Today I made my last practicum visit to an unnamed middle school. It was one of the most interesting. Ordinarily, I stay with the same teacher for about 3 hours, but today she suggested I check out two other teachers. The second teacher was quite easy-going and appreciated by her students, the first…well, that’s left to be seen.
Let’s call him Mr. Strict.
Mr. Strict had an incredible control of his classroom. Like a Puritan preacher delivering a sermon of judgment, the man towered from his lectern, administrating the classroom with an iron fist and a fiery tongue. His students paid close attention to his every word for fear of “being written up” should they speak out of turn. When describing him to my normal teacher, I reverted to comparison with the Nazis for his apparent lack of compassion. I felt like saying more, perhaps judgmental, observations.
Yet I am in no place to judge this man or his methods, and I should have spoken more carefully about him. I am not sure of the effect his teaching style has on his students, nor would I be able to produce a more effective education for my students (if I had students) at this point. His strictness does not mean he has no compassion; just none that I could see.
Leaving the school that day, Mr. Strict was also leaving his classroom. He saw me in the hall and asked, “Are you thinking about teaching Middle School?”
“No,” I responded, “I think I’m probably going into High School English.”
“Ah, going to play with the big dogs!” he said.
I said some sort of affirmation to that comment. At that point, I felt the conversation was over, so I turned and walked away. From behind I heard the words that make me absolutely detest how quick I am to judge people:
“If you ever want to do Middle School, you can do your internship with me.”
When will I get it? I don’t know. I just know that as much as I like to think of myself as a good person, it’s times like those I see I have such a long way to go. I looked him in the eye and thanked him, but I felt like a fake. It wasn’t quite what I said about him that made me feel that way, but the judgment I felt my heart aching to make as I said it.
Thank you, Mr. Strict, maybe your name should be Mr. Stern.
You may call me Mr. Prejudicial if you like.