When I was a young boy my mother taught me that, “If you don’t have anything good to say, then don’t say anything at all.” The older I get the more I find that I have nothing to say. Not that everything that I think is bad, but I try and be careful with my words because my opinions are not always beneficial.
Last year I had a student whose parents withheld behavioral related medicine, because they deemed “That their child didn’t need it and only used it as a crutch.” In my classroom the boy had violent episodes, frequently yelled at other students, and made few friends. When tests came along the child would end up crying because he was unable to focus long enough to complete the assessment. His behavior outbursts outside of my class caught the administrator’s attention and as his parents realized that their son might be expelled from our school they resorted to putting him back on medicine. The next morning the child came in to my classroom, sat down and quietly began working. The medicine enabled him to finish tests and focus in class so that his grades improved to honor roll status. The students saw the change and began to invite him back into their lives. This student ended the year strong, but could have had a much better year with a little help from his parents. I would love to be able to sit the parents down and show them video of before and after and ask them, “Not everyone benefits from medicine, but your kid needs it!”
After school today the same student showed up in my classroom. When I said, “Hello, it’s good to see you.” The boy began to tell me how he hates middle school, his teachers are so stupid, and he has so much work to do etc. I sat and looked at the child and concluded that he was obviously off his medicine again this year or just perpetually under a personal rain cloud. With my mind filling with thoughts as to how I should respond, I thought of telling him,” To quit being a baby and suck it up, he is now in middle schooler.” I could have put him down and said, “You were such a big pain last year I didn’t have any doubt that the teachers would chew you up.” Both of these comments might of felt good for a moment, but would surely have caused future guilt.
I could have wasted valuable minutes after school trying to solve the many layers of problems this child has. If I thought I could have made a difference, I would have. At last I opened my mouth and gave him a little encouragement, “I’m glad you stopped by and I hope that your week goes better. “
There is a time to be straight forward and time to be quiet. There is a time to encourage and a time to speak our mind. As professionals we are given strict orders to speak in certain ways. I guess being a professional requires a person to be able to respond according to protocol even under duress. However being wise requires us to know what to say at the right time.
As I get older I hope to become better at saying the right thing at the right moment. Until then, I guess I’ll continue to be the quiet teacher down the hall.
(In the comments below, please tell me how you avoid speaking your mind when parents and students are in your face. Or share a time when speaking your mind led to something good)