Let’s talk about judging teachers for a minute. It’s a popular thing to do. Heck I did it. I had many teachers I judged based on the nicknames the class before us told us. I had some teachers than my older sister or even my parents had – and I judged them based off the stories they told before I ever met those teachers. Judgment is fairly normal, but is it helpful?
I know some folks would like to do away with judgments and give everyone an encouraging slap on the back. I know others who would like to slap everyone across the face because they’ve judged them to be stupid or ridiculous. I’m not in either court. Big surprise here – I’m standing in the middle saying, “Why are we slapping everyone? And why can’t we just get along!?”
Differences are good – they make for rich experiences. And we can all be judged as doing great or needing improvement on any number of subjects at various times. If you’re honest with yourself, you know it’s true.
So, back to those teachers, the ones I was quick to judge as a kid.
Example number one – I had a teacher than likely drank during school hours. He was a goofball and not really taken seriously by his students. The “Pepsi” from the bottle and swigs of cough syrup during class probably didn’t help that. But, there was one time that I found myself in his classroom when I was lost and confused. I felt alone in the world and wasn’t sure I wanted to be part of it anymore. He simply talked to me, with me. I laughed at something he said, probably something dorky. I hadn’t heard that sound from myself in a long time. When I did, as foreign as it sounded, it felt good and I knew I wasn’t done living. That goofball teacher looked me in the eye and said, “You know I’m not perfect. We both know life’s not perfect. But laughter can take you a long way, can’t it?” How would you like to judge him now?
Example number two – There was this other teacher who was a complete jerk. He picked on people and I didn’t really like him much. Then I was raped. I steeled myself for his snide remarks – yes, that’s how little I thought of him. But, instead, he said nothing to me. He did, however, say something to another kid who called me a slut. In fact, he taught the whole class a little lesson about the term slut. After giving everyone a writing assignment, he knelt down next to me and told me I didn’t need to be there if I didn’t want to be. He’d give me a pass to the school psychologist, another teacher’s room (who he knew had a free period), or the library. I went to the other teacher’s empty room. Maybe I’d judged him wrong for the entire year.
Teaching is a tough career. You’ve got an image, a persona that you need to convey to get the respect, or fear, that means most people will listen to you. You’re got a couple dozen kids at a time, most of whom don’t want to be there for one reason or another. You’ve got your own stuff going on that you have to put on the back burner while you try to get across some point on literature, science, art, history…whatever. And we judge them.
Maybe you’re feeling a little like me at this moment. My thoughts are that judging is a natural thing to do, but it can also be a natural thing to revisit those judgments. No one can be summed up by one nickname, one interaction, not even one whole year of 8th grade. Right? Do you agree? And do you think that maybe, just maybe I’m not only talking about judging our teachers but also all the other judgments we freely throw around?
I just read something today about how teachers in Mississippi are going to be asked to grade parents. They’ll be judging them, “On their responsiveness to communication with teachers, the students’ completion of homework and readiness for tests, and the frequency of absences and tardiness.”
Maybe you think this is a great idea – hold parents accountable and get teachers more parental support. Maybe you think this is a horrible idea – teachers have enough to do and most parents are doing the best they can. Or maybe you’re just like me, standing in the middle again, shaking my head, saying, “Why? I’m a parent and a teacher. I don’t want to be judged as either.”
I don’t. You know why? Because sometimes I drink too much – both actual Pepsi and alcohol. Sometimes I listen and meet someone’s eyes with understanding and compassion. Sometimes I make sarcastic, even rude comments. And sometimes I give people a pass when they need one.
What about you? Take a moment to look at yourself and think about what others judging you might decide about your character and your abilities.
How do you feel about judging now?