Everyone Has Something
I was terrified. I had a half-hour to think about the question, with fifteen minutes to answer. I’d face two principals and a speech teacher in an otherwise empty classroom. What I said would decide if I’d be licensed as a New York City teacher. My hands were damp, my heart pounding. I wanted to be a teacher; it was what I’d always wanted.
So the question: Joseph is always in trouble. But recently, he’s become friends with John, a fine student. Both have benefited from the relationship, but John’s mother is upset. She wants the friendship discouraged; she wants them separated. What should the teacher do?
I wrote furiously, my head bent over the paper. What to say? What possible answer? Who knows what I wrote? Who knows what I said all those years ago?
Whatever I did say hardly impressed those principals. I could see it in their faces. It was a miracle I passed the exam. Barely.
I thought about that question through my teaching career and think about it now. I still don’t know what the teacher might have done. The only answer I was ever able to come up with was to make that child who was always in trouble look good. As simple as that. How many times I’ve thought of my mother saying that everyone has something.
So many kids I taught would never be great readers, would never want to read. Many of the kids never knew how to make friends. But still they had something. Could I say that maybe finding that something is the most important thing a teacher can do? Sometimes you have to dig deep. Sometimes that something has to be coaxed, teased out, so that others can see it. And maybe finding that something can change not only a child’s life, but the perception of others in dealing with that child.
What do you think?