Someone recently told me that they had heard of a substitute teacher who had an awful class. Reportedly, this was the worst class in this teacher’s long career. This same group of students just left my classroom and I thanked each one for being awesome.

It’s difficult to believe that there are “bad kids.” Some of them present formidable discipline issues. The kindergartener who hit me (and other teachers) had serious problems with the school setting and at home. But calling him bad, to me, is a contradiction. If our responsibility it to educate and inform, we transform unacceptable behavior into that which is customary and appropriate.

And so, why was this such a horrible experience? Maybe this educator has exhausted her patience. Maybe the kids were having a difficult day due to weather, extracurricular activities or on the playground. Their classroom teacher is a dedicated, empathetic professional. Ultimately, I guess I’ll never know.

What I do know is that children have an innate talent to determine the character of their educators, permanent or temporary. While I won’t suggest that my character is superior in any way, I do believe that our methodologies must all be unique.

Yes, I’ve had difficult classes in all grades. As recently as last week, I had a stubborn, hostile student who wouldn’t listen to any of my suggestions. But he later reminded me that I was the teacher he missed most and the one he hugged several times as the class began. A colleague suggested to me that this was a student who was behaving out of routine rather than individual stimuli. By the end of the day, he was compliant, affectionate and happy.

It doesn’t work for me to take full responsibility for negative behavior. Too many causes may contribute to attitude and actions. But I am responsible for being careful about my reactions. If my class believed that I found them to be the worst, they would somehow manage to live down to my expectations. Shalom.



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