Tired

Dear Terrence,

I’m tired. You’re tired. We’re both tired.

I’m tired of telling you to put your head up. I know that first period is tough. No one likes first period. After all, it’s first period. We all stumble into the room somewhat blurry and bleary, not entirely awake and not entirely sure we want to be. I come in, put on my business face — half smile, half stone, with an threat of a frown just at the edges — and get started. Some days, God knows, I don’t want to, but I do it. Part of this is a function of my personality: I’m not the type to make excuses. Part of it is a function of my age: I’ve grown up, in short.

You’re tired physically and tired of me telling you to put your head up. I know you’ve given up for the year. You’re failing all your classes; you’ve failed every class ever quarter, so there’s no way you can make it up. (Actually, there is. I’ve had student before fail three quarters and get their act together for the fourth quarter and do the most phenomenal work — and pass.) You’ve done nothing all year, so when you say, “I’m lost. I don’t get any of it. So I put my head down,” I believe you. The trouble is, you’ve been doing this from day one. So if you’re lost, it’s because you’ve made the decision to be lost. But let’s face it: you know there’s no way you’ll fail this year. You’re too old to be held back in eighth grade, and no teacher on our team would even suggest holding you back. You’d just do the same thing next year that you did this year. (I’m afraid that, no matter what grade you’re in, you’ll do the same thing next year that you’ve done this year. The trouble is, next year you’re in high school. There, they won’t say, “Oh, he’s failed freshman English once; we can’t fail him twice. We’ll just place him.” Instead, they’ll say, “Failed it once? Try again.” And if you fail it a second time? “Failed it twice? Third time is the charm they say.” Sadly, I don’t see it getting that far. You’ll be old enough to drop out long before it reaches that point, and you’ll do just that.) So you rightly figure that, no matter what you do in class, you’ll move on. In that regard, we’re failing you: we’re reinforcing habits that will only cause you trouble — real trouble — in adulthood. You can’t put your head down forever.

So we’re both tired. Of each other, if truth be told. I know — I’m supposed to be Super Teacher and never give up, never stop looking for the positive, never stop encouraging, just never stop. But I’m not a marathon runner. I can’t go forever. As such, truth be told, I’m looking forward to the end of the year in part because I’m tired of you. Does that make me a bad teacher? Perhaps. The upside: I’ll have another Terrence — several, I’m sure — next year. There’s no escaping educational karma. Perhaps I’ll do a better job with him. I hope so.

Exhausted,
Your Teacher

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2 thoughts on “Tired

    1. I feel some of my students gave up long before I met them. It seems that a regular classroom setting doesn’t meet their needs, but in these days of cookie-cutter conformity, I guess that’s about all they’ll get.

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