Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Co-blogger Ryan is beating himself up a bit over a poem.
Looking back, I was sharp with him. I bullied him. I told him his work was garbage, and I meant it.

But was I wrong?

At what point do you set aside patience and make the student responsible for their own work? When they fail in this responsibility in a spectacular way, how many opportunities to succeed are they owed before you let them own their failure? Can “being nice” get in the way of letting the kid solve his own problems?
I offer a passage from James Berry's "Getting Nowhere" in response.

Next week I'll leave school.
Next week, nil, fulltime--
me--for good!

Yonks now
nobody bothered.
No teacher scrawled, "work harder."
Or, "Use your potential."

They'd twigged on.
Their words were whispers
to a rock.

The speaker of Berry's poem is partly ambivalent about where the blame lies. "I couldn't win them. / They couldn't win me," he remarks, but the implication is clear: giving up was the only guaranteed failure, on either side.

I'd imagine that Ryan is less of a tyrant than he imagines. He cares, deeply, and even Ryan's most recalcitrant student knows that better than he knows his sums.

1 comment:

"Ms. Cornelius" said...

I agree with you.