By far the most embarrassing & humbling scenario so far has been greeting one of my former student's mother & being unsure of her reaction. I had known that if my son went to a certain school here in town, the librarian there is a lovely, quirky lady whose son was in my class my first year of teaching. I really had no idea if I would find favor with her, or if she would treat me with contempt honestly!
My first year of teaching was a rough one for me. I was only 22/23 years old, and I was unprepared for the course I was teaching. It is pretty difficult to BE prepared in general for a course where you write the curriculum, so it wasn't that I was unfit for the job. The first year is always the hardest for a course of that nature! The second year I taught the course, I taught all the same material from my first year + an additional quarter of new material. The opportunity to re-teach the same material over again, add to it, recycle test materials, and fix the things that didn't work the first time made the course far superior (and more difficult as well for the students). I wanted to give the students what they needed & deserved to have, and in my own estimations, that meant if I wasn't an expert at the subject, then I needed to make them learn as much as I could to give them the best opportunity at passing!
So: my first year teaching. I had a few students that year that are very memorable to me, one of them was the librarian's son. Without going in too much detail about him or his performance in the class, I just want to explain that he was a nice, smart fella whose personality could fill the room. He didn't do exceptionally well in the class, but had a good attitude about his grades & seemed to be content in that regard.
Set the stage for me: questioning if the librarian approved of my tough grading scale & whether or not she had been happy with his performance in the course. I would not have been surprised if many parents had the opinion that I should have made the course easier & graded less strictly. Therefore how would I be received?
The best part of this story: his mother made me a Christmas present, a gingerbread house with my name on the roof. It was my first and only Christmas gift that I remember, and at the time I didn't fully appreciate how special it was. I'm glad that I had the opportunity to tell her thank you recently, even all these years later!!
So I believe she doesn't dislike me. After seeking her out to say hello & explaining who I was, she seemed happy to see me. Or at least found it entertaining or amusing! I know I turned red in the face during our initial reunion, and again the following day. I went back with the boys to the school library during open house because my oldest was so excited to check out a book, and we were able to see her again. I was able to thank her for the ginger bread house, and she told me if I had only known how hard it was for her to convince her son to carry it to school!! :-) My heart swells to think about it, and after she encouraged me to come & volunteer in the library, I felt much more at ease in the conclusion that she did not dislike me. My embarrassment was eased, and I now find the entire situation incredible.
One lesson I have learned in hindsight from this experience was that I did not make it a goal to please the parents or be well liked. I now see that making some kind, any kind of effort to extend curtesy to the parents could have made a difference. If I were to teach again, I believe I would have made some small efforts to communicate with the parents in order to foster a positive relationship, where I did not make any efforts in the past. I did not seek to displease them or purposefully treat them as unimportant, but rather I focused on the students because I simply did not know how hard it is to be a parent and trust a teacher with your child.
Thank you to all the parents who trusted me, whether they 'liked me' or not. Thank you for treating me with respect and curtesy even when I pushed your children hard to make them better. I hope for the most part, the parents of my former students approved of the classes I taught & were proud of what their children accomplished. I truly hope I did not offend or leave lasting negative impressions in anyone's mind, but I do know that could be possible. I am grateful for the time teaching all my former students, and I hope their parents knew or had an idea of how hard I worked for them.