What was your most difficult moment in teaching?

In a column in Education Week, blogger and California teacher Larry Ferlazzo asks educators to share their most difficult moments of teaching. Among those quoted is Minnesota’s 2014 Teacher of the Year Tom Rademacher, who wrote a book titled It Won’t Be Easy: An Exceedingly Honest (And Slightly Unprofessional) Love Letter To Teaching. Larry cites this touching excerpt from Tom’s book:

Tom Rademacher

Tom Rademacher

In my third year of teaching, just before the students came back from lunch, my whole teaching team was called to the office. Our principal delivered the news that one of our students, an eighth grade girl of profound talent and empathy, was about to be told that her mother just committed suicide. The girl’s father was on the way, but we were to act as if everything was normal until he got there.

The girl was in my next class, and that hour was without a doubt the hardest I have ever had as a teacher. …

During the hour, I tried not to look at her too much, tried to act as normal as I could, tried not to break down, to run to her, to hug her and tell her a thousand times, “I’m sorry.” I felt awful for knowing what I had no right to know, and felt guilty for being able to teach, to joke with students, with that student in particular, knowing what I knew.

As the hour ended, she was called to the office. After twenty minutes, her three closest friends were called up as well. News spread over the next few days and the community rallied and supported her in ways impressive and beautiful. The girl’s teachers became among the most important people in her life, but not as teachers. We were people, humans, who cared for her as a person. What she needed, the only thing she needed, for the last few months of school, was as much humanity and care and support as we could give her, and so we did, because more than teacher and students, she was a human and we were all humans.

Teaching is completely full of humans.

Really, full of them. Real humans. Oh, and how often we forget. Oh, and how much did any training, education, staff development, or research about teaching get me ready for my most trying moments, for that or any other of the many times I’ve felt the most effective and important and influential at my job? Not at all. Because Teaching is only sometimes about teaching. Teachers are far too often complaining about not getting to do their jobs because they don’t get enough time just saying things for kids to write down. Teaching is so rarely that, is so much often doing all the work to get a student to that moment, is so often supporting a kid who is far away from being taught that day.

Share your most difficult moment of teaching on Facebook:

What was your most difficult moment in teaching?

“What she needed, the only thing she needed, for the last few months of school, was as much humanity and care and support as we could give her, and so we did, because more than teacher and students, she was a human and we were all humans.”

Read Larry Ferlazzo’s post in Education Week:

Response: Learning From Difficult Teaching Moments

The new “question-of-the-week” is: What was the most difficult moment of your teaching career and what did you learn from it? We teachers have lots of difficult, as well as uplifting, moments. In this series, educators will be sharing their most difficult moments and what they learned from them.