Back in the day, when I was a first year teacher in South Central Los Angeles, I was at war with a few class periods. Wet behind the ears, my insecurities translated into a no-nonsense approach to classroom management. Like Bruce Lee at the end of a fight scene, I was hoping I’d outlast them. One day, in the midst of this battle royale, a challenging, outspoken female student piped up in the middle of class, “You’re just a tough young buck from UCLA!”
Two decades of teaching adults later, not so much. My classroom management skills have atrophied and my philosophy evolved. My beard is gray, I’ve mellowed, crossed over to the other side, gone all soft and mushy.
At times though, the old young teach is awakened. Fast forward to an email message I recently received from a student.
Can’t make class next week due to a “family cruise vacation”. This after a stirring start of semester talk on the importance of attendance.
It’s a small writing seminar, and therefore, impossible to replicate our discussions and my life-changing “skill sessions”.
Wrote her back and said I was disappointed and confused about why her family scheduled a family cruise vacation when she’s in school. This is a four-day weekend and spring break is in early April.
In hindsight, my response, because it assigns responsibility to her family, sucks doesn’t it? She could and should have said to her family, “Wish I could join you, but I’m not missing school.”