People who enter the teaching profession are generally those who want to help and make a difference in the lives of young people. Kids who present problems of one kind or another are often seen as welcome challenges to teachers — except when they prove highly disruptive to everyone else in the class. What are teachers supposed to do with those students who they would rather not be placed in their class — but are anyway.
Here is one teacher’s candid observations about her own experience. She is Alice Trosclair, who has been teaching for nine years in south Louisiana. She currently teaches American literature, English Language and Composition (AP), and English Literature and Composition (AP). She lives with her husband and son, and has what she calls hundreds of “adopted” children — her students. This was first published in The Educator’s Room here, and I am republishing it with permission.
By Alice Trosclair
We all have difficult students — and some are more difficult than others. I have never shied away from a challenging student. I have my “projects” who I am determined to save — even if they don’t want to be saved — because I believe every child deserves someone who believes in him or her. I am proud to be that advocate. There are so many movies that show a teacher saving students against all odds movies that inspire us and make us what to be John Keating or start-up a Freedom Writers club in our classroom. I have saved students. I know it because they have written me, they have told me, and have even visited me long after graduation. I see them on Facebook going to school or work, and even starting families. To me that is success. They could have ended up in jail or worse. I have also had students that I could not save, and I have visited them in some not-so-nice places.
But I have had some students who make me wonder: Why are they in my class?
I have a new student who was placed in my classroom because he or she had difficulties with another teacher. (He was blackmailing her. Seriously.) Why? Why do I have to take this student? And of course, this student is placed in my most challenging class which is the last block of the day. I am physically and emotionally drained and I have this new student, with a discipline list a mile long, placed in my “we have taken every English class twice and we are absent at least one day a week” class. I had finally managed to develop some sort of routine with them and BAM! A new dynamic has been added. A new person who has an interesting back story which is so much better than the American Revolution informational text we are covering.
I really want to be the positive person, but I am tired. I spoke with the powers that be and they told me I was given this child on purpose because “I am a miracle worker.” Is it wrong that I don’t want to have to work miracles? Sometimes I just want to teach content.
I wonder what it would be like just to teach Shakespeare and go home. Some people tell me it’s possible.
As much as I don’t want to do it, I know I will find a way to connect to this child, just like I have all the others. I am just so worn down. I go above and beyond every single day. And sometimes I just wish I could have a few students who would do the same. Is that so much to ask? I force them to see their potential, even if they kick and scream and fight me every step of the way. I wish I didn’t have to fight them. I wish they would let me teach them and help them. Some days I just have given all I can and there is nothing left. Am I the only one who feels this?
They say motherhood is the hardest job in the world. I am willing to bet that teaching is the second.
It is even harder to show students you care about them when they do everything in their power to try to break you. (I have come so close to tears in class this year and I am a veteran teacher) So why? Why is he in my class? Why? Why do I do this?
Deep down under all the frustration I know I chose this career because I want to make a difference. So I read the letters, drink that extra cup of coffee, and remind myself I do know the answer to the question, ‘Why is he in my class?’ Because if I don’t fight for him, no one else will.