The Way of Things

“No bad. Just where you are until we find our way, okay?”

Somewhere along the way we got our wires crossed. What I expected and what she thought I wanted were two different things, and, consequently, it affected her performance.

I said as much in my written feedback at the top of her paper, giving her the benefit of the doubt and taking some responsibility that I may have explained it inadequately. Even so, our conference began yesterday with her uttering, “I did bad.”

But she didn’t do “bad.” She just needed clarification, for as we went through the performance (assessment), it was clear that she understood the “what;” she had just gotten mixed up on the “how.” And that’s partly on me, yes?

Once upon a classroom, the conversation would have gone far differently. So differently, in fact, that I struggle to recognize the teacher I once was. Then, I would have simply said that she didn’t follow directions. I said them. I wrote them. And most every other kid followed them. So, it was not my fault. It was hers. And there are consequences for not following instructions. It’s the way things are. And she would have earned her “F.”

Who does that? Well, clearly, I. But as I did, too many still do. But it doesn’t have to be. I will never go back to that place, a place no longer imaginable. But even as I run away from that place where I once dwelt and dealt, I cannot deny that when I was there, I thought I was right. I knew I was right. You know nothing, Monte Syrie.

Even now, in a place far better, I know less than more. I have not the answers. I have not arrived at the magical land of ED upon a yellow brick road. I have no illusions that there isn’t simply a man behind the curtain. But. But I no longer only look behind the curtain for answers, I look out into the room, the space and there I find who knows as well or better than I. The kids.

Oh, there in that place I still have a role. Always will. Somebody has to make it okay. No bad. Just learning. I can do that, and though I will no doubt look back someday and find fault in this space, too, I have to believe–I want to believe–I won’t cringe knowing that I helped a kid find her way, instead of hiding behind the “way of things.”

And so, that’s what I did. I helped her find her way. No wicked witches. No wizardry. Just two humans working together as we seek our way.

This post is also published at, where Monte daily shares his classroom journey.