It’s so interesting how two people can see the same situation completely differently.
I reached out to two former students recently. They both basically said the same thing: they’ve chosen to distance themselves from me. They have negative feelings about me from their time with me in high school (none of which was ever shared with me). I am shocked to hear all of this, because I always treated them with the upmost respect. I took them on journalism trips, spent countless hours working with them, wrote them letters of recommendation for college and have been a professional reference for them.
Reading their words, and then rereading them over and over, has made me take a look at myself. This isn’t all about me and my feelings. It’s about hearing what they’re saying and seeing how I can improve as a person and educator.
I am truly hurt and blindsided. I can appreciate what they shared with me, but I don’t see things the way they do. I guess I never will, nor will they see things from my perspective… I genuinely don’t think they want to.
It just hurts so much when you do your best for people, and you find out that the way you remember the relationship isn’t the way they do. I feel like I’ve been kicked in the gut. I don’t need fawning praise and validation from former students, but when you think they enjoyed being with you as much as you enjoyed being with them – and then find out that they truly didn’t, nor did they even like you very much – it hurts more than you realize.
I am going into my 19th year of teaching. I’ve easily taught over 4,000 students. I don’t remember all of them by name, but there are the ones who really stand out and I’ll carry with me always. All of the students I’ve taught or advised have made an impact on my life in one way or another. I hope that I’ve made an impact on them. I’m still friendly with a large majority of them, and have remained close with most. I’ve been in attendance at the weddings of two different students, which was the most touching thing as an educator.
Receiving this information has forced me to look at who I am as an educator. Do my students really appreciate the things I do for them? Do my students even want my help, advice, guidance at all? Do I put more energy into my students than what is actually requested by them? Is it fair to let two bad reviews derail my professional performance? Do I take a step back, just do what is required for my job, and call it a day? If these two feel this way, how many more feel this way?
At some level I feel silly being so upset by the comments, but they really do hurt. The relationships formed with publication students is different than those formed with other students. I’m closer with my yearbook kids (and newspaper kids from my last school), given the nature of the time spent working in such close proximity (pre-COVID). When you spend hours together, travel together, have meals together, get texts from them and listen to their teen angst, you feel like you’re a part of their life. Perhaps you feel like you’re a bigger part than they actually see you.
I won’t change who I am or how I engage with my students. I will set more defined parameters, so that I can protect my feelings. Teachers are people, too, and we hurt when hurtful things are said to us. I guess that’s the takeaway.