What I Almost Yelled In Chemistry Class

So this blog revolves around the discussion we had over an article last week and the question of whether we can tell kids they are wrong or not. it just so happened that the next day we covered a similar topic in my educ 350 class, and so i wrote a massive blog about it…and then my browser froze, so i copied it but alas! when i refreshed the page, i found i only copied the last paragraph and not the previous eight.
so i took a little mental break from the topic, and i’m back to talk about it now….can we tell kids when they are really, really @$%&ing wrong about something? and how do we do it without being totally discouraging?

my mentor teacher passed out an article called ‘100 repititions’. I would hyperlink but you have to pay to read the whole thing, so allow me to sloppily type out the most important parts… .

The article is about a teacher who says that we need to make sure not only to tell kids when they fail, but stay with them as they fail…and fail…and fail again. he talks about a kid who was all hyped up on drugs in his class and who was making a connection with the teacher, and trying, but still not doing great. the teacher who wrote the article went to the guidance counselor and asked what he should do…. you better enjoy this because i painstakingly transcripted all of this.

“So what should I do?” I asked, “Al’s starting to come to school. He’s starting to make a connection to me. You’re right that he isn’t actually doing anything to read better. Most likely he’ll fail the class. That can’t be good for him- to have another failiure– and this one coming from a teacher he seems to like.”
“You can’t stop him from failing.” Carlos said with a mixture of resignation and compassion. “It’s his right to fail. Al is going to have to fail many times to change his life. Your job is to help him have a useful repitition of failures. Many addicts have to have 100 repititions of getting fired from jobs, getting sick, losing boyfirends and girlfriends, and failing a class before they know what to do. Your job is to let Al know you’ll hang in through his failures.”

The article then goes on to talk about the idea of useful repitions; he says “our role as educators is to align with the healthy potential in each student and hang in while they gradually find shelter in our expectations and caring, in our structure and hope. its not a straight line. it may take 100 repitions.”

He talks about the importance of, while essentially failing a student or telling them that they are wrong, you must preserve relationships, be genuine in your emotions, help the student accurately understand the consequences, highlight every single smidge of growth, listen to the student, and let them feel their feelings.

He then says “I could’nt stop Al from using drugs. I couldn’t teach him ot be a better reader when he stumbled, hungover, into my class. What I provided was an emotionally safe place for him to land. I reminded him what I was willing to do for him, and I clearly told him what I could not do for him. Every time he did something good, I let him know I’d seen it. When he failed my course, I talked to him one on one.”

It was interesting to read this article and think about an F I got in a high level pre med chemistry class back when I was a dietetics major.
I wont say anything revealing about the professor, except that his name starts with a T and ends with erry Gray. I went to he who must not be named office hours every day, I studied hard, I had a tutor, I even decided to change majors back to english instead of dietetics towards the end of the semester and told him that, I sat in the front row of his OPTIONAL lecture class, I went to every single 5 pm- 10 pm pre exam study session and asked a ton of questions…and I still failed. The professor didn’t even attempt to show sympathy or empathy– he didn’t get why I didn’t get it, and he had no problem failing me without ever acknowledging how hard i was obviously trying or the fact that I went to his stupid office hours in his stupid little chemistry office every stupid day….

………and it would have changed everything if he had done what this teacher had done, and actually acknowledged that he had seen me trying. I honestly don’t still understand chemistry enough to merit a good grade, so I’m fine with failing because I’m fine with being told that I was wrong wrong wrong. But he didn’t, and I still feel miserable about how my lack of effort didn’t even amount to the smallest kudos. I hung in that stupid class every day, even that one day when I was tempted to yell “THIS TEACHER IS SOOOOO BORON!” and storm out.
I didn’t. That would’ve been awesome, but I didn’t. Instead, I chose to use my articulate and biting english skills to passive aggressively ream him (“for a man with little to no understanding of how to interact with anything but beakers, professor _______ took on a lofty role as a first time professor this year, with mixed results!) in the end of the year course eval….. šŸ™‚


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