I took my midterm tonight and I did well, but it didn't feel very good. Mrs. Bear, one of my best friends these days, had been studying all semester and didn't do well. I turned my test over and averted any questions about my score. Why did I do this? Because I knew how she felt.
The truth is that I might have thought about downplaying my score or recognized her feelings a year ago, but now I empathize. For once in my life, I had to learn what it is like to try your very best at something and still fail miserably. Don't get me wrong; I fail miserably in my personal life ALL THE TIME, but until last year, I had never ever failed in any academic or career venture. That carries it's own unique brand of suffering and it made me a better person and teacher to experience that.
It's paradoxical, but as teachers sometimes our greatest successes and strengths are our handicaps. Our weaknesses and failures are often the keys to reaching students.
When I started teaching, I didn't get it. I had a very difficult time helping students with learning difficulties because I had no first hand experience with frustration in learning. Of course, my learning abilities drove me to want to be a teacher, but they made it hard for me to teach. Mrs. Bear helped me to understand students who learn slowly and differently. Her learning disability gave her insight I never would have had.
My failure last year made me feel what students feel when they can't learn something even though they try hard. I had never felt that before. Tonight was the first time I realized what a profound effect that had on me.
There are a lot of reasons I wish last year never happened. It will probably take me years (if I ever get it) to restore my confidence in myself as a teacher. Tonight made me realize, though, that in the long run, I might be better for going through all of this. I was forced to make some changes I needed to make.