Mathy McMatherson’s most recent post reminded me of a student I hadn’t thought of in a while.
This student made one of my classes a bit of hell for me. And using the words ‘a bit’ is a massive understatement. To the point that I would feel sick to my stomach before the class would start from nerves. I didn’t know how to work with her most days. She swore at me, other students, life. Frequently late and disruptive when she did show. Some days would be all rainbows and sunshine–focus, niceness, working on assignments and with others. But always that lightning storm right in the corner of my eye remained and as the tallest thing in the room my nerves never went away that class.
I don’t deal well with highly emotional situations and I avoid drama as much as possible. If you’re the type of person that thinks yelling arguments are an acceptable for of communication, we’re probably not going to get along. But this was my student. I couldn’t avoid her and I couldn’t understand the choices she was making. I could barely see past my own heart palpitations when she would walk in and my nerves over what could happen the next 50 minutes.
If I am better now at dealing with highly-emotional situations in the classroom, then this student is a big reason for it. Teaching kinda forces you into dealing with others yelling at you and taking out their anger on you and that is exactly what she was doing. It wasn’t me. It wasn’t her classmates. Over time I learned more about her. About what she was dealing with at home. About the stress in her life. Was she responding to the stress well? No. Of course not. She was a kid. One that had had a lot of adults bail on her.
I wouldn’t let myself be one of them.
My nerves never quite settled over the course of the semester, but they got better. When the school year ended and that class finished I exhaled fully for the first time in a long while. I suspect my blood pressure also dropped back to normal levels.
The next year I would see her in the halls and she would stop by my classroom in the mornings or after school once in a while. She would say hi and be all smiles. Sometimes she’d ask a math question and get homework help. I was left completely confused the first few times. In one semester she did more to push me toward being the teachers I want to be than any other student in the past. At the time I didn’t see it being too busy just trying to not break down in reaction to her rage at the world.
I miss her. I hope she’s doing well.