Thursday, December 11, 2008


It's not easy being a hard teacher* and recently I've been feeling worn down.

This morning my lunch buddy, who informally serves as my mentor teacher, reassured me that I am doing a good job. "No matter what you see in the classroom now, no matter how often they blow up at you, how much they hate you, they're learning something. They'll appreciate it eventually. The students who give you the hardest time now will be the most grateful later."

I've heard the platitudes before. I want to believe them. But sometimes I wonder how much this is just what we tell ourselves to make it through the day.

And then, as I was walking out the hall to the bus circle after school, D sauntered down the hall. I didn't notice him until he called, "Miss Cannon."

He gave me hell last year. Starting with the testing on day one. Only somehow I never passed. (And I'm not sure he did either.) I was relieved when he was absent and dreaded his class on mornings when I saw him at school. 

So it was strange to greet him in the hallway. He's home for break. Hanging out on the rez. Somehow, despite missing most of second semester last year, he is the student who is making it at college. I asked how his classes were. What's your favorite? 


He's in Intermediate Algebra. They started this year with material he learned in my class, so that helped him. He wanted to apologize for his behavior. He thanked me for what I did. 

He blew my mind.

I asked if he'd write a letter to students about college. Or come in and talk to a class. He said that he's telling his friends. He think word will get around. I didn't push more. 

The rest of the conversation was a bit awkward for both of us. Our relationship is fraught with tension, being friendly was almost unsettling.

As I walked away, I realized the platitudes are rooted in truth. And for once, it came years sooner than I expected.

* Expecting students to learn. Consistently holding them to a standard. 


May said...

your post made me smile. you retell it wonderfully and i know how much it means to you to see the fruits of your labor. i think it must've been important (and took a lot) for him to seek you out and tell you.

Sarah Cannon said...

Thanks May.

I'm still amazed. He saw me in the hall. I hadn't yet placed him in the "not a current student" category yet. I cannot imagine what it took for him to approach me. To recognize your shortcomings and to acknowledge those who you've hurt. That requires a courage rarely modeled.

Kate said...

For a 19 year old to put up with a little awkwardness to make amends....Wow he must have been baaaaaaad.


What a nice story. Thank you for sharing it.