Stopping the blame game


I am 54, and my doctor has ORDERED me to get a colonoscopy. Not politely asked for the fourth year in a row, but sent a letter demanding that I do, or sign a release form. I am dreading it, but I will go through it in about a month. Colonoscopies are humiliating enough without having to worry that the medical staff will make fun of me while I am under anesthesia during the procedure. Reading about the patient who was ridiculed by the anesthesiologist during his colonoscopy made me think about what comes out of the other end of my body . . . my words, especially my words about students to other teachers. 

I have a secret. I gripe and complain about some students to other teachers or administrators, and here's another little secret. Most of them do this, too. For the most part, we are not petty and mean and belittling, but then, every now and then, we might be. I mainly do it because it helps me release my frustration at my own failure to help students either academically or behaviorally. Although I was first judgmental about the anesthesiologist in the story, I slowly realized that I do the same thing with students. Not while they are enduring a colonoscopy but behind their backs when they are vulnerable, nevertheless, while I'm making copies in the workroom or eating lunch with colleagues or just chatting in the hallway after school. What if a student overheard me talking about him? What irreparable damage might that do? How does releasing my own frustration by negatively talking about a student really help the situation in any way? 

So, while pondering all of this before rising out of bed this morning, I came to the decision that I will not talk negatively about students again. I decided this based mostly on shame and guilt and the desire to be a better person. I did not yet relate it to a strategical classroom mistake, but when I checked my email this morning, I found this article, The Worst Mistake a Teacher Can Make from the Smart Classroom Management blog by Michael Linsin.

The problem is blame. Blaming everyone else for the problems in my classroom. Blaming the students, blaming their parents, blaming the BOE, the superintendent, the governor, etc. Blaming everyone except myself. I have been doing something in my professional life that I detest to do in my personal life, playing the victim. EEWWW. Think about the wasted energy and creativity when a teacher plays the victim in her classroom. Most importantly, think about the wasted opportunity to change a student's life for the better. Sometimes, just one kind word does it or allowing students a clean slate day after day after day. 

I'm not going to miss that opportunity this year. No more complaining or blaming. I will honor my students' dignity by not talking negatively about them behind their backs. Of course, I know I will slip up a time or two because this is a habit that needs to be extinguished, but my goal will be to think and speak only positively about each of my students and to take full responsibility for the environment in my classroom by following my discipline plan calmly and consistently.  

Let's face it. Following our discipline plans and holding students accountable is about as exciting as a colonoscopy, but we do it because it's good for us. 

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