Yesterday my boss came in to talk to me about one of my students. Apparently this student had gone home and told his mother that I treated him unfairly, only punishing him and no one else. While that was not true, I knew exactly which student my boss was talking about even before she mentioned his name. It was Albert, one of my sometimes-difficult students in my most out-of-control class.
My gut reaction to this news was apathy mixed with resentment.
While I have an oddly strong affection for other difficult students, I often struggle with liking this kid. (Perhaps that was in fact what he had been sensing.) He can be extremely disrespectful, and all those disrespectful moments flashed through my mind after my boss left, putting a sour taste in my mouth.
But then something strange happened.
After lifting up a quick prayer for God to help my heart change, I started remembering how often this kid has cried in front of me. More than most of the other kids. Much more than you would expect of a supposed bully. I remembered something key I had forgotten about this kid: He is actually quite sensitive.
I began to see through his disrespectful attitude, to see it was a shield to prevent him from getting hurt. He was rejecting me before I could reject him.
As soon as he came into the classroom, I was taken completely aback by the amount of love and affection that filled my heart. I can’t even explain it, except to say that changing how I saw him changed everything. When I paid attention to what he was feeling instead of just my own stress and frustration, I realized I had no reason to resent him. The only thing he truly wants is my love and affection. And knowing that, it felt extremely easy to give.
These are the kind of lessons I love learning as a teacher: How to love, how to overcome barriers, the power of perception, and the hope that people can change, even me.