Mea Culpa: My latest mistake

Today I apologized to my students. Yesterday I had two girls leave my class crying. The two are related.

It is the end of debates and two weeks before AP testing. I get nervous and anxious, trying to press kids on what to improve. I forget how nerve-wracking it is to debate in public. I forget how hard it is for kids to organize their debate team around sports and music and work and life. I forget. And in my desire to make sure the next group improves, I (and the class) point out errors.

And then a crying child (or worse, two)  brings me back to reality. Why do I not praise what is going well? Students will be more tuned into specific praise and more praise and then a little focused criticism. Why do I let my anxiety make me forget my better nature?

The girls who left my room crying after “losing” a debate deserved better, and they had real strengths that, once they left, I realized I should have said.

So today I apologized. Today we looked for positives. And the day felt better.

And then tonight I went into my Google Calendar and put a banner across the weeks that debate will likely be next year, reading “tell them what they are doing well.” I think I will tape that message to my desk as well.

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