The Power of a Teacher's Pen #sol15 Day 20

Write, Share, Give
Today has been a reminder about the power of words and the necessity to choose them carefully. On a student's paper, a word from me was written that hurt more than it helped, that caused upset, frustration, and sadness for a parent.  I didn't mean that at all. I've worked to build confidence and show encouragement all year, but one quick move of my pen changed the positive feelings and caused hurt.  

As teachers, we make so many decisions each day, each moment.  We try to honor students, challenge them, comfort them, and also push them to do what we know they could do.  Always their best interest is at heart.  Still, to know that I caused pain by a word on the page is so regrettable to me, so opposite from my intentions.  

Amends will be made.  I will speak to the parent and explain and apologize.  I will never, ever write anything on a student's paper anymore that could be interpreted as deflating or mean.  It was a humbling day, a reminder of the heaviness that every word I say and write holds when it comes to children and their efforts to learn.  

I feel embarrassed and sad about the incident.  Informed about it at lunch, the rest of my day was difficult as it weighed on my mind.  I was close to tears until the end of the day when I related the story to caring colleagues and I cried.  My colleagues reminded me what we would say to a child who made a mistake: We would forgive easily, we would say you will do better next time and it's okay because we all do make mistakes.  I hate to make mistakes and most especially hate to make ones that cause others to feel hurt. 

So, all in all, not my best day in the classroom. A lesson learned.  A reminder that my words and actions have immediate consequences and I need to always be thoughtful.  I spent the rest of the day trying to put more positive words into the world to make up for the one that hurt.  I emailed my colleague to thank her for listening to me and making me feel better that afternoon.  I publicly thanked my son's preschool teacher for being so kind and wonderful. I want my words to encourage and spread joy. I want to take back the one that caused pain but words don't work that way. I've always believed, "When you know better, you do better." I know better now.  I'll do better. 

Comments

  1. Wow, we've all been there. Well, I can at least say I've been there. We all make mistakes. We all want to take back a word or phrase. I have one that easily comes to mind as I read this. As you say in the end, "When you know better, you do better." You'll do better. Reflection is a powerful tool for every teacher and it looks like you're using that tool now. Be as gentle with yourself as you are with your students. Model that gentleness to them so they can see how to be gentle with themselves when they make mistakes. Thank you for sharing. I know that must have been difficult.

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  2. Indeed, we have all been there. Your post is a reminder to us all that our words matter (as Peter Johnston reminds us). I'd suggest reading his Choice Words for your own inspiration if you have not already done so. I reread some favorite pages whenever I feel the need for inspiration. Most importantly, we all make comments, verbally and on papers, that we wish we could take back. Thank you for the reminder.

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  3. We have ALL been there!! I admire your bravery for sharing this post and I adore your reflection!! We all make mistakes...everyday. It is those who look at themselves and say, "Yup. I messed up, but I want to do better!" Those are the teachers I want to work with!! I'm so glad your colleague was able to offer comfort! I LOVE this post and I'm so happy you shared it. It makes me feel less alone. I know others struggle like me and want to be better. You've helped me a lot today!! Know that!!!

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  4. What an authentic, moving slice you've shared! There are so many ways that we can choose to respond to our mistakes and your choice is inspiring. Acknowledging, apologizing, reflecting and improving--all power moves! I admire you for sharing this piece and your thoughtful reflection will be in my mind today as I share words in my classroom and school. Thank you so much for sharing!

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  5. I had a similar experience this week. It was crazy hair day. The class had been told that they couldn't wear hats to go with their crazy hair day. This particular student came in late. I was working with a student and she came over to give me her tardy slip. I took it and saw that she was wearing a hat and told her that she could't wear her hat. I went back to working with the other student, I got a call from the nurse that she was in her office and was going home because she was so upset about not wearing her hat. I felt awful. I had no idea that my words would have ruined her day.

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  6. Thank you for being so open. We have all been there. I have. As I teach English learners, I have to often carefully choose my words in order for my students to understand them. Still, we deal with many misunderstandings because of language problems. I am so glad that you have a colleague who understands and is willing to listen.

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  7. We expect so much of ourselves as teachers, but the truth is, we have our foibles as any other person. I hope that the outcome of your discussion with the parent and student is forgiving and fruitful and moves your relationship forward.

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  8. "I spent the rest of the day trying to put more positive words into the world to make up for the one that hurt." This is my favorite line. This is such an honest post. I applaud your strength for recognizing your mistake and learning from it. In doing so, you made the world better for others.

    Jennifer

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  9. "I spent the rest of the day trying to put more positive words into the world to make up for the one that hurt." This is my favorite line. This is such an honest post. I applaud your strength for recognizing your mistake and learning from it. In doing so, you made the world better for others.

    Jennifer

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  10. Kathleen, As usual you spoke from your heart. I share the feelings of everyone above but I do wish to point out that as teachers we are more exposed than your average worker or citizen when it comes to words (except maybe for politicians). I had an incident which caused me to lose my favorite reading club because I chose my words poorly, the parent was not at all forgiving and the Principal did not stand up for me even though the kid was behaving like a bully to everyone in the club. So much for zero tolerance for bullying...it only applies to teachers! I am sure you handled it the best way you could; hopefully the parent will graciously accept your apology; and you will be able to sleep tonight!
    https://barbarasut.wordpress.com/2015/03/20/a-kooky-ipad-class/

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