Inspire, Not Terrify

Metal doors swung open with a distinctly loud clashing noise, as they fell behind eleven year old me. I clung to my mother’s hand, heart beating out of my chest for what was waiting. Until this point, I had never experienced such nerves as these. Today was the first day of sixth grade and I had absolutely no idea what to expect- I had been homeschooled until this point, after all. We swiftly walked down the obnoxiously bright hallway and focused ourselves upon the industrial twin doors that were identical to the entrance’s, which stood at the end of the hallway. Goosebumps began to appear on my bare arms as we walked under each evenly spaced vent and the voices of students and teachers began to be heard from the section of classes I was expected in. I squeezed my mother’s hand tighter, anticipation growing. We turned the right corner and I could see three teachers greeting children and parents, at each of their classroom doors. They welcomed me and, within minutes, I was ushered into my homeroom filled with a variety of faces I had never seen before. They all seemed to be familiar with one another, the small crowd of about twenty, smiling and joking with one another, chatting away. I however, had not even the slightest acquaintance. I had no prior substantial knowledge of school and was utterly clueless for what was to come and how to meld myself into this new dynamic. I was still so undeveloped, so fragile, and public school took that from me. It pulverized that innocent little girl that desired nothing more than the approval from the people she so desperately looked up to. It was not the first time, either.
Day 1: The rules. As with every learning institution, the beginning day of class started with a reading of the rules and expectations of the school and each teacher. I was never the extremely rebelling kind, so I had no problem following their regulations. Some, I felt, were a bit extreme, but I figured everything has it’s flaws. All the same, I had no problem with authority, so the process of this reading was taken lightly, but what was not discounted was the excessive force and borderline anger in each of the teacher’s voices, as they said them aloud and ‘discussed them’ with us. Discussed is not the appropriate terminology, much to my dismay. “Discuss” implies a telling, listening, responding, commentary, maybe even a few alterations depending on the absurdity of the precedent and leniency of the teacher. This, however, is not what occurred. No, room by room each teacher lectured on, heatedly, about what we were to do and the reprimands that would be presented, upon the estrangement from these. This set the waters for my feelings towards my teachers and immediately demolished the newfound enthusiasm I had for this adventure I had begun. Alas, this was not the last of disappointments to come. Between the loads of homework I was slaving away at, every night until well after 10 p.m., harangues about the ‘shameful’ community college, and tirades about B’s ad C’s making you an imbecile and loser, basically, my future was already falling apart in front of my very eyes before I could even do algebra. Even with my intense commitment to always finish my homework on time and doing the best that I could, my grades averaged out at about a C or D, most often. Not because I was not capable of achieving better but I did not have the resources and information available to exceed such letter grades, nor did I have the encouragement I- and many others- desperately needed at such a young age. Actual cultivation was not on the agenda of these teachers, unfortunately: Not on the time card for many teachers, I feel – Too many.
Me being a people pleaser, I hated more than anything, criticism and/or getting in trouble. Like my ability to resist a good slice of cake, it was inevitable to happen eventually, though. Instead of the teachers looking for how they could be a good example and grow our prepubescent minds, they only indulged them in their immaturity and lack of guidance. Sarcastic ridicule, booming voices, rage-filled threats, constant intolerance, and absolutely, minute compassion was expressed within those four walls. Even I- noted as one of the “best students” – was harshly governed and punished for simply being a child. They drilled into our minds that if we made a mistake or stepped outside the lines that we no longer had worth, we were undesirable. Constantly dictated by silly objectives that decided if you were going to have any enjoyment at all, in elementary school. Folders were made, with boxes for each day, if that box was marked, recess was taken and you were eliminated from being able to receive a prize for that week. The one thing that actually helps children’s behaviors – at least for that age – was revoked. The one day I made the mistake of whispering a few words to my friend, I received my first check. I can still feel the pit in my stomach and humiliation of walking in front of my classmates to hand her my folder. That day I completely shut down. Not only did it ruin my spirits but I now felt completely looked down upon by my teachers. I recall hardly being able to hold back the tears from spilling out and gravely apologizing to my teacher, when class was finished. By everyone’s faces, you could tell it had a similar effect on the others, as well. AR ‘goals’ were set, with deadlines attached. Only, it was not self-disappointment you would receive for not accomplishing it in time. You were forced to sit at a completely separate table, away from all the other students, and read quietly, to yourself.. If you are to instill the love of a subject or literature in a child- supposing that is even why you are teaching it- why create such a scrutinizing system that turns many children away from a very pleasurable activity? Not only does it hurt their self esteem-fundamentally making them feel like they are being labeled a failure- it also hurts their motivation. I don’t know about you but, especially as a child, if you feel like you have failed and your teachers express no interest in being of any assistance in helping you to accomplish a goal that they set in the first place, it would be pretty disheartening to ever reach it. This all leads back to one point, why be a teacher if no teaching is actually occurring?

Kids need encouragement. Especially children that struggle with obeying and sitting still, they need guidance in doing the right thing and funneling that energy in a positive way. How can you justify treating children like they are purposefully conspiring against you? How can you sit there and spiel on about how bad of a class they are, when really, you help determine exactly that? If you, yourself, have no will or motivation left, how do you expect to convey to the children anything? If you are in the profession of guiding your nation’s children, you have one of the most important jobs out there. That being said, even though conditions- within themselves- are not ideal, you still have a responsibility, as a teacher and as a human being to not allow yourself to get to the point where you are leading the youth backwards, rather than, forwards. Teachers are of the utmost value to this society- despite many, current political choices. Do not let that value be dismantled because doing what you signed up for, is harder than you expected. You are not affecting just your life, any longer, with your struggles. You are affecting twenty or more other lives, too.

Do you have any bad teacher experiences, like I? How have teachers succeeded in doing their job, for you? What is your opinion on burned-out teachers? Tell me everything below, I would thoroughly enjoy to hear from each and every one of you. Adios! 

In addition, I would like to add that I mean absolutely no disrespect to teachers, by this article. I have had exceedingly more good experiences, than bad ones, of teachers. I simply wish that when teachers reach their limits, they know when to step down. I know, financially it isn’t easy, but if you are getting to the point of really hurting kids’ self-esteem and self worth, that is unacceptable. That is wrong for an average joe to do something of that manner, but for a teacher? It is not right and I will not accept it, regardless of any excuses. 


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