of the day, you have to remember why you do it and what you get out of it so that you can move past the soul-touching pain of disappointment.

    ((((((((((((((((hugs to a fellow teacher)))))))))))))))


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