Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Real Peek into an Ugly Moment

I want to be real about my teaching. Authentic. I mess up and I rarely share it here. We all make mistakes, don't we? We talk about growth mindset, but do we share our moments of true growth? It's scary. I don't want to be judged. I always want to do my best, but the truth is sometimes my best...well, it stinks. As this week started, my best was not good...not good enough for me.


I handled a situation badly...that is to say, I didn’t handle at all...at first, and then I handled it poorly. There was teasing and laughing. The subject of the teasing was on the screen, not actually present in the classroom and the laughter was subtle, more like snickering. The reason for the laughing and teasing was weight. The girl on the screen was overweight. A couple of students laughed at her. They covered their mouths, cringed, and rolled their eyes...because of her weight. I stayed silent. I froze.


This is a trigger for me. I am overweight. I’ve always been overweight. As a middle schooler, I was teased and laughed at because of my weight. My reaction to these situations is always questionable...I don’t know what to do. I’ve tried it all. Lecture. Quiet discussions. Shaming. Ignoring...that was a new reaction for me.


Here’s a peek inside my brain:
My breathing sped up, I felt anxious. I usually overreact to these situations so I think, “Michelle, think. Be calm. They are good kids that are making bad choices. What can you say or do that will make a real impact?” I couldn’t come up with anything. I let it go.


I let it go.
What have I done?
Did anyone else hear?
Did they condone my silence for agreement?


This post doesn’t have a happy ending. There’s no right answer. The botched situation stands and I didn’t resolve it. (Later, a short conversation was had, but it wasn’t enough.) I’m not looking for an answer to this. I wanted to show a moment of failure. I failed in this moment. I didn’t handle this effectively. My struggle continues for how to handle these situations effectively. How do teachers calmly handle situations that may trigger their own issues? How do we turn those moments into meaningful teaching moments and not shame or punishment? I will continue to struggle through these questions in my notebook, in my practice.


Tomorrow, I’ll try it all again.

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14 comments:

  1. I also struggle with these issues, personally and in the classroom. I think it's important to acknowledge the awkward moment we are all human. Sometimes we laugh when we are uncomfortable. Telling your students how important it is for you to help them feel accepted in all their faults might be helpful. Sharing with them in an authentic way how important it is for you not to let this go might be a way forward. Finding the right time and context for the conversation is key. I wonder if you could find a poem or short story to address the issue might dig a little deeper and help you distance yourself from the issue without ignoring it. I think we all try to use these teachable moments. But sometimes in our own woundedness we need time to process how we react thoughtfully.

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  2. Your humanity shines through this post, Michelle. Teachers are human, with our own issues and triggers. We don't always get it right. Thanks for being brave and sharing this difficult moment with us!

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  3. I appreciate reading such an honest teacher post. A lot of conversation about personal differences are triggered by picture books in my classroom. I really like the book, "Wonder" for bringing up body positive conversations.

    Thanks for sharing.

    -Amanda at https://teachingwanderlust.com/

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  4. A difficult situation, one that you experienced as a child, bringing back memories. I think we all experience situations that we don't know how to handle and we tend to ignore them. It's okay, it's good to acknowledge it and now it's time to move on and find an appropriate way to deal with it when a situation like this arises again. Hugs

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  5. Know that you are in my thoughts. It's a learning experience for you and how you may handle it when a situation occurs again. Thanks for sharing today.

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  6. Oh I can absolutely feel you here. So hard. When what is wrong also triggers us. No easy answer here.

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  7. You were brave to share, and you are brave to move on. Sometimes, that's all one can do.

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  8. Oh, friend....you are human. The important thing is that you have reflected on your choices and are learning. That is all we can do.

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  9. Your own sensitivity to your students - all of them - and their feelings and needs shines through in this post and in so many of your posts. There will always be situations we connect to on a personal level - and your sensitivity and ongoing commitment to meet all their needs is all you can do.

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  10. Most of all I appreciate your honesty. I am reading this after a bad day. I am stuck with how to handle a behavior problem in my class. I want to be helpful not hurtful, but I yelled and punished. This is not a mistake. It's a reaction. Your response was the same. Not a mistake. But when we are put in tough situations, there is never a good answer. Kids will be kids, but sometimes they are just jerks. I don't have an answer to that, especially today.

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  11. Thank you for your vulnerability. We are people who care and feel too.

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  12. You ask how to turn these moments into teachable moments? You just did. I call that a success.

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  13. Agree with all these comments. Such bravery in first sharing this story and not overreacting in the moment. We are all human and we all make mistakes. But grace is more.

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  14. You have bravely come up with a new category for my 'what to write about list'. The idea of sharing our authentic selves is risky, but so real. What if we all took a day to slice about 'areas of growth' or 'I'm working on it!' or whatever catchy title someone extremely clever comes up with. I'm not sure that I agree with the 'ugly moment' part - messy, but not ugly. ("Real Peek" posts might get flagged for something else.) I'm going to try and catch myself in these moments. Thank you.

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