Some Things To Remember About “Bad Teacher” Stories

Some things to keep in mind when people are telling stories about their horrible teachers:
 
1. Some of them are true. Let’s just admit that–there are some people who are bad at this job. Some know the subject well but are terrible at working with kids. Some are GREAT with kids but bubble-heads with the subject matter. But there are bad teachers–not a majority, but some. And admin need to work harder to deal with that issue, within the law.
 
Also, even good teachers have bad days and can lose their self-control for a few minutes.
 
That said:
 
2) Students are rarely honest about the part they played in any conflict with a teacher. Sometimes students try to claim I’m just being a jerk to them for no reason, and they don’t mention the part where they called me an asshole because I asked them to put their phone away for the third time. I could give more examples, but you get the point, I trust.
 
3) Many of these stories are told years later, and time has altered the memory. We humans are terrible at remembering things correctly. I’ve experienced this myself; I have had terrible thoughts about my 12th grade English teacher, until I thought about it–and realized she was never mean to me, despite my thinking I remembered her being horrible more than once–she was trying so hard to help me, and I didn’t want her help because I had a bad reaction to her comments on an essay I wrote. I’ve found and read the essay in the years since, and the kicker is–she was right about it.
 
4) Try to remember every teacher you’ve ever had. Odds are, you can remember from K to 6th, and then it’s a blur of faces, with a few who stand out clearly. When I think of high school, I can remember a few of them clearly. The rest are faces, but not names. I know I adored my 9th grade history teacher, but I can’t remember what she looked like or what her name was–just what room she taught in.
 
We tend to remember the ones who helped us most, or who hurt us most. The rest are just lost to our memory, even if at the time, we enjoyed being in their class.
 
5) SOME of these stories are BS. Someone’s got an agenda; they hated school, or they hate their kids’ teacher, and they want you to hate it, too.  And there’s a rash of stories out there that are designed to make you think your kid’s school is losing it’s collective mind, but only show that the person posting it didn’t bother to ask the teacher about whatever it is they are railing about.  
And I’m sure we’ve all seen the rash of anti-Common Core math memes going around, none of which actually show anything truly wrong-headed.
So the next time you see one of these stories, think about it before jumping on the anti-teacher bandwagon.  You may not be seeing the whole story.
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About Michael Johnston

Father of a fifth grader, high school English teacher, writer. Forty-six years old and feeling almost every bit of it on some days, and not a bit of it on others. Based in Sacramento, California, USA
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