What I Wish My Teachers Knew

Writing assignments always begin with "I can't do it!" in our house; today was no different. Often, I solve this by buckling down and telling the kids to just sit down and start. Not surprisingly, however, this approach never works, and the sooner I realize it, the better for our school day.

There were plenty of times in school, especially as I got older, when it was evident that the teachers whose authority I was under didn't quite get me. It is easy for me to forget that when I'm working with my own children. They are not perfect little robots. They have unusual limits and strengths I would never have expected. Sometimes, they lose their marbles because they don't know they can do what I've asked them to do. Sometimes, they actually can't do it. Sometimes, they're (probably) just being lazy, but I've got to realize that I can't usually tell which response is which.

Push them but don't be too slow with rescue. This just takes time to learn how much help to give and how far away to stand. It's different per child per subject per situation. There's no 5 steps I can put here.


Throughout school, the requirement to interact organically in class discussions was always overwhelming to me. It's not entirely shyness, as is often assumed; it's the way I think. The anxiety was always from not being able to meet a requirement and not from the prospect of speaking per se. Usually, I could do well enough in other parts of the class, writing for instance, to overcome the deficits in class participation, but still, I hated it.

At some point in college, one of my most beloved English professors suggested a way of coping to me that in a small way changed everything. He told me that I had to think about what I would say before class -- to have something specific I could say when that particular topic came up. As many, if not most, introverts, I don't mind speaking publicly; it is the thinking on the spot that I can't stand. Being able to go off of a particular script was a great help.

It takes time to learn how much help to give and how far away to stand. It's different per child per subject per situation. There's no 5 steps I can put here.

I was never able to just talk in class. I have since done considerably better -- in Bible study groups for instance, but it has taken many years. As a young student, I was by no means able to do as I was asked. I couldn't grit my teeth and just do it. I couldn't be shamed into jumping in to the class discussions. I couldn't be scared into it. I couldn't be commanded or convinced into complying. I just couldn't do it, and really, that was ok. I didn't know it, though, until someone I trusted said so.


Today, Chris had a writing assignment in Shurley English. Writing assignments are usually begun with "I can't do it!" in our house; today was no different. It's hard for me to understand why this is since writing has always come relatively easily to me. Often I begin by buckling down and telling him to just sit down and start. This approach never works, and the sooner I realize it, the better for the school day.

Now, I don't want to just give in to his I can't do its right away. Oftentimes, he can do it or at least he may be able to do it if he took the risk of trying. In math I need to be more hands-off with him to thrive. Reading, too, has always worked best when he's able to do his own thing, even with difficult texts. Writing is different. Bible is different too, but with that I'm usually so gun-ho for him to grasp the wonder of God that I zip way too far over to the helping side, ending up with a lecture no one hears.

We've written several paragraphs and essays together, but it should be ok for him to still need my help with compositions. And it is. After he flailed for a few minutes, maybe 20, we worked together on honing in on a topic. Each fifth lesson has one or two writing assignments with choices for topics, but after several tough days, I realized Chris just doesn't like the given topics. Sometimes, they're uninteresting or unrelated to his life experiences, and sometimes they're too broad. Of today's offerings the only one close to being a possibility was automobiles I like. We narrowed this to reasons I like our car and then brainstormed points on Baiboard.

He was able to go from there with minimal help the rest of the way. And when he did need help, he didn't flip out and end up getting on everyone's nerves like he does; he just asked me, with words. It was great, and the final product was excellent.


Sometimes, they lose their marbles because they don't know they can do what I've asked them to do. Sometimes, they actually can't do it. Sometimes, they are being lazy, but I've got to realize that I can't usually tell which response is which.

What's the moral of this story?

I'm on an upswing, so this is one of my more-rambly posts.

I don't always have a point. This blog, writing, is part of my processing; it's part of my recovery work -- though I do hate that word, recovery. So, I develop a point as I write.