Sitting here trying to think of how to say what I want to say isn’t easy. After all, my initial audience is people who matter quite a bit to me in my daily life: my students. See, I’m a high school teacher, and I had the bright idea of assigning my students the task of writing one of these essays, and being one of those teachers who thinks that no student should have to do something in my class that I wouldn’t do myself, I decided that I, too, should write an essay. Sure, no problem. I like writing. I like school. I like sharing my
ideas. But I have a terrible fear of disappointing my audience.
It’s a silly fear. It’s a paradoxical fear. If I happen to have the power to disappoint
someone, I must have some sort of influence, which is the very thing we teachers hope for.
We’ve all disappointed someone we care about; haven’t we all disappointed ourselves?
I remember coming home from elementary school one day and sheepishly showing my mom the pink slip, signed by the principal, that gave a point-by-point account of the various designs and words – the “vandalism” – I had etched into the hallway carpet. My mom read the report, signed it, and handed it back to me, saying only, “I’m very disappointed in you.” So I tried to do better the next day. Over time, when that didn’t work, I tried different ways to avoid the guilt of being a disappointment. Sometimes I resorted to turning my back on people whom
I cared about, to dealing with guilt in ways that weren’t good for me, or to stopping trying
altogether. Still, I’ve never failed to learn from my mistakes, and I believe in trying to
do better – trying to be better – every day.
I hope my students will try, too, despite the possibility of disappointment. I hope they
will learn that the people who care for them are doing the best they can with what they
have, as we’ve all been disappointed by someone we care about. For me, it was learning that dad wasn’t really a super-hero, that mom was actually the one who signed Santa’s name to the Christmas presents, that my favorite teacher didn’t remember my name just a few years later, or that I was the one who stole my best friend’s boyfriend. I realize now we’re all just trying to figure things out. And I’m trying too. I won’t make a positive difference to every kid. Some kids will still write “Spradling sucks” on their desks, and some kids will try their best to forget me when they’re out of here. But that’s OK. I’m taking it as my lesson. I’m learning daily, and I’ll keep learning. I’m trying to do the best I can and do better every day. I will disappoint people. I will disappoint myself. Yet maybe I will be able to make a positive difference in the lives of others.