Archive for students

The Danger of Being a Good Teacher

Posted in Ramblings, Sharing with tags , , , , , , , on 2015/02/25 by R L Burns

i just watched a show called “Obsession:  Dark Desires”.  The episode revolved around a special education teacher and one of her students.  She taught in a high school and one of her students, named Todd, became obsessed with her.  He did not want anyone else to teach him.  He refused to leave her classroom.  He yelled at her. He harassed her at home through phone calls and threats.  Ultimately he decided she needed to die because she was no longer his teacher.  In the end, he drove his truck through her house, nearly killing her daughter and her dog.  it was very scary.

Over the twenty-one years i have been a special educator, I have had many close relationships with students – some of them have spent time at my home or accompanied me to special events.  I grew up watching “Welcome Back, Kotter”  and decided then that if I was ever a teacher, I wanted my students to be that comfortable with me.  My students were always welcome to have my cell phone number in case they needed to reach me – and I have had two students who have called me when they ran away, enabling me to go pick them up and take them home.  I had one family that would call me and ask me if i could come over to get the daughter out of bed so she would come to school.  I’ve had a student slash my tires.  Another two or three have threatened to kill me.  Primarily, though, my students have loved me and felt comfortable with me.  And I have always been proud of that.  This show, however, made me wonder if perhaps these are not the best policies…

As a teacher, you walk a fine line.  Your students need to feel respected by you if you want respect to be returned.  But how close is too close?  I will really have to think about that now.

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About Ten Years Ago…

Posted in life story with tags , , , on 2010/09/18 by R L Burns

…I received the following letter from a student.  His name was Steven and he was a very sad young man when we met.  At the end of the year, the English teacher asked the students to write a “thank you” letter to someone in their life as a final writing assignment.  It could be to anyone – friend, family, whatever, the only caveat being that the students had to actually “know” the person to whom they would write (this was to avoid the inevitable desire to write to sports heroes, etc.).  I did not expect this letter at all and it made my day – still makes my day when I read it as I did today when I found it while moving things.  Attached to the letter was a drawing of a three dimensional capital A that had a halo jauntily placed on the right hand side.  And across the top Steven wrote:  You’re my Angel.

Finding this came at a good time as I am stuggling right now with my current position and some of the conditions that exist at my work – so much so that yesterday I told my assistant prinicipal that I quit.  I didn’t, of course, but I was very upset and angry.  Until I found this letter and was reminded why I do the job i do….it went right along with a dear friend reminding me that the kids need me, which I thought was a kind thing for that friend to say.

I also found it amusing that I saw this today as I was asked by that same  friend just last night if there was any angel in me…I replied that it had been said, but who knows?  So, my friend, yes, at least one person has seen a little bit of “angel” in me. 

Here’s the letter….(by the way, I have his permission, as long as I fixed the misspellings)…..
Dear Miss O.,
Miss O., I write to bid you farewell because the year is over.  I have enjoyed having you and Mrs. G. as my teachers, even though we pick at each other a lot.  I appreciate you standing by me during my trials and tribulations.  You have been there for me the whole year.  I have enjoyed your sleepy sarcastic presence and you always seem to give me that look that makes me feel better the whole day.  Miss O., I love you and I will miss you very much, but you will always be the most loving teacher I have ever had.
Love,
Steven
That’s better than a paycheck, I say.

Something Wonderful…really

Posted in life story, Sharing with tags , , on 2010/06/07 by R L Burns

Tonight I had one of my students over to help her work on her poetry project.  I call her Princess.  She is the same student I went to watch in a ballroom dancing showcase.  She is quite pretty in a Scarlett Johannsen kind of way:  red hair, full lips, beautiful green eyes, pale skin.  When she is older the boys will absolutely drop at her feet – I am sure of that.  Sadly, she hasn’t a great deal of confidence in herself and suffers from anxiety – particularly social anxiety on a fairly regualar basis. 

