Define “Up”

Dear Terrence,

It really wasn’t that much I was asking you to do: put your head up. Simple. You began the class as you almost always do: head up but not really attentive. Within a few minutes, though, you folded those arms and dropped your head into the angle of your elbow.

“Terrence, put your head up, please.” Notice: I was polite. I was respectful. You can’t learn anything with your head down, so I needed you to raise your head and your attention. And you did. For a few seconds. Down it went again.

“Terrence, put your head up.” Notice: I was a little less polite. It’s hard to be polite with someone who’s being so disrespectful, and that’s really what it amounted to. When you don’t do what a teacher instructs you to do, it’s disrespect. Whether or not you agree with that is, sadly, irrelevant, because most of the world would accept that as a fair description of what you were doing. Your head went up, but this time, so did your arm, with your head now balanced on the side of your hand as you rested your elbow on your desk. So in a sense, you were obeying: your head was more “up” than it had been a few moments ago, but you knew perfectly well what I meant.

“Terrence, put your head up.” Notice: I was still polite. I tried to keep the edge out of my voice, because I was getting quite irritated with the whole situation and the disrespect you were showing in front of the whole classroom. The child in me wanted to respond in a similar fashion, with disrespect, with sarcasm. But thankfully I reminded myself that I am the adult, and while you could choose to act like an adult, you generally choose to act as you did.

It was at this point that you really crossed the line. But standing up and walking out of the classroom, you disrupted the class, you showed incredible disrespect, and you left me with no choice but to refer the matter to the administration. And you know that will mean an immediate three-day suspension. With your dreams of playing football — I eavesdrop in the hall, as do other teachers — that doesn’t seem like something you’d want. A discipline record and poor grades guarantee your disqualification from school sports. So it seemed very short-sighted of you.

See, here’s what you don’t understand: if I didn’t care about you, I’d just let you leave that head down. It’s much easier to let you sleep. So I ask you to put your head up knowing that I’m only making my life more difficult. I do it every day because I refuse to give up. You might force my hand as you did today, and if that’s the case, then I’ll do as instructed by my superiors and write you up every single time you do it. It doesn’t seem like a very productive way to spend my time, but I follow instructions. All I’m asking is that you do the same.

Still a little frustrated,
Your Teacher


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