I have just started teaching middle school, and I could write about all the long faces of middle school teachers and the harsh lessons they learn. Students who are disruptive and don't care about school who take up all the class' time. Parents who misunderstand what really happens in class and make up their mind that you are a horrible teacher without hearing all the facts. Students with troubled home lives completely unable to concentrate on school and who are being asked to pay the price: educational shame. A society that mistakenly believes that the ownership of learning is in the hands of the educator and not the learner. Unions that exist in order to protect the status quo of lousy teachers. Politicians who tell me what to do in my business but do not listen to me when I tell them how I should do my job.
The educational apple that teachers and students chew on has rotten spots. Always has. Always will. These rotten spots are exacerbated by the age of the middle school students we teach. I consciously choose not to concentrate on those rotten spots. In almost every blog I write, the decision is made to keep it cheerful, humorous, and upbeat. Now that I am teaching middle school, the decision is made more consciously and more frequently, but I refuse to say middle school is worse. For just as it is rotten, it is also sweeter. Here are two examples why:
SWEET SPOT #1:
Frank: "Mr. W., I want to thank you for what you did with my test."
Me: "Pardon me? What?"
Frank: "I didn't put my name on it and you could have just thrown it in the trash."
Me: "Oh yeah. I know what you're talking about now. Yeah. I'm not gonna throw away a 100%, A+ math test in the trash. I spent some time figuring out whose it was, and it turned out to be you. Yeah, that's right. It was you."
Frank: That's what I wanted to talk to you about. I appreciate that very much, and I won't forget what you did."
Me: "Well thank you, Frank. I am touched by what you just said."
Frank: "No, thank you, Mr. W."
(Frank walks off. Teacher mutters something about life being worthwhile after all.)
SWEET SPOT #2:
James: "Mr. W., you said my father and every one's parents help pay for your salary, right?"
Me: "Yes, I did. Their taxes pay my salary. I feel like I owe them my very best, and that means you have to give me your very best."
James: "Well then how come you ripped me off?"
Me: "Pardon me? What do you mean, I 'ripped you off!' "
James: "Yeah. I had a great front row center desk, and you moved me to the side. You ripped me off."
Me: "James, your father's taxes pay for my salary, but they don't pay for a guaranteed best seat in the house. Don't talk to me so disrespectfully. I 'ripped you off?' That's strong language and I don't appreciate it."
(Next day after class)
James: "Mr. W., I want to apologize for talking to you like I did. I used the wrong words and probably hurt your feelings. I want to apologize."
Me: "James, your apology is accepted."
James: "I went too far and I want to apologize. I'm sorry I said it."
Me: "I have already forgiven you, James, but I accept your apology again."
James: "It was wrong what I said and I'm really sorry."
Me: "James, when I forgive someone three times, because that is how many times you have asked for forgiveness and I am now forgiving you for the third time, I don't just forgive the person and forget about what they said. I remember what they said and did forever, and I forgive them for forever. You are a fine young man to talk to me that way. I will always remember you for that. Thank you, James. Don't worry about it at all."
James: "Thank you, Mr. W."
(Me, looking up at James thinking, life is a sweet apple to bite into after all.)