Blogging A-Z: M is for miserable. I have taught a bunch of miserable kids in the past few days. Their misery stems from the mismatch between their abilities and the regular classroom expectations, between their inabilities and their own high expectations. One student sat across from me, speechless as tears formed in her eyes. She was confronting a cascade of failure at school. Not only is she failing in her weakest area, she is now failing across the board, despite having tremendous abilities in most academic areas. Before helping her achieve some success in our session, I said my heart ached for her. And she just looked at me. Another student reluctantly engaged in our conversation about his misbehavior at school. He said that he rips up his math classwork but isn’t crawling under the table anymore. He wants to become invisible but in his frustration, he has everyone’s attention.
I feel great anguish as I consider these and many other students who have fallen far behind their peers. Only 8, 9, and 10 years old, they have formed strong, negative images of themselves. They “officially” label themselves stupid. Their social relationships are a wreck. Classroom teachers are urging them to work harder, try harder, keep up, do their best, meet the challenges, manage their emotions. Their parents are scolded for not pushing these kids harder, for wanting too many modifications, for being a pain in the neck. Miserable.
Could these kids do better? Could they exert more self control? It would be easy to say “yes.” But that is a simplistic answer which doesn’t take into account the abrading and degrading they have endured for most of their school lives. Are they destined for a lifetime of misery at school? I don’t think all of them are. Nevertheless, I am staying here for now, in the miserable, because I can’t take their suffering lightly.