“I don’t know.”
Every educator gets these responses from students now and again.
In 25+ years of teaching students who struggle with language, with school, or with themselves, I’ve heard those lines a lot.
Truthfully, on my less compassionate days, those sentiments make me cringe and roll my eyes. I know I’m going to have to work so hard to change those knee-jerk (and kinda jerky) responses.
But then I remember that teaching is not all about me. It’s about my students.
Statements like that are code for what may be years of pent up fear, anxiety, frustration, failed attempts, shame, and disappointing experiences with learning.
Remembering that is what allows me to find the compassion my students deserve.
Remembering that is what allows me to go back to doing what I love to do – see students wherever they’re at and give them whatever they need to get where they want to go in this world.
“This sucks!” is the bodyguard for “I don’t think I can do this.”
When I remember that and use it to guide my teaching, what they say to themselves and to me changes.
Teaching sucks when I forget that.