Monday, October 10, 2011

Success, Failure and Success

Friday was a rough day at work. I had planned what I thought was a fun and informative lesson for my morning classes, but I was incorrect. My first class is very verbal and it can be difficult to keep them focused at times. On Friday they were particularly loud and obnoxious. Some of the kids were loudly complaining that class was boring, that Spanish was hard and then homework was evil. A lot of them had the same teacher last year who few of them seemed to like. She seems like a great teacher to me, but they all complain about her. One of the kids said to her friend, “This class is worse than [insert teacher’s name]’s class.” For some reason that comment really hurt. Usually I’m rubber and the kids are glue and whatever they say bounces off of me and sticks to them. But this comment wasn’t said to me, it was said to another student and I just happened to hear it with my teacher ears. I was the glue.

My second class is incredibly well behaved and they just seemed bored out of their minds. I thought to myself, maybe I am boring. When that class ended I collapsed into my comfy teacher chair trying to figure out what had gone wrong and why my classes had sucked so much. I packed up my bag and headed off to my next school.

I’m very lucky in that I don’t have two bad lessons in one day. If I have a bad morning I inevitably have a great afternoon and vice versa. I headed off to school knowing that the afternoon was going to rock. And it did. We’ve been singing this really silly song called "Billy la bufanda" about a scarf named Billy. You can listen to it by clicking here

. In the song Billy the scarf has all kinds of adventures and then the singer says that Billy really didn’t do those things because he’s just a scarf. It’s a pretty silly song, but the kids love it and want to sing it every day.

On Wednesday I was having problems with a kid who I’ll call Jared. Jared is a good kid, but he just has too much energy and annoys everyone around him. I called his mom to talk to her about some issues I was having with Jared and she said, “This is really surprising because he’s never had any problems before. No teacher has ever complained about Jared. I would like to come in and talk to you.” I hadn’t expected that to happen and unwilling set up a time for the first parent teacher conference I’d ever had. I was really worried because I now had to deal with a parent who thought her imperfect child was indeed perfect. I followed the sage advice of my parents and told the vice principal that I’d be meeting with Jared’s mom just in case the meeting went poorly and the mom complained about me. I then emailed all of his other teachers to see if they were having similar issues and they were. I showed up to the meeting with both barrels loaded and ready to support my claims with what the other teachers had said. It ended up being the most pleasant conversation I could have imagined. Jared and his mom were both there and we discussed what Jared needed to do differently and then quickly changed the subject to talking about how much we love traveling through Spain. It was awesome and I feel like Jared and I have a better relationship and that his mom trusts me.

A bunch of the teachers from one of my schools went to happy hour at Azteca on Friday. I hadn’t planned on going because I don’t drink, but the promise of inexpensive chips and guacamole got the better of me. While I was there the teacher who has Jared the period after me came up to me and said, “I don’t know what you and Jared’s mom talked about, but he was angel today.” It was true, he was. Then the choir teacher approached me and said, “I’ve gotta tell you something, Ben. Every Friday I let the kids pick a song to sing and then we assign parts and a harmony and just have fun with it. I have a bunch of kids from your class and they all wanted to sing “Billy la bufanda” so we sang it for the whole period and the kids loved it.” I said, “Everyone sang in Spanish?” and she said, “Yes, and even the kids that don’t know any Spanish loved it.”

I didn’t have a margarita Azteca on Friday, but I did get slightly tipsy from a healthy sense of accomplishment. I had started the day feeling like a boring failure, but I ended it learning that I had helped a student focus in school and that my kids loved what we were doing in class so much that they shared it with their friends. I wish that all of my efforts and hard work and preparation resulted in educational joy, but they don’t. And that’s how life is, too. We try and try and sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail. But not every failure is the result of lack of effort (although plenty are), but that doesn’t mean that we stop trying because we’re bound to end up at Azteca during happy hour only to learn that we changed the world in a very small way. I like my job, I like where I’m living and I like my new ward. I feel very happy and content. I’m so lucky to be where I am doing what I’m doing.


Stacie said...

Holy moly. Is it weird that I kind of have a crush on Billy la Bufanda?

Ben said...

It's true, R-head, he is very attractive, but sadly he's also fictional. Not weird at all!

Allison said...

What an awesome post. Thanks. I really needed something like that, because the last couple of days with my class have been particularly difficult, and I'm feeling a little desperate. That was a great pick-me-up. Also, I'm sure that if you were my jr. high school teacher I would have had a crush on you. (But my teachers were all middle-aged women plus one middle-aged gay man, so I don't have much to compare it to.)

Marcindra LaPriel said...

This made me SO happy for you! A compliment can warm many cold days, and you got a whole slew of compliments! Here's a non-alcholic cheers to you rocking the Spanish teaching world.