Wednesday, January 6, 2010
The situation at work I described in Monday's post ramped up impressively yesterday. After a night of little sleep, I found myself chanting the nembutsu all the way to work, and watching a litany of imaginary shouting going on whenever I stopped chanting. Entering my workplace, I saw the new student speaking with our education director again. I felt grateful to have had a simple chant to shift the flow of venum within me, but like so many Buddhist bloggers over the past week, I felt compelled to drop the silence and say what I thought about the situation. Walking into the office, I was immediately seen by the new student, who seemed confused by the discussion he was having with our education director. (I found out later she was trying to suggest that he go to another school.) Anyway, the student says to me something like "What's all this? You remember yesterday when you corrected those two errors I made." "Yes," I said, thinking to myself how the hell could I forget. And he says "So what's the issue here?" I stumbled over my words for about ten seconds, trying to find something to soften the situation. Then it hit me - there's nothing to soften this situation. So I looked at him and said "I can't serve your needs. You don't fit in this class." The conversation went on from there, but I had said what I needed, and then during a break, when he went with another teacher to discuss a possible tutoring option with her, I told the education director - "I'm at the end of my rope. Either he goes or I go." Not much you can do to sugar coat it when you're ready to walk out like I was. The message was heard - she came and apologized for not being clearer with the student yesterday about his misplacement in our program.
You know that feeling you get when something is over and done with? I got exactly the opposite feeling as the new student walked out the door.
An hour later, his friend, the student I've had a lot of trouble with over the past few months, was called into a meeting with our social worker. Up until the past three months, I always proudly spoke about how I worked with wonderful adult students who mostly get along and how being in the classroom with them is the best part of my job. This woman, as well as her ejected friend, have flipped that narrative on it's side. Anyway, I had a sense this meeting with the social worker was going to be about the comments I, other teachers, and students have made about her behavior - and it was. She returned to my classroom sullen, spoke little over the next few hours, and then cornered me as I was about to take half the class to the computer lab.
"I need to talk to you. Please."
It was a desperate kind of please, one you know is going to be followed up by a long, emotional outburst of some sort.
It's funny - I'd continued to chant the nembutsu, even though the other situation had ended.
namu amida butsu, namu amida butsu, namu amida butsu
And so when she said these words, something seemed to shift within me. No more avoiding, no more skirting anything. She told me her story, about how some students had told our social worker she was a trouble maker, etc. etc. I felt a wave of compassion for her, knowing that she truly felt isolated and disappointed that she wasn't liked by the others. And I also told her that her style and approach in class creates a lot of frustration for the others, and that I've seen students pulling back from her because she's so loud and forceful.
I still feel like it's not quite over, but I got a good lesson in letting go of others' potential perceptions of you and just being direct and to the point.
Posted by Nathan at 8:06 AM