the circular runner

a teacher’s quandary: when’s the right time for tough love?

In life, observations, teaching & education, Uncategorized on June 14, 2011 at 9:19 am

teaching in the Mission is full of but's

I hate waking up early when I’m up late the night before.  (The fact that I’m always up late basically means I always hate getting up early.)  But this morning, I got my tired butt up so that I could take a student to her last exam of the GED.  This student can be, for lack of a better word, a piece of work.  She has cursed me out for helping her, she shows up to class often after partaking of her “medicine”.  (This being the Bay Area, medicine is code for pot.)  And though she can be sweet, she has some pretty radical mood shifts when faced with variables and radicals.

Still, I have love for this person because I feel like she’s one of those damaged people who just needs an extra hand.  This is why I was willing to get up and give her a ride, and why I have put up with her.  (Though I did kick her out one time when she was too much–even by her high standards.)

Because I know she is deathly scared of writing, and this morning, her exam required her to write an essay, I knew she needed some support.  I also should’ve known things weren’t going to work out when I called her to make sure she was up.  She was groggy and she was kind of annoyed, but I pushed on and told her to be ready.  When I got to her house, she was all set, but something told me to ask her if she had her ID.  (The state requires ID for her to get into the test.)  She said no, and then went back into the house and didn’t come back.  Minutes passed.  I called her, and she told me she couldn’t find her wallet and that she was mad.  Then the line went dead.

There was a not-so small part of me that wanted go up her door and give her a curse-out.  I wanted to tell her to stop being such a f*ck up.  She’s pushing forty.  She needs to get her life together.  I’m not paid to be her chauffeur, etc. etc.

I said none of these things, of course.  I drove off, went to a bakery near my house and bought an orange bun, which I will spend the evening having to run off.  Tomorrow or Friday, I will text her and remind her to come back to class.  I’ll also go sign her up for a make-up test, and she’ll take it in July and pass it.  And if you’re thinking that I’m being a dumb-dumb about this, and that if not yell, I should at least have a serious talk with her, I’d say I can see your point, but…

But sh*t happens, and anyone can misplace their wallet.

But I am her teacher, not her parent.  And as such, my job is to get her to achieve this elusive goal of finishing something–anything–she started.

But she actually has the following signature on her text messages: “motivate in 2011”, which means she knows she’s struggling, and piling on is not going to help.

But my anger is personal and a little selfish. Though I want her to pass so that she can move on, I also wanted to add her to my pass column so I can show my boss and my funders in City Hall that I run a great program.

But, but, but, but.

My life as a teacher of people who struggle to do what many of us take for granted is full of buts.  But (yes here is one more) it is full of joy and hope.  I like what I do–even when I have to get my tired butt (another but, but different) up out bed only to eat an overly-caloried piece of goodness.  Tough love sounds good.  It is sometimes necessary.  However, (note: I avoided yet another but) at least for me, it is a tool of last resort.

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