Anyway, earlier this year a young man on our team made an inappropriate sexual gesture towards her and no one seemed too inclined to do anything about it. Well, we all know my motto is:  Don’t Fuck With My Kids.  So, I had it out with two Assistant Principals and the Head of Guidance (which didn’t make me very popular for a while), but we got the situation resolved.  The young man was moved to another team so Princess wouldn’t have to be in any classes or lunch with him.  Interestingly enough, within three weeks he had done the same thing to another girl on his new team and was expelled for the rest of the year — well, he was sent to the alternative school we have here.  Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say.

 Sorry, as usual I begin to ramble.  Back to the wonderful thing of tonight…

Princess was here at my house – I brought her home from school with me.  Her dad planned to pick her up around 8:30 p.m.  We got some KFC (her choice) and came home, ate, and got to work.  It was the first time she had been here.  She liked my house and all my “stuff”. 

Somehow, while we were here in the office by the computer, she picked up a piece of paper on which I had printed out one of my posts from here on AN.  Unfortunately it was not a happy piece (are there any?).  She was startled to think that I would be so unhappy as to want to kill myself.  We discussed it a little – not too much detail – and I told her I didn’t want to die, really, I just couldn’t handle the pain.  BUT, I pointed out, here I still am, so don’t worry about it.  Princess seemed relieved.

About half an hour later, as she sat next to me writing the name of the boy she likes over and over and over in gold marker while I was printing her work, she said, without looking at me, “I’m really glad you didn’t kill yourself.”

Startled, I replied, “Me, too, Princess.”  I kept working on the computer but saw, in the corner of my eye, her looking up at me, trying to hide her eyes behind her beautiful red bangs.

“No, I mean it.  Really.”

“I believe you, sweetie.”

“I mean, if you had done it, I wouldn’t be the same person I am today.”  Now she was staring at me.

I stopped typing and looked at her.  “That’s kind of you to say, but I really can’t imagine that I have had that much…to do with…well, I just don’t think that’s really true.  You are a wonderful, beautiful girl and would have been that with or without me.”  I looked away.

“You don’t understand.”  She sighed and returned to scribbling Tyler’s name over and over.  “If you had jumped off that balcony, I wouldn’t be the same.  Mrs. George {my partner} would have been sad.  You wouldn’t be here helping me now.  I’d be sad.  Pinkie would be different.  Nicole would be different.  George would be different.  Alex would be sad.  You just don’t understand what a different world it would be without you.  It would be sad and bleak and empty.”

I just stared at her.  And cried.  Not great sobs or anything, but I cried.  I hugged her and whispered, “Thank you, Princess.  That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me in my whole life.”

She smiled at me.  “Well, it’s true.”

As we were finishing her poetry project, I saw her dedication:  This book of poems is dedicated to my Aunt Robin who has helped me more than she knows.  Aunt Robin.  That’s what she calls me.

I cried again.

For most of my life, It’s a Wonderful Life has been my favorite movie of all time.  I love it when George realizes how bad, how different Bedford Falls would have been without him.  How important he was, directly or indirectly, to so many people.  Never in my life did I expect to be told that I was anything like George. 

I am so very proud.

“Strictly Ballroom” Quote

Posted in Sharing with tags , , , , on 2010/04/19 by R L Burns

I went to watch one of my students perform in a ballroom dancing showcase  Saturday night.  She looked lovely and was surprisingly light on her feet.  It pleased me to no end that she invited me, that it meant so much to her when I actually showed up.  I will post a picture of her in my photos section in the next few days.  I took a few and made several videos…The point is that when I got home, I pulled out a movie I had really and truly enjoyed called “Strictly Ballroom”.  I’m not a huge dance fan but I enjoyed the story and the whole underdog thing, as well as the twisted Australian humor.  There was one line in that movie that resonated deeply within me, and I used it many times as a signature line…I hadn’t thought of it recently – until Saturday night – and I decided it was a good thought to share.  So, here it is…

A LIFE LIVED IN FEAR IS A LIFE HALF-LIVED.

That’s all.  I’m out.