Chicken Soup for the Schoolteachers Soul, this ain’t.

I’m a good teacher—I can teach Algebra to almost anyone—but I’m not always particularly nice. I lose my patience; I have been known to be rude or loud or sarcastic on occasion. It’s a good thing I work with teenagers; I would never make it in a kindergarten class.

Today Harold* asked how to do a certain problem, and I pointed out to him that he was doing work that wasn’t assigned. (This is not the case of a student trying new or different work just for the challenge, or love of learning; this is a kid who didn’t read the assignment carefully enough.) “Oh,” he said, “then do I get extra credit points for doing extra work?

I know I shouldn’t have said this, I know it was unprofessional, but I have never understood why kids think they should be rewarded for not reading the directions and doing the wrong work. Before I had considered the words leaving my mouth, I answered, “No, you get stupid points for wasting your time.”

I teach kids with learning disabilities; I employ all the usual strategies and a few extras, besides, to try to get across the finer points of study skills, class behavior, and the “hidden curriculum.” Sometimes, however, it’s the well-placed zinger that really drives the point home. Please note that I did not actually call Harold stupid; I called his action stupid.

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It was Tony’s last day in class; circumstances beyond our control had lead to his withdrawal from our private boarding school and a move back to the public school system, two states away. Sitting in class, saying his goodbyes, he remarked to his friend Harold that he’d miss me—that I would have to travel up north to visit him, and yell at him for old time’s sake.

I sniffed. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I never raise my voice.”

Ned, tall and lanky, quiet and wry, didn’t miss a beat. “Look, Anne!” he said to me, loudly enough for the whole class to hear. “Outside the window! Pigs, and they’re flying !

I laughed loudly enough to miss Harold’s response to Tony, muttered under his breath, which he then repeated for my benefit—“Anne won’t have to visit you. She could yell from here and you’d hear her.”

.                 .                 .

Harold is a day student; I happen to be the person who chauffeurs him to and from school each day, and we have a pretty good relationship, with a fair amount of teasing on each side. Yesterday I badgered him all the way home, drilling his vocabulary words. This morning he made a 100% on the vocabulary quiz; this afternoon the carpool stopped for gelato on the way home.

I think maybe the ice cream balanced out the 'stupid points' comment.

* All the names (except mine) have been changed in this little story.