The Dodge

Dear Terrence,

You were so frustrated in class today when I told you to put up your phone, but there was an irony in that: because I maintain perfect control of my emotions in the classroom, you could never tell by my tone or body language that I was highly frustrated with you. (That’s a skill you need to work on, but that’s another letter.) I tell you to put that phone away every single day. I’ve referred you to the administrator for it, and they’ve assigned you suspensions for it. “Refusal to obey” is what they call it. At this point, I could write you up every single day for that, but truth be told, I know it won’t change the behavior, and writing referrals is just a soul-sucking waste of time.

All that, too, is another letter.

What I really wanted to address with you is how you reacted to my simple, calm instruction: “Put your phone away, Terrence.”

You thought you had me: “It’s not my phone. It’s hers.”

I have to admit, I sometimes have difficulty restraining rage-like screaming with you, but that time, I really wanted to laugh. I really wanted to say, “Are you serious?! You’re taking issue over my lack of clairvoyance about whose phone it is? I was somehow supposed to know that? And it was supposed to make any difference at all in how I responded?”

If that’s how you continue to respond, if that’s how you continually try to dodge trouble, you’ll find it doesn’t work well at all.

I suspect you already know that. I suspect you were trying to provoke something out of me. Surely you’ve noticed, as I noted above, that I am not the kind of teacher who displays his emotions for all to see. I don’t yell. I don’t insult. I don’t repay your disrespect with more disrespect. In part, I do this because I’m trying to model for you what I expect of you. If I want patience, I have to show it. If I want respect, I should be giving it. That’s how we teach others how to treat us. (That is also another letter.)

More broadly speaking, though, I behave that way because I have patience. Great patience. More patience than you’ve imagined in your life. I leave behind more patience in my toe nail clippings than you’ve ever managed to muster in your entire life. I am a paragon of patience. I am a champion of patience. I have to be: I teach eighth grade.

Patiently waiting for different behavior from you (but not naive enough to expect it tomorrow),
Your Teacher


6 thoughts on “The Dodge

  1. An awesome letter; if only he could read it, he might see the light… you sound like a teacher that cares- keep up the great work!

  2. Maybe someday he’ll stroll, with painful patience, to a repeatedly difficult student, and think of you. Your labor is not in vain (but oh is it aggravating)! I have a precious 7th grader and volunteer weekly in his class. I marvel at the number of difficult students in his class and the amount of time and energy his teacher has to spend on them. I salute you amazing people.

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