Remember the old joke where Billy says, “But I don’t want to go to school! Nobody likes me!” and the punch line follows: “You have to go… You’re the teacher!”
I always thought it was pretty corny, but that’s exactly how I felt this morning.
As a teacher, it’s a really awful feeling finding out from a third party that some of my students think that I don’t like them.
I know there are people who probably shouldn’t be teachers because they make their students and colleagues feel that way all the time.
I’ve always been sure that I was not one of those people.
Now I’m left wondering if I am.
I have no idea where all this came from.
Yesterday was bad enough before my boss dropped the bombshell: long, frustrating and plagued with physical pain.
Since then, I’ve been questioning myself and wondering where I’m going wrong.
I’m not trying to sound self-righteous or indignant.
I’m so incredibly hurt, and I’m fearful that I have had that same effect on other students who were just too nice to say so.
Whether or not it was what they intended, I’m devastated.
When criticism filters down from my boss and people prefer to not be named, it’s hard to know how to react because you don’t know if it’s one, two, or seventeen of your students who feel that way.
It’s hard to not take it personally. It leaves you questioning yourself and, at the very least, your professional integrity.
Am I not really the teacher or the person that, until now, I believed I was?
How did this happen?
Am I one of those hateful, hurtful teachers?
Is it even possible to be one of those people when I actually like my students and enjoy my classroom interaction with them? Or without even realising?
Why didn’t anyone tell me?
Is it so hard to say something to me?
Am I that unapproachable?
Am I past it?
Do teachers have “use by” or “best before” dates?
If only they knew how much I really do like them.
If only they knew how hard I work for them.
If only they knew how I agonise over marking their work and writing constructive comments to help them improve.
If only they knew how much I want each of them to do their best, not for me but because it’s an investment in their own future.
If only they knew the level of physical pain I endure without ever letting them know what’s going on under the surface, simply because that’s my problem, not theirs.
And how am I supposed to fix this?
Walking into the classroom and saying, “Hey guys, I hear you think I don’t like you. Well, you’re wrong. I do…” is just going to look and sound phoney.
If they can’t tell from the way I try to encourage them and give positive feedback, faking a smile when I’m hurting isn’t going to convince anyone.
Besides, smiling wasn’t really possible today. I was proud of myself for just holding it together and not crying in front of them. Talking about this with them in class wasn’t an option.
Maybe I should just give them the link to this blog. Or maybe that’s too impersonal.
Maybe I just can’t do anything right anymore.
Maybe I need to sleep on it… again… and hope that tomorrow is better.