Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Cut & slice

The woman cutting my hair yesterday asked me, "What do you do?"

"I teach middle-school students English," I said.

She gave me a familiar look in the mirror, blending her rueful smile with an eye roll. It said both, "God bless you" and "You're crazy."

She went on. "I remember my English classes. They were my A classes. Except for one. In high school, I chose a class on 15th century English. It sounded interesting. That teacher gave tests every Friday, and I just couldn't pass them. I showed up every day, though. I think the teacher ended up giving me a C because of my effort."

Minutes later, I left this exchange, the outside of my head newly shorn, the inside roiling. I'd guess a generation or two of living separates my students from the woman who cut my hair. Yet talk of grades -- rarely learning -- still tends to dominate the day where I work. What about the future I imagine where my students have very different recollections of school? That's going to require some serious counter-programming...


  1. Super interesting! You have to wonder if she remembers anything about 15th century English, which does indeed sound interesting. Though I also subscribe to the notions that a)"Education is what remains when you've forgotten everything that was on the tests" and b) "People will forget what you say and what you do, but they never forget how you make them feel."

  2. Very interesting. What a shame that something that sounded interesting left her feeling so deflated. It should make us all question everything we do.

  3. It makes me wonder if the teacher taught the way students learn....

  4. You know, though, that teacher still recognized her effort. And in these crazy days when scores seem to be all that matter, I deeply believe that what kids will remember are the teachers who loved learning, and them. That's a form of inoculation, IMO.

  5. I have met so many people like your "barber". So much talk needs to change--especially around grades and teacher-student relationship. "I didn't do well. The teacher didn't like me" etc.

  6. What strikes me as interesting is how we tend to remember the things that went wrong or those that we struggled in, more than those that went well, that we succeeded in!