Monday, March 31, 2014


One of the hardest lessons I've ever had to learn is this:

You cannot want more for somebody than he wants for himself.

It's simply an unhealthy desire, and it will leave you, broken-hearted, banging your head against a wall.

As a teacher, I do battle with this every day. I see students with such potential who continually underachieve or disbelieve their own abilities or self-sabotage on a daily basis.

It's such a magical word -- potential. Really. It practically screams to be bolded and italicized. It's a whole universe of dreams and possibility in a nice little 9-letter space. But in truth, it's just a word. And, often, it's our own hopes and dreams we are forcing into that 9-letter space; not theirs. This is the danger zone.

With my 7th graders taking their standardized test in writing tomorrow and Wednesday, (and another round with math and reading in just 2 more weeks), I found it especially difficult to cram any more into their heads. Each class, I had to take the academic and emotional temperature of the room. Some classes needed a pep talk. Some needed last minute reminders. Others just needed to know what classroom to show up to tomorrow. And still others just needed to be left the Hell alone.

It is a fearsome and dangerous thing to poke a hive of agitated bees.

When each class left me today, I had to fight down the urge to focus on the 3 or 4 kids each class who voiced that they "only want to pass" and demanded to know the passing rate for this test. It's not typically 70, as in class, but that's the last thing I want them to do -- aim low -- so my lies of omission are the strategies I employ. Their desire to be average is completely foreign to me and also happens to be far below their suspected potential. but they are not me, and I am not them.

I cannot want for them what they do not want for themselves. All it leaves me with is a bruised head and a broken heart. They will do as they will do, and all that I am able to provide is the patience to see them through and the trust that I've prepared them as well as I possibly know how. The rest is up to them.

So, for all of my fellow teachers, in the midst of testing season, I offer this advice. Let them be. There will be plenty of other days to karate kick the hive.

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