An Apology from a Teacher Who, It Turns Out, Doesn’t Know Everything

Mr. Foteah:

Today, when you were supposed to be reading your book, and while I was meeting with another student, I saw you writing something furiously. You are one of the few students in the class who regularly and dutifully records your thoughts on post-its, and, when I excused myself from my conference to come see what you were doing, I expected to see just that. However, when I asked you what you were doing, you told me about your book. I listened, but continued to glance at what you were trying to hide under your arm. When I saw it, I was less than happy. You were doing last night’s homework, and I was livid.
I did not react as I should have. Taking your paper and crumpling it was inappropriate. Had I thought for a moment, instead of reacting instantly, I would have remembered that you are one of the most diligent, hard-working students in the class. I would have realized something was amiss.
I should have asked you why you didn’t do your homework, rather than make rash assumptions. But I didn’t. Instead, I tossed your paper in the trash and returned to the other student, without a word to you or even a glance back, thinking that you’d receive the message of disappointment and disdain I sought to deliver. (Maybe I didn’t want to see the horror that had surely set upon your face).
When I finished with the other student, I called you over to my desk and told you to sit. Again, I seethed, and let my emotions get the best of me. I continued to lecture you and said I was upset with two things: you didn’t do your homework, and you lied to me.

One thought on “An Apology from a Teacher Who, It Turns Out, Doesn’t Know Everything”

  1. This is a well-written piece, well worth reading. I have reacted in the moment with students (and my own children) and then kicked myself as I thought about who it was, what they did, and why on earth I might have incorrectly assigned them the intentions I did. I have also had teachers who reacted this way with me – and one of the most memorable teachers I had (in the worst possible way) did it to me frequently. All I wanted was to please, and there was no pleasing this teacher, for me; she did not understand me in the least, or see what I was really doing 95% of the time, or even how hard I was trying.
    Seeing something like this article from my own teacher, whom I had had a negative experience with, would have made all the difference to me.

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