Don’t let the title fool you. I do care. I care a great deal. I just hide it from my students at times.
I refer to the attitude of a student who doesn’t make the grades necessary to pass the class, and then has the gall to show up with a laissez-faire attitude. It’s not “Laissez faire les bon temps rouler” time when you come to my class. It just isn’t. Around this time of year, standardized testing is a major focus for most people involved in education. That small percentage who don’t really care occupy over ninety percent of my tutorial time. “We’ve got to find something to get little Jimmy Badboy* interested in school.” Jimmy Badboy doesn’t give school work two seconds of his time once he leaves the building, so why do I care? I care because I value my reputation and my low failure rate. I take failures personally. I want to ask Jimmy Badboy when it became acceptable to fail. I want to shake his disinterested, narcissistic parents and dash their iPhones to the ground. Maybe that will get their attention. I want to scream, “How DARE you bring anything less than your best into my classroom?” Taylor Mali said that in his book What Teachers Make. It was worth reading and savoring. I may have to check it out from the local library again and ponder it over the summer break, but we’ll see.
I don’t sleep as long as I do during summer and longish school vacation times. I wake up at 3:30 A.M. sometimes thinking about a new idea or technique to handle a Jimmy Badboy. I want to take him home and be his mother because I just know I could change him for the better. I just know that with my love and discipline (routine!) that he would thrive. He would become intrinsically motivated and give up the dream of shifting along and existing. I’ve put some Jimmy Badboys into my car and drove them home without a complaint. They would stop by and ask if they could have a ride. The answer was always yes. While one of my Badboys was in the backseat, he took exception with another driver and flipped him off. I saw this in the rearview mirror and was horrified. “Don’t ever do that!” He grinned at me, and I shook my head. I actually took him to church and then out to lunch afterwards. He was quite well-behaved because he knew I cared about him and that I believed in him. I see my Jimmy Badboys sitting in the office waiting to see the principal, and my shoulders sag in sadness. I do care, and anyone who thinks otherwise needs to look at the world through my sleep-deprived, sandy-feeling eyes and get a grip on reality. I care, and this is why I get up each and every morning to go to school to be with my kids. I am tough as nails on the outside only because I tend to be a “softie” on the inside. Tell anyone, and I will deny it to my dying day. *Note that Jimmy Badboy is a compilation of various individuals I have met in my educational career and is not reflective of any single person, living or dead. Any similarity is coincidental. I had to put a picture of a punk rock bulldog on to give my topic a little humor. More anon.