(Here’s a picture of me not-so-metaphorically experiencing hand-to-the-forehead exasperation)
The older I get, the more convinced I am that it’s more likely that I’m going to be wrong than right. As a kid, the world seems so black and white, and going through grade school doesn’t really help things–your teacher gives you a gold star for “right” answers, and you get made fun of by your peers for “wrong” answers.
But as an adult, the world seems to smash itself into a million grey pieces, and you’re left wondering how to put it all back together so it makes some sort of sense.
You might be asking yourself what has brought on this sudden philosophical awakening.
Well, I’ll tell you.
You might remember (if you’ve been following for awhile), when a parent tried to get me fired a few months back. When that happened, I went through such a range of emotions–embarrassment, guilt, anger, depression, worthlessness, apathy.
Then I wrote the parent an email back where I apologized about everything profusely and explained that as a first-year teacher, I often am just trying to figure things out myself, much less be able to teach everything perfectly to the students. When I sent off the email, I felt like a great weight had been lifted off my shoulders–I had done everything I could to resolve the situation, and then I tried my best to move on.
But then I went days, weeks, months–and the parent never replied back (even though she had replied to numerous other emails that were written before the incident).
Then I started going through some uglier feelings—some blame-oriented and judgmental feelings.
How could she not have the decency to write me back?
Have I somehow upset her again? How ridiculous!
How can her student treat me with so much respect and amiability when his mother treats people like this?!
I was not in the happiest place, even though logically, I considered the ordeal to be over with and that all had been forgiven.
Of course, this thinking was inherently flawed because when you’ve REALLY forgiven somebody, you don’t feel the need to tell everybody about how they wronged you (which, unfortunately, was what I kind of had done). So obviously I wasn’t over it.
And then with parent/teacher conferences coming up this week, I was horrified to think how this parent might actually have the guts to show her face to me, and I was prepping myself for an awkward encounter at best, or another full-blown Cold War at worst.
And then, about halfway through my parent-teacher conferences, I saw her:
I put on my most pleasant-looking smile and invited her to sit down. I figured I’d just dive right into how her son was doing and maybe we could pretend like the whole thing never happened.
But then, before I could say anything, I hear something like this:
“Before anything, I want to apologize profusely for what happened after last time. I have since sworn off emailing since it caused so much trouble, and I feel terrible for how I must have made you feel. Over the past couple months, I feel like I’ve wanted to die a million deaths as I’ve realized what an impact you’ve made on my son. He talks about you more than any other teacher–not just about everything that he’s learning in your class, but the example you show outside of your curriculum too. As he’s told me more and more about what he does each day in your class, I realize that you are doing the exact kind of teaching that I encourage most, and that you are a truly extraordinary teacher. I wanted to thank you for all the progress I’ve seen in him this year, since it seems I can attribute much of it to you.”
I at least had the presence of mind to keep my mouth closed, even though I was shocked and almost speechless. THIS was the woman I’d been feeling this negativity and anxiety over for so long?
To say the least, I felt incredibly humbled, and I found myself asking her pardon for my offenses against her (although she couldn’t possibly have known the kinds of bitter feelings I had been feeling and probably thought I was just referring to the initial parent/teacher conference that set off the whole thing).
So even though I’m sure I’ll have to learn this particular lesson over and over and over again, here’s my thought for today:
I must never attribute such evil feelings to someone else while my own towards them are hardly exemplary.
End of story.
What has life taught you lately?