One of my students came into the classroom today just bursting with something to share with me…and it didn’t look good. She was agitated and teary, and it seemed like she had been holding a disturbing secret that she needed to share with someone she trusted.
Little did I know…
“Miss B, my mom said you were the worst teacher in the world! And she was really mean and she even used the B- word!”
Did you ever feel like someone stabbed you in the heart, it hurt so bad? I never expected it to be a 6-year-old.
It was an awful way to start the day. It was in the front of my mind all day. Those two sentences were all the information that I got, but in my mind that mother was telling her daughter: “Oh that little bitch wants you to do math homework? Like I don’t have enough shit to do without her telling me what my daughter needs. She is just the worst teacher ever.” Except there were many more reasons, and more use of the B-word. By the time I was driving home, I was convinced it was true and I should quit teaching all together. She hates me so much she would take it out on her daughter? It reminds me of divorced (or fighting) parents trash-talking each other to their children. It never turns out well for the children.
In hindsight, what I should have done was taken a deep breath, given my student a big hug and told her that I don’t like the B-word either. 🙂 Or something nice that lets her know that I’m still on her side, no matter what her mom says about me.
Instead…well, I don’t remember what I said to my student. I wasn’t nasty, but I didn’t really try to comfort her. I probably said….Nope, I have no idea what I said. I think straight shock and hurt took over, and fogged my memory of the moment. But I didn’t want to hug her. Fifteen minutes later, I forced myself to call her first to come work with me. I forced myself to give her a few high-fives today.
I forced myself to be nice to her. And what I was upset about, it wasn’t her fault.
Parents have been nasty to me before. I can take it. I don’t like it, but it’s not personal. It’s frustrating because I usually can’t make the parent see my side. (Ironically, that’s because it is personal to them.) I do my job, I say what I need to say, I do everything I know how to do to make the parent feel better about it, but in the end I do what I’m supposed to do either way. But I think I prefer to believe that parents will allow their children to like the teachers anyway. When my student, my six-year-old first grade student, tells me her mother called me a horrible teacher and a bitch, it becomes personal to me. I am no longer emotionally sheltered from the parents’ feelings.
What more can I do? Where am I lacking? What would make me a better-than-horrible teacher? How will these students be harmed because they got me for a teacher? What should I feel guilty for? When they grow up, surely they will be saying, “My life would have turned out just fine if only Miss B…”
One of my students, when he gets frustrated, throws his pencil across the room, crumples up his paper, and yells “I suck!!!” At this moment, I understand how he feels.
I have built tall and strong walls in this world, but they don’t apply to six-year-olds.
Apparently, they should.